Anna Shay is one of the ultra wealthy stars of Netflix's new series Bling Empire.
Speaking to OprahMag.com, Shay opens up about her parents, her lifestyle, and drama with fellow cast members Christine Chiu and Kim Lee.
Anna Shay admits that she didn't know what she was getting into when she agreed to be a part of Bling Empire, a new Netflix reality show about ultra wealthy Angelos of Asian descent. Originally, when her friend (and series EP) Jeff Jenkins approached her with an opportunity, Anna thought Jenkins wanted her help behind-the-scenes.
"The next thing I knew, I was sitting in front of the camera. I'm really quite shy, so it was hard. I never thought about doing this, especially at my age," Anna tells OprahMag.com in her first interview with the press for Bling Empire. Anna gave Jenkins her word she'd be in the project, so she stayed—and that's how she ended up having her penis pump thrown out of her bathroom window by cast members Kim Lee and Guy Tang.
Speaking to OprahMag.com in a separate interview, Jenkins confirmed the sequence was "1,000% real, unexpected, insane, absolutely insane." The former Keeping Up With the Kardashians producer added, "Just when I thought I had seen it all and shot everything possible after a decade with the Kardashians, I was like, "Well, never seen this.'"
But before we unpack that moment of reality TV gold, let's rewind. Prior to her grand debut on Bling Empire, which is being billed as Selling Sunset meets Crazy Rich Asians, Anna was virtually un-Googleable, though she was well-known in Los Angeles society. The only daughter of Edward Shay, the billionaire founder of a defense and government services contractor, and Ai-San, his Japanese-American wife, Anna grew up extraordinarily privileged. Her 27-year-old son, Kenny Kemp, made headlines of his own for his vast collection of five-figure glass pipes used for smoking marijuana, per Buzzfeed News.
Still, despite her net worth and penchant for closing entire jewelry stores in Paris, Anna says she isn't sure why anyone would find her interesting enough to star in a reality TV show. "For real," she says, when asked again.
Below, Anna answers all of your burning questions about the show, and a few that you probably didn't think to ask.
On Crazy Rich Asians and her privileged upbringing:
I didn't watch it. I was going to say, "I live it," but I thought that would be too snobbish. Because how would I know, if I didn't see the movie? 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. It's my parents. My dad is from the South Side of Chicago. My mother is from aristocracy. Those two are amazing. They're not here, but they're here. [Cries]. My mother said, "You were born in a crystal ball with a silver spoon."
On the other cast members:
There are people on the show and I think, They're only hurting themselves. If I could say it, I would. Would they care? No. People think that money is going to change you. That's what's so sad. My mother said, "You can always make money." The things that are most important are the things you can't buy." Money, if you don't respect it, it's going to hurt you. If you're not prepared for it, people will hurt you.
On bringing her pet monkey onto an airplane at the age of seven:
When we moved to America from Japan, I had a pet monkey. She had a bottom seat in Pan Am but I wanted her to sit next to me. My dad said, "Walk in and know who you are, where you come from." My parents would always say that throughout my life. So I walked in. I was so nervous they were going to take him away. I placed her on the seat between my father and I.
The flight attendants all knew my parents. She looked at me and said, "Would your friend like a drink?" I dressed her up. I didn't know if she was a boy or a girl. I said, "She's my sister. She'll have some milk, please. And perhaps if you have a banana." They didn't take the monkey away.
On what she wished she had told Kim Lee, who threw a penis pump out of her bathroom window:
I told her that she shouldn't be going through people's rooms. I also looked through my security footage afterwards to see, Where were you guys? There are parts of my home that are very private. That being said, they went into the guest room, so I was responsible. They embarrassed me. Can I say more to her? No. Did she listen to me? No. I wish I could take her and say, Sit your ass down, and teach her whatever my mother taught me that would be relevant.
On influencer culture:
Christine had a party. I thanked her for inviting me. I wasn't grateful, but I thanked her. I don't think she had a choice, but it was nice of her. However. I've never heard of "sponsored by." That was perplexing to me. I had to call my friend Florent. He knew. He said, "Anna, that means she didn't pay for it." I said, "I don't understand." To this day, I don't understand the concept of this. How could somebody go up and say, "Can I sponsor this?" It's so embarrassing. I just walk away, like, I don't know this person.
On getting her check from Netflix:
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. 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.
On being the show's matriarch:
I need to grow up a little bit. Sometimes I think the other cast members are too serious. And I think the way that we grew up is very different. I had to put them in check. I'm not here to raise them. I'm here to make sure they're OK. My son [Kenny Kemp] is 27. His friends are always over, asking me for advice. I've always been around kids as my mother was with me.
On protecting her son and loved ones:
I have a wall that comes up. When that wall comes up I can't take it down. It comes up if someone hurts my son or someone close to me.
On listening to Kelly's phone call with Andrew in Paris:
At first, I thought, This was a joke. People forget about integrity, honor, and respecting themselves. That's what my mom taught me. I was trying to take the place of her mom.
On her secret weapon:
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