Since first airing on Netflix in 2021, “Bling Empire” has quickly become an Asian American fan favorite.
Set in the glitzy and glamorous world of Los Angeles’ wealthiest, the show, as well as the cast, has cemented itself as an icon in Asian American media history. “Bling Empire” is one of the first unscripted TV shows with an all-Asian cast, and arguably the most successful. The show came at the perfect time, airing in the middle of the pandemic, at the height of a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, when we were all feeling heavy. When there seemed to be a horrifying story in the news relating to anti-Asian hate every day, or another GoFundMe circulating for the victims of these hate crimes, “Bling Empire” provided some much-needed relief for viewers.
After a year and a half off our screens, “Bling Empire” has returned with a second season that’s brought back all the drama, gossip, catfights, and, of course, familial friendship that viewers have grown to love. Sure, there are parts that feel a bit forced — the Kim/Kevin romance storyline especially so — and a little tired — come on, isn’t the Anna/Christine feud so season one? But overall, much like its first season, the sophomore season is a fun, bingeable watch.
“Bling Empire” sets itself apart from other reality TV shows with storylines and episodes that highlight East Asian culture. Viewers get to witness things like a 100-day party for baby Jevon, extravagant Lunar New Year celebrations, feng shui experts, and palm readers, all brought forth to mainstream media. Although their lavish celebrations aren’t exactly representative of the everyday Asian American, it still brings awareness to our culture and traditions.
How the Cast of “Bling Empire” Has Become Positive Asian American Role Models
Cast member Jaime has this to say about how over-the-top the show can get: “Of course, the lavish lifestyle and the materialistic things, it’s like part of the show, but I think the stories, deep down, are the most important. And the lavish lifestyle just sort of adds to it.”
After a widely successful first season, the cast has become more than just reality TV stars; now they’re representatives of the Asian American diaspora. When asked how she feels being viewed as a face of Asian American representation, Kim gushes, “I feel beyond grateful, happy and excited. I get so many messages on Instagram, and a lot of young girls coming to my show saying I’m such a huge inspiration. And at first, I didn’t understand that. But I feel like all the creatives always come to me, [and say], ‘You’re the reason I started so and so’ and it makes me feel incredible. It makes me realize that I’m doing something right if I’m a huge influence on the females out there.”
Kelly shares a similar sentiment: “Honestly, it’s so amazing, it actually brings me to tears sometimes. [One time,] this lady came up to me with her 2-year-old baby, and she [said], ‘I literally listened to all your podcasts, listened to all your interviews, and now my daughter has someone to look up to growing up, [which] I didn’t have.’ It brought me to tears because I didn’t expect that. We’re on a show, but we don’t realize how much it affects people. I’m just really grateful for that because growing up in the U.S., I didn’t have that role model.”
Why Season Two of “Bling Empire” is Even More Exciting Than Season One
The show does delve beyond just fanciful parties, necklace wars, and facelifts. Season two follows Christine and Gabe’s journey as they decide to pursue surrogacy following the passing of Christine’s mother. We watch Kelly continue therapy and the practice of self-love and acceptance following her breakup with Andrew. (Should we all be sunbathing our “downstairs” along with Kelly?!) We get to see Jaime grow into herself some more and explore her dating life a bit, Kevin and Kane’s bromance gets tested, and some new faces appear in season two. We’re introduced to Dorothy Wang, a Chinese American socialite born and raised in Beverly Hills; Mimi Morris, who grew up in Vietnam and is known for throwing excessively lavish parties; and Leah Qin, who has a small but noteworthy role. This season, even more so than the last, gossip and rumors run rampant amongst the tight-knit circle.
“Our group loves to gossip,” Kevin says on the show. “Kane gossips, Kelly gossips, Kim loves to gossip.” Gossip is almost a form of currency on the show — the friends constantly exchange juicy, sometimes unverified secrets to one another (usually about one another) over dimsum and champagne. Leah, a close friend of Cherie and Jessey’s, drops a bomb about the couple that led to internet sleuthing, whispering, and feelings of betrayal among the group. Gossiping, especially in tiny circles where everyone knows everyone, is extremely prevalent in Asian culture. In most Asian families, regardless of how closely knit, very little can happen without it being circulated through the family grapevine. Asian aunties seem to hold all the secrets.
Perhaps that’s a huge reason why so many of us find the show so alluring. With the exception of perhaps Anna, who has very little appetite for gossip and rumors, the cast members eat up gossip faster than they do truffles and caviar. It’s easy to feel connected to the cast members, almost like we’re a part of their family, whispering and gossiping along with them, knowing secrets before the rest of the cast members do.
Although it’s hard for the everyday Asian American to really relate to any of the characters on the show, many of us are still drawn to the show, their storylines, and their wealth. One of the most enticing things about the show is that it doesn’t pigeonhole Asian Americans in the way we’re used to. Ten, maybe even five years ago, there was much less Asian representation in the media. It was common for Asian characters to be one-dimensional, monolithic side characters. “Bling Empire” humanizes us. It puts us front and center and paints a picture of Asian Americans that can be messy, dysfunctional, petty, lovable, sexy, and headstrong.
However, the show, which has been dubbed the “real life ‘Crazy Rich Asians’”, can continue to perpetuate a newer stereotype, one set forth after the commercial success of “Crazy Rich Asians” in 2018. At least now, the burden of accurate, fair representation doesn’t rest squarely on the shoulders of “Bling Empire.” These days, there are so many more diverse, amazing Asian American stories being told in mainstream media like “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “Pachinko,” “The Farewell,” “Turning Red,” and most recently, “Fire Island.” Asian Americans are finally seeing more and more of our stories being told on the big screen, and gaining more and more dimension with each movie, TV show, podcast, and book. And “Bling Empire” is definitely a highly entertaining addition to our ever-growing, colorful collection of stories.
Photo credits: Netflix
Last modified: July 3, 2022