One of the most shocking scenes of Netflix’s Bling Empire was an explosive phone fight between Kelly Mi Li and her boyfriend, Andrew (Drew) Grey, while the two were in Paris with billionaire heiress, Anna Shay.
The now-infamous interaction ultimately leads Kelly and Drew to reevaluate their relationship, seek couple’s therapy and separate and, finally reunite — all of which is documented on the show (Note: after the show’s release, it was unclear whether the couple were back together, but Mi Li has since confirmed they are in a relationship again).
And while sharing these vulnerable moments on camera wasn’t exactly easy, Mi Li says doesn’t regret sharing her experiences so publicly since it showed a “rare and vulnerable” side of Asian culture.
“It was challenging at the beginning, but at the end of the day for me, I’m really happy I did it,” the entrepreneur and producer tells The RepresentASIAN Project. “[In Asian culture], you don’t really talk about your personal issues, just like you avoid emotion. So I’m really happy that we were able to do that and break the stereotypes for that.”
Mi Li says she’s also glad her couples’ therapy sessions with Drew were a part of the show.
“I’m so happy to show that [I went to therapy] because, mental health awareness is so important—especially in the Asian community, because we have such a big stigma that it’s bad,” she explains. “You get a trainer for your physical bodies and you should 100 per cent get a therapist for your mental health. It really helps you discover and get to know yourself more than anything.”
Self-discovery through therapy and through independent learning is what also led Mi Li to to understand more about how generational trauma impacts immigrants, their experiences, and their feelings of self-worth.
“The more I did discover about myself, the more, I [realized] other Asians—not just Asian Americans, but Asians in general—have a lot of the same issues because of our culture,” she says. “[There’s] the tiger mom syndrome where it’s like, ‘My friend kids is doing this,’ or like, ‘Oh, you got a 90? Why isn’t 100?’ So it was that sort of stuff that gave me the negative core belief that I wasn’t good enough…that’s why I think a lot of us have self-worth or self-value that is a little skewed in a way.
“It’s not our fault and it’s not our parents’ fault, because that’s just the way they were taught and it’s passed down from generation to generation. And I think the more that we’re able to dig into our past, the more we’re able to figure out a reason why we are the way we are.”
Though Bling Empire has received mixed reviews since its release, Kelly says she hopes the show does “break down another barrier of having diversity across all media channels.”
“[Representation] is a movement we have to keep fighting for. It’s not going to change overnight,” she says. “I think Bling Empire adds another aspect within reality. And at the end of the day, we just want to give a voice to represent the Asian community.”
Bling Empire is streaming now on Netflix.
Disclaimer: The author of this post has a professional affiliation with Netflix, however, this piece is not sponsored or commissioned by Netflix.