The Cast Of Bling Empire Before The Fame

Netflix's "Bling Empire" offered a deep dive into the lives of wealthy Asian Americans in Los Angeles. The cast kept us on our toes with endless drama so we could vicariously satisfy our couture cravings through their voracious appetites for luxury and high fashion. This quality reality series was produced by Jeff Jenkins, who also produced "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and "The Simple Life." The man knows how to make compelling TV, especially when it involves drama and luxury in SoCal! 

It wasn't just Jenkins who added the magic touch. Cast member Kane Lim opened up about why he thought "Bling Empire" was a hit, and he felt that the success came because no one was desperate to become famous. It didn't hurt that many of the cast members were friends (and rivals) before cameras got rolling.

But "Bling Empire" was about so much more than the bling. The series went deep into the personal lives of the cast in ways that were unexpectedly moving and real. Remember when Kim Lee opened up about wanting to find her biological father? Or when Christine Chiu shared about her fertility struggles? It was a combination of vulnerability and glamour that made the show so endearing. While the "Bling Empire" cast is now relatively famous, they weren't all familiar faces before the show. In fact, many of them were under the radar, living their best lives. Here's what everyone was up to before hitting it big.

Kevin Kreider's debt before Bling Empire

Kevin Kreider was our host with the most on "Bling Empire," and an "outsider" in a world of extreme wealth. We arguably need Kevin, though, as a viewer's touchstone in this inaccessible world. And as that bridge, Kevin fit the bill. 

He grew up in a middle class family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he began working as a personal trainer and bodybuilder, according to CNBC. Kevin moved to New York for a time to try his hand at modeling and acting, and while he had some success, the intermittent work schedule led to him accumulating $26,000 in credit card debt. A trip to Los Angeles changed his view of where he saw himself, and he kept it in the back of his mind.

Meanwhile, Kevin had a growing following on YouTube, where he posted about Asian masculinity, working out, and body positivity. Amazingly, it was thanks to his YouTube presence that Kelly Mi Li sent him a DM and said, "Hey, look, if you're ever in L.A., I'd love to meet up sometime," Kevin told EW. Kevin was ready for the big move; he messaged back, "I'm moving to L.A. actually at the end of the month!" Once there, Kelly introduced Kevin to Kane Lim, and they hit it off. Kane told Kevin about the show they were planning, and Kevin worried he wouldn't fit the wealthy vibe. "No, you'd be perfect. Let's just do it. Let's try it," the group told Kevin. That's how he wound up on "Bling Empire."

Kim Lee's success as a DJ

Kim Lee, who was often called a Kylie Jenner look-alike on "Bling Empire," created a bit of drama on screen. She was the one who found the sex toy in Anna Shay's shower and got Guy Tang to throw it out the window. She also threw a drink in Kevin Kreider's face, so for better or worse, she knew how to serve the drama. 

Kim has Vietnamese and French roots and was raised in Orange County, California. She first worked as a model and then became a respected DJ, playing shows all over the world. Not only that; Kim is the host of "Yo! MTV Raps" on MTV Asia, according to Vice.

While she had a solid career before "Bling Empire," Kim's wealth doesn't place her quite in the brackets of some of her co-stars. Nevertheless, she reportedly boasted a net worth of $10 million and "is a self-made millionaire" (per Marie Claire Australia). Part of Kim's fortune prior to "Bling" came from appearances in music videos for Nicki Minaj and Kanye West, the outlet notes, as well as some movie roles, such as playing a dancer in "The Hangover II."

With such a well-rounded background, Kim was reluctant to appear on "Bling Empire." She told Vice that she was worried it would be a revamping of "Crazy Rich Asians" where everyone would be expected to "shop all day." "[T]hat's just not me," she said. Fair enough. 

Guy Tang's pop star side

Guy Tang didn't get nearly enough screen time on "Bling Empire." The stylist and hair colorist was world renowned long before he landed a spot on the reality show. Guy even has his own product line called Mydentity, so fans and fellow stylists can recreate his iconic looks. Guy shares these masterpieces on Instagram with his over 2 million followers, so there's no shortage of evidence that he's a genius.

But before he was a stylist, and long before "Bling Empire," Guy was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and moved to Los Angeles in 2010, he told Modern Salon. In the interview, Guy made mention of another passion of his. When asked what would surprise people about him, he said: "I love to sing and dance."

He isn't kidding. Before appearing on reality TV, Guy showcased his singing and songwriting abilities on YouTube, where he lets his pop star identity shine. Guy shared with his 2.25 million subscribers his hits like "Better Together" and "Bridges You Burn." They're honestly really good!

While some of his songs feature breakup themes, Guy himself has been happily married to Almar Guevarra for ten years. Guy shared a pic of his husband on Instagram doing Guy's hair and gushed about the relationship: "He's a full time Brain Cancer Research Nurse [who] is finding a cure for brain cancer. He is very nurturing and guess what? He knows everything about hair." Seems like a perfect match!

How Kane Lim made his own money

Kane Lim, lover of shoes, is definitely in the upper echelons of wealth amongst the cast of "Bling Empire." Raised in Singapore, Kane has familial wealth, but this doesn't mean he had a cushy gig as a kid. In an interview with Voyage LA, Kane explained how his father emphasized education and travel but withheld luxuries. "My father would never pamper us; instead, when I was young he would stop me [at] the nearest public bus stop and tell me to take a public bus to school," Kane explained.

Knowing that his father wasn't going to hand out cash, Kane began investing at 17 and asked his father for a small loan. "[I] paid him back in two months and by the age of 18-19, I made a sum...of around seven figures," Kane told Voyage LA. In 2012, Kane moved to Los Angeles and decided to stay in order to focus on investments for his family. This left him with an estimated net worth of $20 million, according to Marie Claire Australia.

Kane's Instagram presence blew up before "Bling Empire." He told Voyage LA that he had been active on the site for years, sharing his love of fashion, when one day, Rihanna started following him and left comments under some of his posts, including a suggestion of which jacket to put on for her concert. "I vividly remember how my phone died," Kane explained, from the blowup of action on his account.

Christine Chiu has always been a devotee of haute couture

Christine Chiu was one of the more dramatic "Bling Empire" cast members. She had particular beef with Anna Shay, but it wouldn't be reality TV without a little spat or two. Before the Netflix series, Christine was in the running to join the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." In 2014, Radar reported that Bravo producers were testing Christine for three different seasons to see how she would gel with everyone.

While she didn't land a spot on RHOBH, Christine has been making waves for years. Born in Taiwan, she graduated with an international business degree from Pepperdine University (per Marie Claire), and she and husband Dr. Gabriel Chiu opened a plastic surgery clinic in Beverly Hills, where Christine reportedly serves as a managing partner.

Before "Bling Empire," Christine was making headlines in fashion magazines for her devotion to haute couture. In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter covered her shopping patterns, where Christine admitted that she makes a purchase at each show, and if she sees a celebrity in a piece she wants, she usually doesn't buy it. "I don't want the sloppy seconds," she said. "Not that anyone would call couture sloppy."

Harper's Bazaar did the same thing in 2019, marveling at Christine's love of fashion and her close relationships with designers. She explained that Armani Privé hosted her baby shower for her son, Gabriel, or "Baby G," as she calls him. So clearly, Christine was a hit before "Bling Empire."

Gabriel Chiu is a descendant of the Song Dynasty

Dr. Gabriel Chiu is a renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills. Before appearing on "Bling Empire," Dr. Chiu attended the University of California, Berkeley, for his bachelor's degree in microbiology and immunology and later obtained a doctorate in osteopathic medicine from Western University of Health Sciences, according to his official website. This booming practice has left Dr. Chiu and Christine Chiu with a combined fortune of $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Any ardent fan of the show will remember Christine's not-so-subtle mentions that her hubby is a descendant of royalty. Christine shared this fact again with Town & Country and explained how it relates to their son, Gabriel. "My husband is the 24th direct descendant of the Song Dynasty, which makes 'Baby G' the 25th direct descendant," she said. While we know that Dr. Chiu is royalty, we also know that he goes to Bel Air Presbyterian Church with Christine, and they're "devout Christians," per the official Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc. website.

Long before "Bling Empire," while Christine was known for her couture shopping, Dr. Chiu had only one request for his wife's avid taste for luxury. He asked that she buy more "high jewelry" than other items because "jewelry typically holds its value" (per Harper's Bazaar). But with a booming business, it looks like Dr. Chiu has been a consistently supportive husband, no matter what his wife likes to buy.

Anna Shay's insanely wealthy childhood

Anna Shay was one of the most iconic characters on "Bling Empire," and she's also the richest. So where did Anna's fortune come from? As NBC News notes, Anna's father was Edward Shay, the founder of Pacific Architects and Engineers, which provided weapons to a CIA operation that went after the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War that led to the death of many Vietnamese people. Anna's fortune certainly comes with a dark history. In 2006, the company was sold for $1.2 billion, leaving Anna with a considerable sum. After splitting it up with her sibling, she was left with $600 million, according to Marie Claire Australia.

Anna was born in Tokyo, and her wealthy mother, Ai-San Shay, was part Russian and part Japanese, while her father was American ("from the South Side of Chicago," she told Anna spoke with the outlet about her upbringing, quoting her late mother, who used to tell her: "You were born in a crystal ball with a silver spoon." She also shared a story from when she was 7 years old, of traveling from Japan to the United States. She brought her pet monkey on board the flight, and Anna wanted the monkey next to her. Her father told her, "Walk in and know who you are, where you come from." You can imagine where the monkey got to sit.

Kelly Mi Li's shocking first marriage

In many ways, Kelly Mi Li is responsible for bringing the cast together, since she introduced Kevin Kreider to the rest of the crew. But before "Bling Empire," what was Kelly's story? She moved with her mother and father from China to Chicago, according to the South China Morning Post, but her father had to return to China for his job, so Kelly was raised primarily by her mother, who worked at the University of Illinois.

Kelly's own work ethic became apparent at 18. She began working in life insurance in New York and later got into Los Angeles real estate, followed by the food and beverage industry. Kelly also got involved in tech investment and worked as a producer on the 2020 film "Echo Boomers."

While this is all very rad, Kelly had an interesting relationship prior to "Bling." In the first episode, she explained what her life was like. "In my 20s, I was married to a Chinese guy, and we lived a privileged, outrageous lifestyle," she said. "You know, seven cars, four houses. I think at the time we were spending, like, $400,000 a month on our black [American Express card] until one day the government showed up and took everything from us, and my ex-husband was arrested" (via Good Housekeeping).

Her ex, Lin Miao, was arrested for cyber fraud in the Los Angeles airport (per The Sun), while Kelly herself was never charged. She filed for divorce in 2014. So she certainly had a lively, if somewhat contentious, past before "Bling Empire."

Andrew Gray was an actor and a model first

Andrew Gray made it on "Bling Empire" because he was dating Kelly Mi Li. The Indigenous Miwok and Latino actor is best known for his role as the Red Megaforce Ranger in the "Power Rangers Megaforce" series and the 2015 film, "Power Rangers Super Megaforce: The Legendary Battle."

While Andrew is recognized for his part in the Power Rangers franchise, he's also worked as a model, which is clear from his Instagram presence. (Does anyone else get Blue Steel vibes?) Andrew's work left him with a net worth of approximately $2 million (via The Sun), so while this is something to be proud of, he's on the low end of wealth in the world of "Bling Empire." Fans will remember that Andrew and Kelly's relationship was a major topic throughout, and viewers were upset by Andrew's sometimes verbally aggressive tone toward Kelly. But Kelly and Andrew were together long before "Bling." 

As the South China Morning Post notes, Kelly and Andrew broke the news of their relationship on Instagram in October 2015 (the post has since been deleted). Kelly moved to L.A. following the split from her husband in order to get close to Andrew. "I moved to Los Angeles for two reasons: One, is to run away from a boy. Two, is to chase a boy," she said on the show, per Good Housekeeping. While their relationship certainly had some turbulence, Kelly and Andrew were together for more than five years.

Jamie Xie's life revolved around horses

Jamie Xie was one of the quieter personalities on "Bling Empire," but she shines under closer scrutiny and lives quite a life! Jamie grew up in Silicon Valley, and her father, Ken Xie, is a cyber security genius. He's the founder of Fortinet, according to his LinkedIn, as well as Netscreen, a system to enable firewalls. 

While Jamie's adult life is filled with fashion, her childhood actually revolved around horses, and she was incredibly skilled with them. As Vogue notes, Jamie became the top equestrian in the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Small Junior Hunter 16-17 Division. But horses didn't keep Jamie invested forever, and she eventually turned her sights to fashion. "I remember being obsessed with these Charlotte Olympia shoes where the heel was like a little cage. Those were the first shoes I thought were wearable art, and for my eighth-grade graduation, I wore them with a little white dress."

Jamie became an influencer online and found huge success in the unboxing video theme on YouTube. She also has a major Instagram presence, and it'll come as no surprise that Jamie was getting sponsored on social media long before "Bling Empire." With all this combined, Jamie has an estimated net worth of $50 million. So she certainly knew how to establish herself before reality TV.

Cherie Chan wanted to become a pop star

Cherie Chan was an introverted star on "Bling Empire." Hey, it's tough to compete for the spotlight when you have Anna Shay doing her own home demolitions or Kim Lee throwing a drink in Kevin Kreider's face. But Cherie might be most remembered for proposing to long-term boyfriend Jessey Lee at the end of Season 1.

Long before reality TV, Cherie was actually on track to have a career as a pop star in Japan. She said on the show that she was signed by Sony Music. However, her mother, Cindy Tran, intervened in this plan so that Cherie could have a more traditional life. She did indeed do this and had two children, J'adore and Jevon, with her fiance (per People).

But Cherie hasn't totally shut the door on music in her life. In a joint interview with the Daily Mail, Cherie and Jessey were enthusiastic about her continuing a career. "I would totally love to do it, give it another shot, because music is a big part of my life," she said. "I would love to get involved again one day." But she wants to wait until her kids are a little older.

Cherie is one of the wealthier cast members in an already unbelievably elite world. She is the heiress to a denim company and has a combined estimated net worth of $200 million with Jessey, per Marie Claire Australia. But Cherie doesn't operate alone. She and her partner have created an empire of their own.

Jessey Lee comes from a furniture family

Jessey Lee, like his partner Cherie Chan, came from an entrepreneurial Chinese American family with a sizable fortune. In an interview with Page Six, Cherie mentioned that Jessey "has another business" in Asia, and People reported that he "works for his family's furniture business."

Jessey and Cherie have an impressive portfolio of other ventures. They own Religion Tequila and Bresatech, a business consulting firm. The commitment to grow their own financial empire is something that Cherie and Jessey decided for themselves, as she explained to The Sun: "Right now we're really focused on Religion Tequila and Bresatech. Our family is in furniture and textiles. We're very focused on building a legacy for our children. We don't want to rely on our families." Jessey's combined net worth estimation with Cherie sits at $200 million.

Unlike some of the other cast members, Jessey didn't have a huge social media presence before "Bling Empire," and he posts on Instagram at a slightly slower pace. Despite being somewhat camera shy, Jessey, Cherie, and their adorable kids made a great addition to the charm of "Bling Empire."