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My Thoughts On ‘Bling Empire’ As An Asian American

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

As an Asian American, there’s been a lot going on this week, from Lunar New Year celebrations to discussions about the shooting at Monterey Park. Between heightened political tensions, social obligations, and the semester swelling into something that I know will be a lot once finals roll around, I’m trying to relax more. When 2023 started, I decided that my word of the year would be “relax,” because I have a tendency to lose myself in my work. One of the ways that I like to relax is by watching reality television, which is why it’s perfect that Netflix dropped the first season of Bling Empire: New York.

Even though the original Bling Empire show makes me cringe for reasons I’ll get into later on, I knew the new iteration would rope me in because Dorothy Wang was going to star in it. For those of you who are new to the reality TV space, she was one of the stars of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills. She was an example of Asian representation on TV during a time when there wasn’t much of it, so I feel like I grew up with her in a way. I wanted to see Asian representation where we weren’t just quiet background or crazy sexualized characters, and Bling Empire is a good example of that representation. 

After watching all three seasons of Bling Empire and the first season of Bling Empire: New York, I wonder how realistic the portrayal of Asian people is as an Asian person myself. Spoilers ahead, but watching the show made me feel like I was watching a highly dramatized version of Crazy Rich Asians.

Being Vulnerable is Hard AF

As I was watching Bling Empire: New York, I really felt for Tina Leung when she had an anxiety attack after Dorothy tried to set her up with two guys she found in the Bahamas. While she wasn’t able to explain what was going on, she excused herself from the situation so that she could process her emotions without anyone else having to be bothered by it — exactly what I do every time I get into that kind of situation. 

Maybe it’s something to do with my parents, but they were never the type of people who wanted to deal with things out in public. If we were out at a party and they did something to upset me, they would just expect me to hold it together. As someone who has always been soft and emotional, I couldn’t always do that. I would feel their annoyance at me in the car when they felt like they had to leave events early before I embarrassed them. They didn’t ever really know how to handle my emotions, and at some point, I just stopped going to parties with them. That might be why I can understand Tina keeping to herself unless she’s really comfortable with someone. I do that to protect myself too.

It’s About the Money, Honey

In the New York spin-off of Bling Empire, Nam Laks’ parents threaten to cut her off after she goes on a spending spree. While she’s scared of this possibility, she is comforted by the idea that even if her parents cut her off monetarily, they still love her and will keep in touch. Nam represents her family very well in society, and I’m sure they’re proud of her for that.

It’s something that I wish Kevin Kreider’s parents would do; while Kevin didn’t come from a wealthy family, I feel like his parents must support him. In season three, he talks about how his modeling career has been struggling for ten years. My jaw dropped when I heard this. In my mind, modeling would’ve become a hobby by year three if that were the case. Maybe he’s been able to keep it up because he was adopted, but I couldn’t imagine not having consistent work for ten years of my life. 

New job: Surrogate Parenting?

There’s a part in the show where Tina has her sister come to visit her and discuss their childhood. In this discussion, Tina’s sister talks about how Tina was more of a mom to her than their own mom. I felt that even though I’m pretty sure Tina’s parents were inattentive for different reasons than mine. Being war refugees, my parents were working constantly to make sure we had a roof over our heads, leaving me and my sisters with my grandmother and cousins. For my sisters, I was really the only constant thing in their lives, and somehow I just slid into the role of acting as their parents. I tutored them, I signed permission slips, and I cried on my first day of college because I was missing my baby sister’s first day of first grade.

It might have caused a little bit of a rift between me and my own parents though, kind of like how Kelly Mi Li struggled in her relationship with her mom on the original Bling Empire in season two. I didn’t want to be a parent; I was still a kid, but my parents told me I was supposed to set an example as the oldest. I wanted to be treated like a kid too and could relate to Kelly’s struggle in her relationship with her mom because all she wanted to hear was that she was loved. I remember crying to my mom about how I didn’t hear it enough too.

Love Is Complicated

At the end of season three of Bling Empire, Christine Chiu talks about how at the end of the day, even after all their drama, she’s happy to have her family in her life, and that encompasses my experience being Asian: even though it has given me complex relationships with my family and who I am, I wouldn’t change it because I also still love how being Asian has shaped who I am. While I may not be rich, I feel like I’m a diamond in the rough as a result of all I’ve been through.

Kristi currently and MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida studying Creative Writing. A former resident at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, she loves pop culture, food, and the humanity of people. When she isn't writing, you can find her reading a book, spending time with loved ones, or going on and on about how cute dogs are. Or, specifically, how her dog Damian is the most handsome angel boy.