Manses, abs, sneakers, Dior, jet black manes, private jets, Botox, caviar, diamonds, diamonds and TONS of diamonds! Imagine that in sunny LA and boom! As the love child between Crazy Rich Asians and The Real Housewives, Bling Empire is the real life version of the iconic Kevin Kwan novel. Except, Bling Empire centers on the lives of Asian Americans whereas the blockbuster movie and novel are about the lives of Asians in Asia. As an Asian who has lived across two continents, I feel over the moon that there is a show like this because very rarely do I see someone who looks like myself on TV – especially on a major global platform. Being the reality TV binge watcher that I am, I laugh, talk and drop one too many “OMGs” while watching the entire eight episodes.
Given that I have been in environments similar to the stars of Bling Empire, I find that the show borders between fiction and real life. Like oranges and apples, what people don’t realize is that Bling Empire is from an American perspective whereas Crazy Rich Asians is from an Asian perspective. As someone who’s lived across two different continents and cultures, here is an honest review:
The search for love feels all too real. Out of all the couples, I relate most to Kelly as she’s been open about the peaks and valleys of her relationship while trying to build a healthy space for herself. Andrew’s a snack, but geez Louise…I seriously ain’t having it with him being so mean to her! While we mainly see the negative aspects of their relationship on camera, I can’t fully assess what their relationship is like off-camera as I feel that some moments appear staged. However, I can understand why she’d wanna go for someone like Andrew. Let’s be honest here, who the hell can resist those blue eyes and abs?! While they’re the Offset and Cardi of the cast, you can *feel* that push and pull chemistry between them vs. Kelly and Kevin, whose chemistry fizzled faster than a power outage.
While I believe that who we date is a matter of preference, I just simply disagree with Kevin saying that Kelly needed to go back to “Asian dick” as if that’s the best option for her. While Kevin was saying that out of spite against Andrew, I just find that it’s not right to shame someone for having a preference to not date within the same race. Like Kelly, I am open to interracial relationships, which isn’t so common among most Chinese families. If Kelly grew up in a Singaporean/Chinese Indonesian household, she would’ve been told *not* to go out with a guy who wasn’t Chinese. (It’s happened to me before!) It’s archaic, but interracial dating is a taboo for some Chindo (Chinese Indonesian) families as they mainly expect the girl to date/marry a guy within the same culture/race. In Southeast Asia, the older generation of Asians aren’t cosmopolitan as they grew up to being accustomed to marrying/dating within the same group. Seeing an interracial relationship like Kelly and Andrew’s is so refreshing as it’s not something I see very often.
Speaking of relationships, there’s a HUGE focus on marriage because in Asian culture, people date to marry. Based on my experience, I can vouch for this as I’ve been told that I had to find a husband by family and friends. In fact, we see this dynamic between Cherie and Jessey as she was set on marrying him whereas he wasn’t so keen on getting married. Even Christine (no, not the Jeffree Star lookalike from Selling Sunset) said that Jessey had to propose as he got Cherie knocked up before they got married (a no-no in Asian culture). While the pressure to marry is hella scary, I wish that the show can capture more tension between Cherie and Jessey as I’m curious to know *why* he delayed proposing to her. But, that’ll carry over to the next topic…
2. Keeping Tradition vs. Breaking Tradition
I cannot tell you how important this part is. Despite being Chinese, I grew up being Americanized (thanks, SAS!) and am accustomed to Westernized ways of living. While that’s created an identity crisis within myself, I deeply relate to it as the struggle to break out of tradition vs. keeping tradition is a journey that’s all too real regardless of whether you’re in Singapore or in LA. Being the boss she is, Cherie’s taken the next step by proposing to Jessey, which is incredibly rare as not many women propose to men. As she’s been bound by tradition all her life, breaking it has been one of the most liberating moments to watch on screen. It takes so much confidence to do that and I admire her for it. But, his reaction on the screen was very telling as a viewer as I could sense some internal tension. Because he broke tradition by having a kid first, I think that Cherie wants to be his equal by breaking it, too. I feel that the dynamic will be more interesting by the time season 2 rolls around.
Apart from Jessey and Cherie, there’s Kane, whose shoe collection rivals Carrie Bradsahaw’s. Though he’s the Switzerland of his group (by being drama-free), Kane has hinted that he will break tradition as he’s been held back by it. Growing up in Singapore, I can understand his struggle as it’s a family-oriented society that fully expects kids to stay back with the parents and continue to carry on tradition. The fact that he’s openly admitted to wanting to break traditions on screen is so brave of him because I can feel his fear of disappointing his parents since every Asian – myself included – is expected to abide by tradition even while living abroad. Although breaking tradition is widely celebrated in Western society, it’s frowned upon in SEA. While this topic isn’t deeply explored in the show, I truly hope to see more of it on Bling Empire as I feel that it’ll help viewers relate to the cast more.
This is EXACTLY like Crazy Rich Asians, where every single character is dressed extravagantly save for Rachel Chu, whose tastes lean towards dressed down, and Peik Lin, whose style leans towards campy than glam. Because this is LA, the women dress more flashier than in Singapore, where the well-heeled ladies wear bling in small doses with their Bottegas or Hermes bags paired with a Rolex or Cartier. But when it comes to womenswear, there’s three spectrums: A) Kardashian Kasual (think Kim), B) red carpet glam (think Anna and Christine) or C) ultra girlie (think Cherie).
If there’s one defining trend worn by the ladies, it’s crowns. Like, how can you *not* unsee that?!
It’s seriously OTT, but seriously. I truly admire their confidence to wear a crown while throwing shade over seating arrangements and Louis Vuitton necklaces. Apart from the bling, I have to admit that the amount of skin the girls show on Bling Empire is considered too racy for Asia, where it’s more conservative. Nevertheless, I admire how each girl isn’t shy to show off her best feature!
As for the menswear department, Kane wins. I mean, who can wear a bi-colored Kelly and pair that with Cartier and Dolce without looking like a costume? Kane. NGL, but this dude is seriously THE style icon to watch for in 2021. Even though he doesn’t drive the plot like Anna or Christine, his BFF narrative makes him a presence to be felt based on his style. It makes him one of my favorite characters on the show as his witty quips make me laugh FOR LIFE! Not many guys I know dress like Kane because 99.9% of the time, they dress like Kevin. No shade whatsoever, but most men are not as adventurous or colorful as Kane when it comes to fashion. Although Kevin has a Clueless-like moment with Anna dolling him up in Dior, I’m dying to see him wear more Dior in season 2!
4. THE DRAMA!
Not as tense as Selling Sunset, the drama on Bling Empire is mainly over the small stuff like Anna’s penis pump to KelDrew’s dysfunctional relationship issues. Unlike most shows, what makes it so unique is the fact that they’ve covered touchy topics like adoption and infertility. I like that it’s a happy balance between silly and serious, which isn’t something that I see on most reality TV shows, which always focuses on relationships. I think that if I had to pick the most dramatic moment, nothing made me crack up more than Guy and Kim discovering Anna’s penis pump in the shower. Seriously, it’s my favorite scene.
Is it dramatic enough? I don’t think so. I feel that most of the drama is spent on the love triangle between Kelly, Andrew and Kevin, which took up so much air time compared to the drama between Christine vs. Anna. I think that if the show also added some tense moments between Jessey and Cherie, then I’d watch it because I, as a viewer, am curious to see how the dynamic of a Westernized Asian American (Jessey) and a traditional Asian American (Cherie) would play out. At the same time, I am hoping to see more scenes of Christine vs. her in-laws as they were only heard of, but not shown on camera. I think that seeing the tensions between Christine and her in-laws will be popcorn-grabbing as I’m keen to seeing their reactions when she doesn’t want to have another kid or decides to settle for a surrogate.
My predictions for season 2:
- There will be more LGBT representation
We’ve only seen a small taste of it with Guy and his husband, who are only seen in less than 10 seconds at Florent’s birthday party at Anna’s house. As an ally of the LGBT community, I feel that this representation is very important to me as gaysians aren’t widely seen on TV shows besides Bobby Trendy in The Anna Nicole Show. If you are wondering why the show doesn’t dive deeper into sexuality, it’s because most Asian families are still very conservative and sadly, being gay isn’t accepted nor is it legal to be one except for a few countries. Shall season 2 commence, I am truly excited to see more than 1 non-heteronormative relationship as I feel that it will lessen the sigma around homosexuality in Asian communities.
2. Kelly and Drew are back
There were SO many moments when they were seeing each other again. One thing’s for sure, the random shot of the roses were a DEAD giveaway as they left the park. I feel that Kelly is truly back with Andrew. No doubt about that.
3. More screen time on Cherie and Jessey’s relationship
Compared to Kelly and Andrew, they didn’t have that much screen time. Now that she’s proposed to him, I think that the next season will focus on the pressure leading up to their marriage. At this point, we literally don’t know if they end up marrying. Given that Jessey has always been hesitant to marry or even accept his fiancée’s proposal, it’s a very telling sign that he’s not exactly going to agree to her plans on getting married. Despite the Scott and Kourtney-style approach to their relationship (i.e. have kids without getting married), I suspect that there’s a high chance that fights would happen. Because this is reality TV, no couple will ever have a fairy tale relationship and I think that their dynamic will truly be tested.
4. MORE iconic Anna moments
IDK what the F is Bling Empire without Anna. As the Queen of Bling, Maker of Moments and Speaker of One-Liners, Anna is THE ride or die friend who’d literally treat you like a king or queen. As a someone who knows how to live life, I seriously think that she deserves a king worthy of her status. I know that most of her scenes are made to carve out drama between her and Christine, but I am also hoping that the producers can include a love scenario for her as she usually sets up her friends. IDK who the new guy will be if they bring in one for Anna, but my guess is gonna be on a younger man. Older men are too boring for her. I also feel that Anna will give out more sex and dating advice, too. AAAANNNDDDD, let’s not forget about those iconic beauty rituals (e.g. mouth massages) and Magic Mike yoga classes. Fingers crossed for more outrageous moments!
5. Kim and Kevin (finally) date
Season 1 is all about Kevin trying to fit into his new tribe. Now that he’s in the circle, Kevin realizes that he can only for Kim as Kelly isn’t available for him. Compared to Kelly, Kim is someone who is less dependent and that’s who Kevin actually needs as he kinda had this idea of Kelly wrapped into his head before the awkward first date. There is SO MUCH chemistry popping between Kim and Kevin despite how much they didn’t like each other at first. Even as they date, is there a chance that Kevin wishes that he’s with Kelly? Who knows. Let’s keep our eyes peeled to see how long they’ll last on screen.