TV review: Bling Empire
Bling Empire received so much hate for misrepresenting Asians before it even aired that it became a must-watch. And so I binged.
The eight-episode reality TV series on Netflix centres on the super rich in Los Angeles and the people who hang around them.
If you know about the Instagram and TikTok account Influencers In The Wild, Bling Empire is like that, on loop.
The rivalry between two socialites - Anna Shay and Christine Chiu - is at the heart of the show, with penniless Korean male model Kevin Kreider providing the "reality" and narrative from an outsider's point of view.
Circulating around them are DJ Kim Lee, TV and movie producer Kelly Mi Li (who is in a predictable on-off relationship with a Power Ranger), flamboyant real estate developer Kane Lim (his billionaire dad is in oil and gas), denim empire heiress Cherie Chan and rising fashion star Jaime Xie.
There are lots of diamonds and couture, childbirth, fortune-telling and existential crises to get through, and (mostly regressive) lessons on expected Asian behaviour weaved in.
It seems like a wild ride but comes across as hollow. Situations the cast go through feel forced and the conversations scripted.
The feud between Shay and Chiu also fizzle out. Showing each other up with diamonds and sexy yoga? Yawn. Give me a brawl worthy of The Real Housewives Of Atlanta.
But there are some positives.
In many areas around the world, so many see a Chinese person as the image of an Asian.
In Bling Empire, there is some level of diversity. There is a Japanese/Russian (Shay), Vietnamese (Lee), Taiwanese (Chiu) and people from China.
Even Singapore is represented, thanks to Lim (who may or may not have been overly enthusiastic about his cheek fillers).
Then there is Xie, the daughter of tech billionaire Ken Xie. I love this quirky girl for her one-liners, delivered with a bewildered face and her amazing wardrobe. She needs her own show.
As the series wound down, I waited for a twist or some sort of redemption, but got nothing. This crowd is as vapid as I thought.
Bling Empire is bad but not the kind of train wreck that was Singapore Social.
While I could not get past an episode of that set-in-Singapore docuseries, which is also on Netflix, I want a second season of Bling Empire just to see how bad it can get.
Vacuity can be so compelling.
SERIES: Bling Empire
STARRING: Kevin Kreider, Christine Chiu, Anna Shay, Kelly Mi Li, Kane Lim, Kim Lee
THE SKINNY: This reality TV series follows Los Angeles’ wildly wealthy Asian and Asian-American fun-seekers as they go all out with fabulous parties, glamour and drama.