If you were born into a half-a-billion dollar fortune, spent your youth dotting across the globe for state dinners, and just discovered Target two years ago, you still wouldn’t match the sheer charm and eccentricity of Anna Shay. As the breakout star of Netflix’s hit reality show Bling Empire, Shay hops from Boucheron to Beverly Hills about as uninhibited as someone worth $600 million.
The very first image we see of Shay is when she’s in the middle of demolishing her closet for some serious home renovations. According to her, contractors are “stupid” and would force her to stay in a hotel while they complete the project, so the next logical step for the 60 year-old daughter of an international arms dealer is to pick up the sledgehammer herself and get the job done right.
If Bling Empire is about the lives of Los Angeles’ fabulously wealthy Asian community, then Shay is the show’s defining figure. Born in Tokyo to Ai Oizumi, who descended from Russian aristocracy, and Edward Shay, the titan behind Pacific Architects and Engineers, the heiress moved to LA as a child. She then went on to end four marriages and raise her 27-year-old son Kenny Kemp, a collector of cannabis paraphernalia.
She became involved in Bling Empire after some prodding from producer Jeff Jenkins, who is best known for his work on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. As longtime friends, Shay expressed her interest in working as an assistant on one of Jenkins’s shows, which eventually turned into a leading 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.
So, where is Anna Shay now after her show-stopping reality show debut?
Initially, she forgot to cash her Netflix check.
I mean, if you’re worth more than some countries, it would be easy to forget to cash your paycheck.
Shay told OprahMag.com, “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.”
Through it all, Shay remains a committed philanthropist.
Although Shay’s father did not want Anna to work, she has spent time on the board of the George Lopez Foundation, which raises awareness about organ donation and kidney disease. The Shay Foundation, which focuses on music, the performing arts, and education, was founded by her late parents.
On the other hand, she’s been giving away $3,000 worth of groceries with her friend and co-star Kane Lim. In a Town and Country profile, Chloe Foussianes wrote, “They’ll go to a luxury store, she’ll buy something, and buy the same thing for the salesperson. Recently, Lim’s been accompanying her on supermarket shopping sprees, stuffing $3,000 worth of food in his trunk so she can take it home and give it away.”
On Shay’s impulsive charitable acts, Lim said, “She's like, ‘Oh, take some for you. Take this bread. Take this.’”
She grew tired of her Beverly Hills mansion.
In December, Variety reported that Shay listed her Sunset Boulevard digs for $16 million. The nearly 9,000 square feet, five bedroom, five bathroom mansion was originally built in 1926. Previous tenants include Shirley Temple and mob boss Tony Milano.
Apparently, the sprawling mansion contains “park-like grounds with mature palm tres, rolling lawns, fountains original to the property, a four-car garage, substantial motorcourt, a paddle tennis court, swimming pool, and separate guest quarters.”
She’s also training to be a contractor.
Shay told Town and Country that she’s studying to become a licensed contractor. Makes sense, considering her demolition derby in the show’s first episode.
She ran out of gas and was recognized by a fan.
Even the mega-wealthy forget to fill up their cars, apparently. In the week before her interview with Esquire, Shay told the magazine that she was recognized by a fan when she was looking for someone to help push her car to the gas station.
“I ran out of gas, and I went to the closest gas station, which is the one I go to all the time. And I was looking for the gas station attendant and I couldn't find him, I was honking and couldn't find him. And so I get out of the car, like I have to push my car by myself. But, this man came up to me and goes, ‘Hello.’ And I just completely ignore him. Not for any other reason that I'm on a mission to get gas. And he says, ‘I'm sorry to bother you.’ And I go, ‘It's okay.’ And he goes, ‘I just want to tell you, I'm such a fan.’ And I looked at him, and said ‘Oh.’ I thought he was going to help me push my car. But he didn't. One and one is not two, I'm still me,” Shay said.