24th January 2021 – (Los Angeles) If you have binge-watched the latest eight-episode Netflix show Bling Empire marketed as Crazy Rich Asians set in the U.S., you either love or hate the ‘cringey’ over-the-top cast. Dubbed a cross between the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians and Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the show follows the glamorous lives of Kane Lim, the son of a Singaporean billionaire, and his friends. The 30-year-old heir grew up in Singapore where his family made their money in oil, shipping, tanking, and real estate, but his true passion is for fashion and flaunting his feminine and extravagant collection on his Instagram. His over-the-top hoard of shoes is reportedly worth more than US$365,000.
Remember Netflix’s original series Selling Sunset? The perfect mix of real-estate bimbos clad in designer outfits meets major drama. Both series share homogeneity except that the flamboyant girls who are real estate brokers of the Oppenheim Group in Los Angeles, CA love to date and marry rich men and flaunt their cheesy and loud designer labels.
In the world of the super-rich, Patricians, for example, will almost certainly purchase quiet luxury items as they don’t feel the need to buy loud luxury items that signal to others that they have wealth, although other Patricians will recognise their wealth. They would purchase brands like Brioni which eschews visible logos and focuses on creating pieces of exquisite quality, craftsmanship and beauty. Whereas Parvenus want to signal to others that they have money, so will consume loud luxury goods. Brands they love are Hermes, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Fendi etc as their monogram logos are conspicuous. Loud luxury brands and goods tend to be favoured by the nouveau riche, second-generation rich Asians and Russians, wannabes, gold diggers along with newer emerging luxury consumer groups such as the HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet). These people have enjoyed an upward shift in socioeconomic status and received windfall via inheritance during their lifetime and therefore wish to show it off.
These top-of-the-line fashion labels love to feed their customers’ egos and narcissism in recent years by making their logos bigger on their clothes and bags. Not only the labels get free advertisements as these rich morons were subconsciously swarmed by the brands under the fallacy that the society would worship them more, their laughable antics have directly enriched fashion tycoons like Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, the world’s largest luxury-goods company. Bernard is reportedly worth US$155.4 billion as of January 2021 and none of the cast members are worth close to 0.05% of his wealth.
Most of the members of the cast in the Bling Empire are either second-generation rich Asians or trust-fund babies regardless of their age. Several characters in the series share many common traits i.e. self-narcissism, lots of botox on face and lips. In fact, they (Anna Shay, Christine Chiu, Cherrie Chan, Vietnamese Kim Lee including the male cast members, Singaporean Kane Lim and Guy Tang, a hair-stylist, the sexual orientation of both of them is questionable) have so much botox on their faces that they would put the wax figures in Madame Tussaud’s to shame. These real-life characters do not seem to be cultured (except Anna Shay who apparently plays the piano well as she shows off her skills in front of Kim Lee in one of the episodes) and if they are so wealthy, they should perhaps invest in multi-million artworks instead of shoes, couture dresses and jewellery. Some of them probably suffered from Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. It affects both men and women. For example, Christine Chiu actually looked better before her cosmetic surgery.
The cast members of Bling Empire
The pivotal role of the series is none other than Anna Shay, a 60-year-old ostentatious woman who strikingly resembles Barbra Streisand (78-year-old American singer) due to her extensive cosmetic surgeries on her face (but not her breasts). Once you have gone under the knives too many times, you will find yourself with many long-lost siblings from different parents. In one of the episodes, she deliberately shows off her natural breasts during a Dior home-shopping session. She is is said to be wealthiest of the cast, worth an estimated US$600 million (£438m). Even though she is the oldest of the cast, she apparently ‘earned’ her money from her father’s fortune who is an arms dealer. Anna is of Russian and Japanese descent and she has been married and divorced four times and she seems to have a penchant for a younger French man nowadays.
37-year-old Christine Chiu, who claimed to be a ‘philanthropist, investor, and couture collector,’ was born in Taiwan, but now the heiress lives in Bel-Air with her plastic surgeon Dr. Gabriel Chiu (the husband desperately needs surgery himself to keep up with the looks of his wife) for 14 years. In 2008, they also opened Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc. She loves to outshine her cast with her inordinate hairstyle and couture dresses. ‘It’s safe to say that $100,000 is the average price of a dress,’ she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, ‘but no one ever asks about price.’ When the Chius’ son Gabriel Chiu III a.k.a. ‘Baby G’ turned one in 2019, they threw him a party at Cayton Children’s Museum in Santa Monica and donated US$1 million to the museum on his behalf. The two have no shame in flaunting their wealth.
The 32-year-old Kim Lee was raised by her Vietnamese mother and French stepfather in California and is now an international DJ and renowned producer. Kim started touring around the US and Asia after graduation and has worked with the likes of Steve Aoki, Diplo, and Cardi B. On the show, she is dubbed ‘Asia’s Calvin Harris.’
The 35-year-old Kelly Mi Li was born in Kunming, China, but moved to Chicago when her doctor mother got a job at the University of Illinois. The drama in Kelly’s life began long before she signed up to do the show. In her 20s, she was married to a Chinese man previously and lived a life of luxury with four houses and seven cars before he ended in prison. She explains on the show’s premiere. ‘I think at the time we were spending, like, 400k a month on our black [American Express card].’
The pregnant Cherie Chan is married to Jessey Lee who is being groomed to run his family’s furniture empire and together they have an estimated net worth of US$200 million. The couple now raises two children together despite not being married. Jessey loves to spoil her with countless Hermes bags and limited-edition Hublot watches but all she only wanted was a proposal ring. However, at the end of the show, Cherie chose to propose to her boyfriend in front of their rich friends and the shocked Jessey ‘reluctantly’ said yes knowing that he had no way to evade the question.
The Chinese-American couple has a daughter, Jadore and son, Jevon. Hang on a second, did she seriously name her daughter, Jadore as in J’adore Eau de Parfum by Dior? Many Asian families love to name their children after the fashion labels e.g. Shanel Tang, Chanel Chan without knowing that they will grow up to become a laughing stock among their peers.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Jaime Xie with slanted and small eyes is a trust fund baby who reported net worth of US$50 million. She claimed to be a Chanel-loving influencer. Her father, Ken Xie is a Beijing-born billionaire who made his fortune in cybersecurity technology in Silicon Valley. He founded the company Fortinet in 2000 and has an estimated net worth of around US$4 billion.
The 39-year-old celebrity hairstylist Guy Tang found fame in Los Angeles long before he ever appeared on Bling Empire. Guy, who has worked with Mariah Carey, has more than 2.5 million subscribers to his YouTube channel and calls his viewers his ‘hair besties.’ In the show, he was merely offered a cameo role to brandish his botox lips and awkwardly chiselled body.
The only ‘natural-looking’ cast members are Kelly Mi Li, her on-and-off boyfriend, Andrew Gray, model and Red Power Ranger and Kevin Kreider, a Korean-born model who takes off his shirt to display his chiselled abs at any opportunity. Surprisingly, Kevin Kreider was actually planted in the set to blend in the circle of the socialites a year before the shooting. He is the only one on the show who isn’t actually wealthy and who tries very hard to love fashion labels. Unlike his rich friends, he pays just US$1,000 in rent for his room.
If you ask Bling Empire’s cast and the producers, this show is real and unscripted. Still, it’s clear that certain elements were manipulated to make the show more dramatic, whether that be through casting, editing, or cast members playing up their confrontational sides. Jeff Jenkins, one of the executive producers of Bling Empire is also the producer of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Mi Li also has an executive producing credit, while Chiu is credited as a producer. If the producer is really thinking of a second season, we are happy to propose some new cast members once the coronavirus pandemic is over. They can include on-set locations in Singapore and Hong Kong to feature Jamie Chua (a friend of Kane Lim) and Stephen Hung and his wife in Hong Kong.
46-year-old Jamie Chua is a Singaporean socialite and online personality. As of 2020, she has over a million followers on Instagram and close to 450,000 subscribers on YouTube. Jamie Chua first made headlines in 2011 because of her public and protracted divorce case with her then-husband, Nurdian Cuaca; with whom she has two children, Calista (b. 1998) and Cleveland (b. 1995). The proceedings were thrust into the public spotlight following revelations that Jamie Chua was asking for S$450,000 monthly alimony from Cuaca.
Chua loves flaunting her extensive Hermes collection on social media by spending on the money from her ex-husband. According to recent reports from 2018 and 2019, Jamie Chua lives in a 10,000 square-feet house with her family and three dogs. In 2015, it was reported that she has bird’s nest for breakfast daily, and has two maids in her house to serve her family. Jamie Chua and Kane Lim are apparently friends as they are both from Singapore. Similar to the real-life wax figures on Bling Empire, she has also undergone many rounds of cosmetic surgeries to try to immortalise her looks.
Another couple from Hong Kong that are perfect for the Bling Empire Season 2 are Stephen Hung and Deborah Hung. Deborah Valdez is a former fashion model from Mexico. Anyone who follows Stephen Hung‘s Instagram account would not be surprised to find pictures of him with Hollywood celebrities and fashion designers. His signature Mongkok hairstyle and his love for outrageous and tacky outfits by Versace make him look more like a blinged triad boss. The couple is the perfect rival for Christine Chiu and her husband in Bling Empire if there is ever going to be Season 2.
Stephen was the joint chairman of Hong Kong-listed The 13 Holdings Limited before it got into trouble. He is the chairman of The Taipan Investment Group and vice-chairman of Rio Entertainment Group, which operates the Rio Hotel & Casino in Macau. In 2013 he set about developing a luxury casino-resort in Macau, under the name Louis XIII, with the help of Princess Tania de Bourbon Parme. By 2017, the project was lavishly built and under a new name ‘The 13’, but was in financial difficulties, having neither opened nor been awarded a casino licence.