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Who is Anna Shay? – ‘Bling Empire’ Star Talks Christine Chiu Feud and More
You might think that you’re not learning anything while mindlessly cramming Netflix content. But you’d be wrong—Netflix shows, in fact, teach us lessons about actions and their consequences all the time. We’ve learned the cutthroat business of high end LA real estate. We’ve learned how important it is to be yourself on the Internet. And now, Bling Empire has taught us that when you wear a Louis Vuitton high jewelry pink sapphire and diamond necklace with the knowledge that your party host owns it too, your place setting will get moved to the other side of the table.
Or at least that’s what viewers thought they learned this past week when Netflix’s latest guilty pleasure reality show Bling Empire, which follows the lives of ultra-rich Angelenos of Asian descent, quickly ascended to the Netflix Top 10. According to Anna Shay, the Bling Empire star who appears in the controversial episode, that isn’t entirely what went down.
Shay told Esquire that in fact, it’s impossible that the Vuitton necklaces owned by Shay and her rival in the show, Christine Chiu, are even the same in the first place. “When she was saying to Kane that I have the same necklace, no one necklace is the same as another. I know the designer, actually quite well, of the high jewelry at Louis Vuitton during that time. We’ve become very good friends. And those two necklaces are not identical.”
The rivalry between Anna and Christine Chiu, whose husband Dr. Gabriel Chiu is a direct descendant of the Song Dynasty, is part of the new reality show’s charm. Although the world of private jets and couture house calls isn’t what one might consider normal, the mask-free human interactions, social gatherings, and trivial interpersonal dramas in the series are comforting mementos of a pre-Pandemic world—one in which you could, realistically, have a boyfriend explode at you for leaving him alone in your Paris hotel, because you could actually safely travel to a Paris hotel in the first place.
In a cast of disjointed characters who clearly didn’t hang out together before the camera crews showed up, 60-year-old Anna Shay stands out. She’s the eldest member of the cast, who only signed on because she gave her friend and Executive Producer of the series Jeff Jenkins her word. Still, she manages to find herself at the center of the drama episode after episode, which perhaps is bound to happen when you accidentally leave a penis pump in your guest bathroom. Shay caught up with Esquire to discuss whether she’d be up for a Season Two, what her first week of fame has been like, and most importantly, educate us about high jewelry.
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Esquire: What do you think about the way you were portrayed in the show?
Anna: That’s a good question. I don’t know how I was portrayed. I was just me. Does that answer the question?
Was your rivalry with Christine in the show totally real or did you feel it was dramatized at all?
Everything that I said was always real. If I didn’t, then I would go against everything that I would think reality is. I wouldn’t know how to act, anyway. I’m not an actress.
I think that a lot of viewers were surprised about the whole Louis Vuitton necklace situation at your party. Can you walk me through what happened?
As much as I can. First of all, I have to tell you that it’s not true, whatever comment she made about the high jewelry. When she was saying to Kane that I have the same necklace, no one necklace is the same as another. I know the designer, actually quite well, of the high jewelry at Louis Vuitton during that time. We’ve become very good friends. And those two necklaces are not identical.
But I honestly don’t know why she thought I would be upset about it. If I buy something and my girlfriend is with me, I would buy her one too. So we could be twins. I don’t know why she felt that that would have bothered me. If anybody knows me, they would know that I don’t get bothered by trivial things like that too.
So that’s not an unwritten rule? That it’s rude to wear something that you think someone else owns?
No. Many people own the same thing. It doesn’t make sense to me.
So why did you move her table setting, then?
Not for the necklace. It was because I was hosting the dinner for a friend of mine, and Christine made it a point to say, “Oh, I know her.” And I buy her clothes and so on and so forth. So I thought she might want to be more on her side, our side, to the right. So I put it there. Also, if she thinks that I sat her at the end of the table. Big deal. She shouldn’t trip over things like this.
But then the altered invitation to your next party, so that she would arrive late.
I have somebody who sends out the invitations. But, honestly, I don’t know. if she thought it was later, I tend to run late. So I always tell people, “If you want me at five, tell me 3:30.” But I’m straight about this. I know I run late. Not on purpose. So maybe Christine wanted to make a big deal out of it. In other words, maybe she’s the one who provoked this. She tends to make a big deal about little things that really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of life.
What was your biggest takeaway from the whole experience?
I think maybe it’s just my age, but I believe that people should be happy with who they are. Know who they are. The dress doesn’t make you, the car doesn’t make you, the show doesn’t make you. Just be you. And I found it sad, not that I want to cry over it but…the insecurity that people have, or they want to be somebody else. Be you. Don’t become materialistic. There’s more to life than materialistic things. And trust me, I love shopping. Don’t compete, just be yourself.
What has all the attention been like for you?
Well, it’s a bit odd. I don’t know. I just say, “Thank you.” And then they talk and I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.
Would you come back for a Season Two?
If there was a season two and I’ve been invited, yes, I would like to.
Have you been recognized anywhere this past week in person?
Yes. It’s so crazy. At first, I don’t know what they’re talking about. I ran out of gas, and I went to the closest gas station, which is the one I go to all the time. And I was looking for the gas station attendant and I couldn’t find him, I was honking and couldn’t find him. And so I get out of the car, like I have to push my car by myself. But, this man came up to me and goes, “Hello.” And I just completely ignore him. Not for any other reason that I’m on a mission to get gas. And he says, “I’m sorry to bother you.” And I go, “It’s okay.” And he goes, “I just want to tell you, I’m such a fan.” And I looked at him, and said “Oh.” I thought he was going to help me push my car. But he didn’t. One and one is not two, I’m still me.
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.
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