The Netflix reality series follows a group of wealthy Asian and Asian-American friends in Los Angeles

By Morgan Smith
January 26, 2021 12:55 PM
Bling Empire's Christine Chiu
Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

It's easy to get swept away by the couture fashion and dreamy getaways (a spontaneous trip to Paris! Private shopping in Las Vegas!) in Netflix's new reality series, Bling Empire — especially if you're binge-watching from the couch in sweatpants.

But the real scene-stealer of Bling Empire, which follows a group of wealthy Asian and Asian-American friends in Los Angeles, is Christine Chiu: an ice queen with a penchant for throwing million-dollar parties and delivering one-line zingers.

The co-owner of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery's playful feud with fellow L.A. socialite Anna Shay is one of the series' most hilarious plotlines, inspiring antics like fake dinner invitations and an online debate between viewers who are #TeamAnna or #TeamChristine.

Below, Chiu, 38, who lives in California with her husband, Dr. Gabriel Chiu, and their 2-year-old son Gabriel Chiu III (known by his parents as "Baby G") opens up about what the cameras didn't catch on season 1, where she and Anna really stand and more.

PEOPLE: There is an underwhelming representation of Asians in reality TV. How do you feel about finally being able to be part of that conversation?

CHRISTINE CHIU: Well, that was the most important reason why I joined the project, both as a producer and cast member: to advance the Asian perspective and voice, and not in a cheesy way, where we're talking about a specific Asian food or we're doing Taekwondo or karate, but really in an authentic way. I think the show did it beautifully and creatively — it added a lot of fun, obviously, against a backdrop of wealth, which I think is the first hook. I'm really proud and honored to be a part of this project that has blown up more so than we had anticipated. We knew the show was good and we were proud to be a part of a movement for cultural diversity in entertainment, but we didn't know that the entire world would be so touched by it as well. I think the timing is right, too, because we're in a very uncertain, challenging time, so a little bit of escapism with a lot of heart goes a long way.

bling empire
Credit: netflix
bling empire
Credit: netflix

In Bling Empire, you open about your and Gabriel's fertility struggles, and the pressure you felt from your in-laws to get pregnant again. Have they watched Bling Empire yet? What did they think of that scene?

It was very difficult to open up, but I knew this was a story that needed to be shared. It was something that was very hard for me to go through in private. I don't want people to feel alone, so I felt very motivated to share the fertility struggles. But in discussing all of that, it was a shock to me that I actually blurted out the part about taking the blame for [Gabriel's] infertility, because I held it in for so long. I didn't want to hurt anybody. But I think it needed to be said, at least for my own emotional wellbeing. I'm on pins and needles every second of the day waiting to get a phone call from my in-laws. My sister-in-law just sent a present for Baby G and I thought, 'Has she seen the show? How should I respond?' I haven't had that conversation with any of them yet.

I was able to reconnect with my father before the show came out. Unfortunately, my mother passed away recently and it was in her passing that I reconnected with my father. I was able to FaceTime with my dad recently and we introduced him to Baby G for the first time. As an Asian or Asian-American, you still have this overwhelming pressure to be good enough for your parents. There's still a big part of me that wants to make my parents and my in-laws proud. My father and I have not spoken since the show came out ... We're barely tip-toeing onto our road to recovery.

Where does your and Anna's relationship stand today? You're portrayed almost like "frenemies" throughout the show — is that accurate?

I'm happy that everyone is getting a good chuckle and laugh out of the cat and mouse game that Anna and I play, it's meant for entertainment. I think that we're in such a difficult, challenging and toxic time that it's nice to have a little pettiness and fun and laugh about it. With regards to the dinner party scene, if it makes her happy to play a little trick on me, that's fine. It's okay. I got a little laugh out of it, too. After the party, Anna, Florent and I stuck around and we chatted about different things. She's a great person, she has a great heart. I do respect her on so many levels. We're all good.

I was a little taken aback when I watched the show and Anna said that when she knew me before, I was very down to earth and that I changed. I was actually a little saddened by that because I haven't changed. I am still that very down-to-earth girl. I live in sweats and Uggs. I'm a fast food junkie. I think the show showed only one aspect of me and played it up really well. Of course, I heightened that side of me as well for entertainment value, for fun. But I haven't changed. I hope Anna knows that.

It's been two years since filming and I like to think that we're in a great place. We've had dinner. Even that night where it seemed very tense at my Bel-Air home, she actually made her favorite cocktail for me and we laughed about a couple of things and she gave me some great mom advice. I am regretful if I came off as rude or offensive to the viewers, it's definitely not my intention ever to cause any harm. I also don't want to set a bad example for little girls watching this show. So I do hope the overall tone of the show is a positive one. 

Season 1 ends on a cliffhanger when it comes to Kelly and Andrew's relationship, with fans left guessing if they're back together or not. Do you support their relationship? As Kelly's friend, what do you hope for Kelly and her romantic life? [Editor's note: Kelly and Andrew have since confirmed that they are back together in a Bling Empire "Where Are They Now?" Netflix special.]

I've known Kelly for about a decade and she's a strong woman. She's a very intelligent woman and very driven. I've known Andrew for a much shorter period of time, but on every occasion that I've spent with him, he's been lovely. It's very evident that he's madly in love with Kelly, and in real life, he always speaks so kindly of her. In public and with friends, they're very happy together. I really do not like to judge other people's relationships because they're all complicated … every relationship ebbs and flows and has its ups and downs. So if they can get to a place where they are loving each other in a healthy, productive manner, then I am 1000 percent supportive.

PEOPLE: Can we expect a second season of Bling Empire? What would you want to see explored in season 2?

The whole cast has so many more stories to tell and share. I do as well. I would love to share more of my "mom side," my involvement in the charities I support. I also have a lot of layers of how I became who I am … if you thought I dropped a big bomb with our fertility struggle in season 1, there's something even bigger. If we were to have a season 2, and we were to continue down this line of authenticity and sharing our personal stories and struggles, I will be compelled to open up even further, and that story is much deeper and a much more difficult one to share.

Of course, there's always fun and drama to accompany those stories, too. We filmed a lot of scenes at the office that unfortunately weren't shown. There were also some really fun scenes with the girls: I did a dance class with Kim, I went out to eat with Kelly, and I even did some volunteer work with Jaime. So next season, if we have one, hopefully, we'll get a rounder perspective of myself and everyone else, too. 

Bling Empire is streaming on Netflix.