‘We had a good run’: Bling Empire’s Kim Lee returns to DJ-ing
When it was announced in April that the Netflix reality TV series Bling Empire would not be renewed for a fourth season, cast member Kim Lee’s first instinct was to thank its producers.
The show, which premiered in 2021, focused on the lifestyles of “crazy rich Asians” in Los Angeles and gave her plenty of exposure.
The 35-year-old Los Angeles native of Vietnamese and French descent tells The Straits Times in a Zoom interview on Thursday: “I wasn’t super upset. We had a really good run. We were the first Asian reality show to be a hit.”
Lee said Bling Empire’s cancellation could be chalked up to “a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff”, admitting that the second and third seasons struggled to live up to the impact of the first.
However, she is grateful for the great memories with her castmates, such as Anna Shay, a billionaire heiress who died at the age of 62 in June.
Lee says: “She was an amazing person. I really bonded with each castmember. Obviously, I had my issues with (love interest) Kevin Kreider, but I never hold grudges.”
What she does not miss, however, is getting out of bed early to shoot.
She recalls: “If call time was at 9am, I would have to wake up at 5am to shower and have breakfast, do my hair and get glammed up for two hours, and spend an hour in LA traffic.”
“There’s a little pressure for females on the show to look their best: What outfit are you going to wear? Are you doing too much? Do you look orange on screen?”
Lee is comfortable with where Bling Empire ended, saying: “Kevin settled down. And (entrepreneur) Kelly Mi Li went from self-healing in the finale to popping out a baby. We missed a whole chapter with Kelly. This is what she truly wanted, and I’m more than happy for her.”
Lee, however, remains tight-lipped about her own love life. “Yes, I was on a reality show but, at the same time, I like to keep things private,” she says.
“Everyone’s journey is very different. I’m pretty sure Kelly didn’t plan to have a baby right away –things just kind of happen. So I’m a firm believer of just living your life and hey, if it happens, it’s going to happen.”
For now, Lee has her hands full travelling for work and being a mother to two cats.
The club DJ has a residency at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel and will perform in Singapore at Sundown Festival on Aug 12 at Pasir Panjang Power Station. The two-day music festival also features Mandopop star Jam Hsiao, Japanese rock guitarist Miyavi and Malaysian rapper Namewee.
This marks her first trip to Singapore – and Asia – since 2019, when she co-hosted hip-hop music series Yo! MTV Raps with home-grown rapper Yung Raja. She also DJ-ed for the show’s launch party at nightspot Zouk.
Chilli crab is what she looks forward to most.
Lee raves: “It’s so good, I tell my friends about it all the time. I’m such a seafood person, I don’t care if I sweat and risk my eyelashes falling off.”
She is also keen to stop by Jewel Changi Airport for the Rain Vortex and reconnect with Singaporean friends such as influencer Jianhao Tan, whose YouTube videos she collaborated on have garnered more than 15 million views.
She is especially stoked to meet her fellow performers on the Sundown Festival line-up, like “my boys” Dutch-Moroccan DJ R3HAB and Italian DJ duo Vinai, and promises that her set will be upbeat and diverse, ranging from Latin music and K-pop.
However, she is looking to pivot from DJ-ing to acting. She says: “What’s funny is, for years, when I first started DJ-ing, my family always wanted me to act so that I would stay in LA more. But I wasn’t ready.”
She also started boxing seriously for the past two years, saying: “It’s a great workout – mentally and physically. But it’s also for self-defence, especially with the Asian hate going on in the United States. Boxing makes me feel more confident. Once I got into it, it became very addictive.”
Not all is lost for Bling Empire fans, however. Lee teases an upcoming project with Singaporean castmate Kane Lim, a real estate developer, entrepreneur and scion of a family who made its fortunes off shipping and real estate. She says: “Watch out for 2024.”
Book It/Sundown Festival
Where: Pasir Panjang Power Station, 27 Pasir Panjang Road
When: Aug 12 and 13, from 5pm
Admission: $138 (one-day pass) and $228 (two-day pass) from sundownfestival.com