What starts off as a rip-off of a Bravo reality show ends up feeling completely fresh, heartfelt, and addicting.
- 💎The individual story arcs for each of the cast members feel really relatable on a personal and cultural level.
- 💎The cast is extremely beautiful to look at and, not to mention, Asian hotties.
- 💎Many of the friendships and budding relationships feel forced and scripted.
- 💎Some of the excessive opulence gets really annoying.
This post contains spoilers for Bling Empire.
What happens when you take Crazy Rich Asians and add a little Bravo reality drama? You get Bling Empire, Netflix’s new reality series that follows wealthy Asian socialites living in Los Angeles. We first meet Kevin Kreider, a handsome model from Philadelphia, who serves as the outsider entering the affluent world of the rich through his friendship with Kane Lim, the son of a Singaporean billionaire. Kane introduces Kevin to his circle of rich friends which consist of recluse billionaire Anna Shay; Christine Chiu, wife of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon; entrepreneur Kelly Mi Li; renowned DJ, Kim Lee; Cherie Chan and Jessey Lee, a trust fund couple with a growing family; and Jaime Xie, fashion influencer and daughter of a tech billionaire.
Of course, there are crazy events that showcase the opulent lifestyle of Los Angeles socialites and there is also some petty drama that only the wealthy would really care about. But behind the bling, there is actually some heart.
Don’t get me wrong. Like most reality series, it’s obvious that many of the characters just became friends or started hanging out with each other because of the show. There were many times where friendships and the drama felt forced, including some potential love interests. But their individual storylines felt compelling and relatable, especially to me as an Asian American, despite not being in the same tax bracket. Culture plays a huge role in the series, which separates it from the other reality series surrounding the ridiculously rich.
Christine Chiu — whose husband is a direct descendant of the Song dynasty — deals with the familial pressures of bearing a son (which in many Asian cultures is the preferred sex). Although her story of dealing with in-laws feels very familiar, Christine still comes off as extremely pretentious throughout the series so that it is genuinely hard to root for her. And, trust me, I tried.
There are other situations that many Asian Americans will connect within the series. Kevin is a Korean adoptee who searches for his birth parents and goes to great lengths to have some sort of closure. Like many Korean adoptees, he contacts the adoption agency to find out any information about his life in Korea. There is also an emotional moment where Kevin hires a hypnotherapist to try to remember his life back in his home country that just feels so raw. In several episodes, Kim follows a similar journey searching for the father who abandoned her and her mother years ago, with some help from Kevin and Kane. Even with all the money and the fame, Kim still felt something was missing in her life and no amount of Gucci could fill that void.
Then there is Cherie, who is grieving the recent loss of her mother. We watch Cherie process her grief with the help of her friends, family, and a celebrity spiritual medium. After giving birth to her son, Cherie begins to believe that her mother has been reincarnated into him. As trippy as that sounds, it’s not hard to believe when you come from a Buddhist background, which is another exciting thing to see represented on television.
The most intriguing cast member is the most well-known in Beverly Hills high society, Anna Shay. Daughter to the late billionaire entrepreneur Edward Shay and his Japanese American wife Ai-San, Anna was born into wealth as her father founded Pacific Architects and Engineers, an American defense and government services contractor. In 2006, Anna and her brother Allen sold the company to Lockheed Martin for $1.2 billion. It’s hard to believe that Anna would participate in the series, let alone have her personal life shared, because of how notoriously private she is. But I am glad she opens the doors to her lavish life because it is refreshing to see how down-to-Earth and incredible she is at reading people she allows in her world. Though there are moments when you see the cattiness crawl out of her when she deals with her frenemy, Christine.
The series is not just serious and emotional. There are zany moments where the ‘crazy’ part of the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ are showcased. Whenever there is some tension, it gets cut with scenes that involve something random like a penis pump, jewelry drama, a yoga stripper, and Anna Shay’s breasts. It’s all fun and games until someone else wears the same high-end jewelry as you. Then the crazy comes out.
Overall, Bling Empire is like many of the other addicting trash reality series about rich people allowing audiences a glimpse of their life. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It was really fun. I actually found myself binging all the episodes. I really hope Netflix will renew the series for a second season because I have become invested in some of the cast members.
Am I sick of the crazy rich Asian trope? Definitely. Do I think we deserve guilty-pleasure trash reality shows too? Also a big yes. "Guilty pleasure" shows are a good thing, and we all deserve our trashy faves right now.
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