While the word ‘icon’ may be grossly overused these days, every so often, someone comes along and embodies the word to a T. And since she first appeared on Bling Empire, that crown has belonged to Anna Shay.
Sadly, the television star passed away unexpectedly in June, 2023, aged 62, having shot to fame for her Miranda Priestly-esque voice, slick one-liners (season two’s callout about Kevin and Kim‘s turbulent relationships comes to mind), fabulous demeanour and generosity of spirit.
So, in honour of the late heiress, we’ve compiled 10 things you probably didn’t know (or may have missed) about the always iconic Anna Shay from Bling Empire.
1. She was the richest out of the Bling Empire cast
Anna was the daughter of billionaires. The heiress’ parents were Edward Shay and Ai-San Shay, who accumulated their wealth in the arms and defence technology trade through the company Edward founded, Pacific Architects and Engineers, in 1955. The company is described as “architectural and engineering firm [that assisted] the US government effort to rebuild Asia in the wake of WWII”.
In 2006, Anna and her sibling inherited their father’s shares and sold them for USD $1.2 billion in literal cold, hard cash (that’s right, it was an all-cash deal!), putting Anna’s personal net worth around the USD $600 million mark.
2. She had never watched Crazy Rich Asians
“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?” she told OprahMag.com.
“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.”
3. She was married and divorced four times
Anna Shay was married and divorced four times, but none of her wealth came from her ex-husbands, with various reports suggesting the splits were amicable. Although she never revealed the identity of her partners, she is survived by a son from one of her marriages, 27-year-old Kenny Kemp (pictured alongside her below), who briefly appeared on the show and reportedly had a USD $500,000 collection of bongs (you read that correctly) in Anna’s basement.
4. She’s sold her “haunted” Bling Empire house for USD $13.9 million
Fancy moving into Anna’s abode? Her Beverly Hills mansion sold in 2021 for $13.9 million, which is significantly more than the USD $9.4 million (AUD $12.32 million) price tag she paid when she bought it. It seems Anna calling it “haunted”, after her pet monkey and fishes all mysteriously died, didn’t hurt the value of the house one bit.
5. She didn’t know what to do with the money she earned from Bling Empire
In the same interview, Anna admitted that she found it “so confusing” when she got the cheques for appearing on the hit show, before going on to say she thinks the money “belongs to the crew”.
“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,” she said.
6. Anna didn’t actually think she was going to have an on-camera role in Bling Empire
When agreeing to help friend and show producer Jeff Jenkins with the show, Anna didn’t quite realise she was going to be on it, thinking he’d approached her for a behind-the-scenes-role.
“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 told OprahMag.com.
7. She was once mugged at gun point (and the robbers forgot her wallet)
Speaking to Town & Country, Anna revealed she was once robbed at gunpoint at a drive-through, only for the robbers to take her friends’ wallets but forget hers before she jumped out of the car and hand-delivered it to them.
“They came back, and I said, ‘Here. Next time, three girls equals three wallets’,” she said.
8. She once managed a Cuban Salsa band
In the same interview, Anna dished on how she saw a Cuban Salsa band perform, decided they weren’t as successful as they deserved to be based on their talent, and resolved to become their manager on the spot.
“At the time, I didn’t speak Spanish. I learned,” she said.
9. She only found out about the retailer Target two years ago
Well, based on the source material, this checks out. While speaking to Town & Country, she revealed that she was obsessed with the the mass market store.
“You can buy so many things there!” she said. Bless.
10. She didn’t get ‘influencer culture’
While she might not have set out to become one, Anna Shay arguably achieved influencer status (and then some), with her Instagram racking up a couple hundred thousand followers (and counting) since the show’s release.
And while fans of the show might remember Kevin looking to return the Dior items Anna gifted him, saying he was unsure if the brand had sponsored her (to which she said: “No, I don’t get sponsored, call Christine for that”), that didn’t change after becoming an influencer.
In fact, Anna told OprahMag.com that she had never heard of the phrase “sponsored by” and had to ask her French best friend Florent what it meant.
“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,” she said.