Bling Empire Is Selling Sunset With More Billionaires

Photo: Netflix/B)2021 Netflix, Inc.

If there was a recipe for a successful reality-TV series, Netflix’s Bling Empire might be the result. Its raw ingredients are meme-ready hits in the vein of Selling Sunset, stirred up with cross-cultural sensations à la Indian Matchmaker. Add a dash of beauty, a pinch of fame, and a dollop of outrageous wealth, and voilà, you have Bling Empire: a show about wealthy Asian and Asian American people living in L.A.

By wealthy, I mean one cast member is renting one of those Selling Sunset home for $19,000 a month. Wealthy to the tune of Rolex watches as party favors and renting out Rodeo Drive for a Lunar New Year party. It’s a world that was fictionalized in Crazy Rich Asians — but it’s actually lived in by team Bling Empire.

Let me introduce them: There is the peacemaker, Kane, a Singaporean shipping heir, and his himbo best-friend, Kevin, a Korean model raised in middle-class Philadelphia. Kevin serves as an affable stand-in for the audience, shuddering at his friends’ casual purchases of, say, $30,000 worth of shark fin for soup.

Kevin’s other purpose, besides flashing his beautiful abs at every opportunity, is to pursue Kelly, an entrepreneur who is purportedly the only self-made rich person in the group. Kelly’s boyfriend is the show’s chief villain, but where Selling Sunset had Christine’s campy nastiness, Bling Empire gives us Andrew: a genuine piece of shit in the form of an emotionally abusive out-of-work actor.

Meanwhile, Selling Sunset’s Christine-Chrishell rivalry is played out by a more interesting pair: Christine Chiu, a haute-couture-collecting housewife who needlessly pits herself against Anna Shay, an eccentric billionaire in the image of Jocelyn Wildenstein.

Anna and Christine, at Christine’s Lunar New Year Party on Rodeo Drive, which she rented. Photo: Netflix/B)2021 Netflix, Inc.

Whose side to take? Christine is tough to support, at first; her efforts to prove herself Anna’s equal are grating and occasionally hysterical, and it’s not until a storyline around her fertility struggle starts to unfold that we begin to sympathize with her. Still, she’ll describe being castigated by her in-laws’ for not being pregnant, and, in the same breath, emphasize their dynastic lineage. (Christine, I should note, is also a producer on Bling Empire.)

And then there’s Anna, who seems to be part of a reclusive one percent that we rarely see on television. The daughter of late billionaire industrialist Edward Shay and his Japanese-American wife, she last appeared in the news for buying a horrifying Tim Burton–themed California mansion, decorated thus by Dr. Phil’s son.

Anna is fascinating to watch: She wears jeans and diamonds, her hair a dirty blonde tangle and her makeup smudgy. She speaks very little and when she does it’s in a whisper, and usually to impart a bit of clear-eyed wisdom—things like “Don’t let the clothes wear you,” and “You only have one life, this isn’t dress rehearsal.”

There are others: Jamie, a fashion influencer who recently lost out on a barn to Eve Jobs, and Kim Lee, a model-turned-DJ who is shunned from the friend group over a faux-pas involving a penis pump. Get them all in a room together, add alcohol, diamonds, and a bit of Asian traditionalism, and there you have it: 2021’s first bingeable reality hit.

Bling Empire Is Selling Sunset With More Billionaires