The Transformation Of Anna Shay From Bling Empire

Move over, Crazy Rich Asians. Netflix has taken that premise — the eccentric lives of wealthy Asian individuals — and made it into a hit new reality show, Bling Empire. The series “follows a wildly wealthy group of Asian and Asian American friends (and frenemies) in Los Angeles,” according to Deadline.

And the reigning queen of the group is undoubtedly Anna Shay. The wealthy older heiress has quite a personality — and an intriguing backstory to boot. And, while the show has focused on her supposed feud with co-star Christine Chiu — including when the latter wore a necklace she knew Anna owned to a party Anna was hosting — there’s a lot more to Anna than meets the eye.

For the first 60 or so years of her life, Anna was something of a recluse, according to Town & Country, and worked “to stay out of the spotlight, ensuring that her Google footprint remained negligible.” Let’s take a look at the life of Anna before the Netflix show — and why she finally decided to step into the public eye in such a big way.

Anna Shay was born into wealth in Japan

Anna Shay has been surrounded by wealth her entire life. She was born in Tokyo to a part-Japanese, part-Russian mother, Ai Oizumi Shay, and Edward Shay, the founder of “top global defense contractor” PAE (Pacific Architects and Engineers), according to Town & Country. “My dad is from the South Side of Chicago. My mother is from aristocracy,” Anna told OprahMag.com. Edward would eventually become a billionaire from the company.

Living in the capital city until she was “8 or so,” Anna was enrolled in an international school, as per T&C. Her mischievous side came out early, as Anna enjoyed eluding her family’s security guards and caring for a pet monkey. When the family moved to Los Angeles, she disguised the pet to bring on board the plane.

Because her father had a lot of government contracts, the family of four had to be extra cautious, often traveling in two separate groups of two even when heading to the same destination. The Shay family often attended state dinners and embassies in foreign countries.

Anna Shay wanted to join the family business but was told to marry instead

As Anna Shay grew older, she became interested in joining the family business, but her father (who passed in 1995) said she should get married instead. Instead, her younger brother Allen Shay stepped in to helm PAE, according to Town & Country. In 2006, she and her brother sold the company, which was operating in 30 countries at the time, per a press release. The deal was for $1.2 billion — all in cash, according to The Cinemaholic. In 2015, Anna and Allen’s mother passed away.

Meanwhile, rebuffed from the family biz, Anna went on to get married — four times. She has one adult son, Kenny Kemp, “best known as a cannabis paraphernalia collector,” per Town & Country. Anna enjoys spoiling him, even buying him a $5.75 million Beverly Hills mansion (that previously belonged to Dr. Phil’s son), according to Variety.

In her spare time, Anna explores the world of fashion, even living in Paris off and on, and works on behalf of the Shay Family Foundation, per T&C.

She decided to appear in Bling Empire to do something for herself

Anna Shay met producer Jeff Jenkins (who created another successful reality show you might have heard of, Keeping Up with the Kardashians) around 2011 through a mutual friend, as per Town & Country. He was instantly intrigued by her big personality, and they went to lunch. “After their meal, she decided to show him her new car: a stretch Rolls Royce with custom Chanel interiors,” the outlet reported. “Jenkins was suitably impressed; in response, Anna told him to take it. … ‘Drive it for a month. I’ll take your car.'”

In the following years, Anna invited Jenkins into her world, including her historic Sunset Boulevard estate — previously owned by director Tim Burton as well as mob boss Tony Milano — where she lives with her golden retrievers. Finally, the producer had the perfect concept for a show, and Anna jumped on board.

So why did the reclusive woman agree to appear in Bling Empire after so many years in out of the spotlight? “Shay says she thought about starring on Bling Empire as doing something for herself, after spending years looking after her son, in the wake of her parents’ deaths,” according to T&C.

And we’re all certainly glad she did.

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