2021 just started and Netflix might have given us one of the best reality series since the first season of KUWTK premiered with the new series Bling Empire. The show shows the lavish lives of wealthy Asian Americans living in Los Angeles, California. The show is filled with friendship, complicated family dynamics, the classic reality show frenemies, and an insight into the cultures and lives of each star.
Bling Empire is the Network’s second attempt at capturing the lives of “Crazy Rich Asians” tapping into the success of the film. In 2019 the Network premiered the reality show Singapore Social which showed the lives of affluent Singaporean young adults. As of today, the fate of Singapore Social season 2 remains unknown however, the probability of it being renewed for a second season is low.
The reality shows Bling Empire shows the lavish lives of Asian Americans living in Los Angeles. The show stars: Kevin Kreider, Kim Lee, Anna Shay, Kelly Mi Li, Gabriel, and Christine Chu, Kane Lim, Andrew Gray, and Jessy Lee. The show highlights the beauty and diversity of Asian Americans and culture and in a time where Asian representation is slim, the show is increasing visibility. The thing that makes the show special aside from representation is the fact that the show feels like reality. The lifestyles of the cast are lavish, fabulous, filled with California sun, but still have hardship and various challenges.
So who are Kevin Kreider, Kim Lee, Anna Shay, Kelly Mi Li, Gabriel and Christine Chu, Kane Lim, and Andrew Gray?
Kevin Kreider sticks out like a soar thumb in his friend group. He’s a model, former podcaster, and the star of the 2019 documentary The Ugly Doc. Kevin was born in South Korea and raised by a Caucasian family in Philadelphia unlike his co-stars Kevin wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Kevin often times is the anchor for the group reminding them that a world filled with labels, jewelry, and other luxuries isn’t the world everyone lives in. The show ends with a possible romance between Kevin and DJ Kim Lee, however, the two discuss in an update interview about the fact that they jokingly unfollowed one another on instagram but, they’re still close friends regardless of their social media follows.
Anna Shay is the queen of Bling Empire and might also be the queen of Los Angeles heist society depending on who you ask. Anna Shay is the daughter of American businessman Edward Shay and his Japanese-American wife Ai-San. Her father founded a private defense company in the mid 1950s which is what the Shay fortune was built upon.
Anna Shay might be the wealthiest of the group but she also is the most humble and has quickly become a fan favorite and meme.
Kelly Mi Li and Andrew Gray
Kelly Mi Li is a divorcé turned businesswoman and her boyfriend Andrew is an actor best known for his role in the Power rangers. They’re relationship is nothing short of drama, highs, lows, and of course breakups and makeups. The show explores their own personal struggles and the impact it has on them. One of the more triggering parts of the show is that cameras were rolling and captured Andrew frequently being both verbally and emotionally abusive which could potentially trigger survivors and viewers. However, as of today even with the shock and response from the fans of the show the couple is currently back together and swear that the toxicity is in the past.
Gabriel and Christine Chu
Christine Chu is the “villain” or “antagonist” of the show however, with the show being reality tv there is a lot that viewers see but there is also a significant amount of their lives that we don’t. Oftentimes the “villain” title associated with the couture expert turned reality tv star is due to her being positioned to be misunderstood. Christine has a rivalry with fan favorite Anna Shay while the two fight for who is the real queen of Los Angeles high society.
Outside of her rivalry with Anna she is also a wife to Dr. Gabriel Chu and the mom to her son baby G. The show follows her partnership with her husband, her fertility journey, and her new role as a mom.
Kane Lim is both Kevin’s BFF and a real estate mogul. Kane not only shows off his lavish lifestyle on the show but he also is a practicing Buddhist. The show was able to document several Buddhist customs and beliefs, and Kane’s buddhist background’s influence on his own views and actions. He is the gold and diamond covered anchor of the group.
Kim Lee is a DJ, pianist and the host of MTV Raps for MTV Asia. Kim Lee has been referred to as “the Asian Kim Kardashian” in the past however, hopefully with the shows popularity she will just be known as Kim Lee. The international DJ has graced countless magazine covers and spreads, been in multiple music videos, and was even named the “sexiest woman in Asian” in 2011by Singaporean magazine FHM. Kim Lee has even collaborated with Bay Area native Saweetie interviewing the artist about her Filipino heritage and culture.
The show arrived at a time where there has been a rise in Hate crimes against Asian Americans comes at a point where visibility and celebration of Asian heritage is needed in media. Today when conversations about diversity and representation within Hollywood are being had Asian Americans have been overwhelmingly absent and remain to be underrepresented in film and television. Though Bling Empire might not be seen as a prefect form of representation or media, it still makes an attempt to capture the diversity, the versatility, and the culture of Asian Americans.