Culture

Everyone Loves Anna Shay, The Uber-Rich, Unbothered Queen From ‘Bling Empire’

And just like that my ideal career is now "daughter of an arms dealer".

Anna Shay Bling Empire

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If you’ve binged Bling Empire already, then you’ll agree that Anna Shay is easily the most iconic person on the show.

For those who might not be up to speed with who Anna Shay is or even the phenomenon that is Bling Empire, let me get you up to speed: Bling Empire is an eight-part reality series that follows the lifestyles of the wealthy Asian elites residing in Los Angeles. To make sense of it, your best off thinking of the series as the reality TV version of Crazy Rich Asians, Selling Sunset on steroids, and absolutely everything Real Housewives wishes it was.

Amongst the cast is an array of Asian and Asian-American socialites who have each come into wealth in their own ways. For example, new money Christine Chiu is married to a popular plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, who just so happens to be a direct descendant of the Song dynasty, too. Meanwhile, Kane Lim is the son of Singaporean billionaires, who beyond being in the real estate, shipping and oil sectors, also “own the shopping malls you go into in South East Asia”.

For some balance, model Kevin Taejin Kreider is thrown into the mix to act as the everyman, who lives in a share house while his millionaire and billionaire friends casually drop $19,000 on hotel rooms. But then there is Anna Shay — the oldest, wisest, and, most importantly, the richest member of the cast, who is wildly entertaining without even trying.

Whether it’s her whizzing off to Paris because she feels like dining at her favourite restaurant, or having penis pumps laying around her house be the only cause for her drama-fuelled storylines, Anna Shay is everything I want to be when I grow up.

But what exactly makes Anna Shay so iconic? Let’s dissect.

Who Is Anna Shay And How Is She SO Rich?

Anna Shay is one of the main cast members on Bling Empire, and, by a significant amount, the most wealthy of the group.

The 60-year-old is American, Japanese and Russian, and the child of billionaires, Edward Shay and Ai-San Shay. Her parents found their wealth in arms trade, with their company being later sold in 2006 for $1.2 billion in cold, hard cash.

Kane, a cast member on the show who is also the child of billionaires, described Anna as “super, super-wealthy” as “her money comes from weapons [with] her father selling bombs, guns, and defence technology [that’s] worth, like, a few billion”.

Specifically, Edward Shay founded, and created his billion dollar fortune through, Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE) in 1955, which is described as an “architectural and engineering firm [that assisted] the US government effort to rebuild Asia in the wake of WWII”.

After his death in 1995, Anna and her sibling inherited their father’s shares and sold them off to Lockheed Martin in 2006 in an all-cash deal. This means Anna Shay’s personal net worth sits around the $600 million mark, which is about $400 million more than the second-richest star on the show, denim empire heiress and the woman with the placenta Anna wanted, Cherie Chan.

While Anna is not currently married, she’s been divorced four times (iconic) and has one son in Kenny Kemp, a 27-year-old with a $500,000 collection of glass bongs (also, very iconic). Icons breed icons, clearly.

Why Is Anna Shay So Damn Iconic?

When we first meet Anna Shay on Bling Empire, she is literally dressed in a ballgown and throwing a sledgehammer at her walk-in closet wall. But actions like this aren’t even a one-off — this chaotic introduction is basically the exact energy Anna Shay exudes throughout the rest of the series, too.

If Anna Shay is one thing beyond being crazy rich, it’s being impressively unbothered about quite literally everything. Not once throughout Bling Empire does Anna ever seem troubled by the events happening around her — even when Kim Lee and Guy Tang snoop through her home and throw her penis pump out the window.

The simple fact is Anna is so rich, so well-off, and so comfortable with her life that she doesn’t care what people think or do around her. For example, a huge storyline in Bling Empire is Anna’s “feud” with Christine, who seems adamant on proving she’s better than Anna for the entire season.

Christine wears certain jewellery in an attempt to get a rise out of Anna, which fails. Christine tries to flex that she stays in a certain presidential suite when she’s in Paris, but Anna doesn’t care. Instead of giving Christine any of the reaction she wants, Anna simply calmly says in her confessional that “she cannot compete with what I was born into”.

I mean, think about when, at her own dinner party when Christine is being annoying as hell, Anna simply moves her to the end of the table because she just can’t be fucked speaking to her or dealing with her drama. Iconic.

But beyond being an unbothered queen, Anna Shay is also extremely generous, a great friend to everyone on the show, and always delivers the best one-liners.

Take, when it’s her friend Kelly Mi Li’s birthday, and Anna flies Kelly and her shitty boyfriend, Andrew, to Paris (first class, of course) just to eat at her favourite restaurant, for example.

While in Paris, as Andrew sleeps off his jet lag, Anna takes Kelly out to buy her a friendship ring for her birthday, which causes drama. Andrew, who is basically just verbally abusing Kelly via speaker phone, ends up calling Kelly and berates her for leaving him as he slept.

In response, Anna constantly tells Kelly she deserves better, and just puts it bluntly for everyone at home who may be in a similar situation: “There ain’t no dick that good”.

Anna also buys Kevin a new wardrobe without a second thought, dishes out helpful advice only a 60-year-old daughter of an arms dealer can, and doesn’t even raise her voice when Kim and Guy disrespect her after she opens her home to them for a spa day.

Instead, Anna simply expresses her disappointment in them and continues on her merry, unbothered, rich way. As she should.

Is Anna Shay Really That Iconic In Real-Life?

Simply put, yes. Anna Shay seems to be exactly who she is on camera in real-life.

After Bling Empire started booming, Oprah Mag interviewed the star and Anna’s responses only worked to solidify her icon status. For example, when asked about what she did with her Netflix cheques from Bling Empire, Anna shared she was “confused” by the whole thing so she never even cashed them. Goals.

“It was so confusing when I got the checks. I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t cash them, then I got in trouble for not cashing them,” Anna shared in her interview. “I have them in a savings account. I’d like to have a party some time. I don’t think the money belongs to me. I think it belongs to the crew that had to put up with me.”

As Anna said herself on Bling Empire, her father never wanted her to have to work, which explains why she was so confused about the concept of working and getting paid for that work. Again, goals.

In the same interview, Anna was asked about Crazy Rich Asians and the ways in which her upbringing was similar, but she shared that while she hasn’t seen the film, she acknowledges her privilege.

“I didn’t watch it. I was going to say, ‘I live it’ but I thought that would be too snobbish,” she continued. “In the world I was raised in, ‘crazy’ is not a good word to put next to the lifestyle I was born into. I didn’t do anything except be born. My mother said, ‘You were born in a crystal ball with a silver spoon.'”

But it’s the answers like this that makes Anna Shay so likeable despite her ridiculous amounts of money. She knows she’s wealthy, and owns it, yet it’s not her entire personality. I mean, that and her clear, but classy, distaste for Christine, of course.

All in favour of skipping Anna Shay’s house when we eventually eat the rich, say I.

You can stream ‘Bling Empire’ on Netflix now.


Michelle Rennex is a senior writer at Junkee. She tweets at @michellerennex.