Exclusive: The Triumphant and Glamorous Anna Shay

Donning the Valentino Act Collection, the latest lineup by Pierpaolo Piccioli, get to know the ‘Bling Empire’ star.

When Bling Empire aired in January of this year, it instantly gathered a cult-like following. Often described as the “reality TV version of Crazy Rich Asians,” the Netflix original followed wealthy Asians and Asian Americans in Los Angeles as they navigate life, love, and luxury.

For many viewers, the eccentric Anna Shay was the show’s unquestionable MVP. The philanthropist daughter of a billionaire, Shay’s no-bullshit attitude and often unintentional, off-the-cuff humor made for incredible reality TV. Shay’s involvement in the show proves that, in the world of reality TV, some of the best players are those that have no actual interest in fame or money (perhaps because they already have it), thus allowing them to carry themselves with a certain authenticity that otherwise feels rare.

Lensed by Damon Baker and styled by Nicola Formichetti in the new Valentino Act Collection, V sat down with the breakthrough star to get to know her better.

V Magazine: Why did you decide to be on Bling Empire?

Anna Shay: This project came to me through people, and I was thinking that I was going to be on the production end of it, but I ended up in front of the camera. 

V: Were you a recluse before the show?

AS: I think I’m a recluse. I mean, I do go out, but then COVID happened, so I think everybody was reclusive. I don’t think of it as a thing. I think of myself as being 60 years old.

V: Were you surprised at your own popularity on the show? You’re a fan favorite.

AS: Am I surprised? Yes, because I fired myself. Nobody listened to me after I fired myself after every, every time we shot. But it’s a little weird. I’m 60, I’m only half Japanese. I’m very shy and people think they know who I am. 

Anna wears dress Valentino, Bra Wolford, Jewelry Boucheron, Tights stylist’s own

V: But people gravitate towards you. You’re really funny.

AS: Maybe people gravitate towards me because they say, “Oh, she’s so much older, and I can get some advice from her.” I don’t know if it’s good advice or bad advice. And so in that sense, the gravitating makes sense. I think it’s flattering and all that, but it’s also confusing. 

V: What jobs have you had in your life?

AS: I worked for my father. I’d go into his office and answer phones. That’s when I was very, very young. I liked phones. I have worked in production and music. I made a company, artist development. 

V: I don’t think most people know that you really worked in music.

AS: No, I didn’t talk much about it. Nobody asked me about what jobs I had. 

Anna wears all clothing and shoes Valentino, Bra Wolford, Jewelry Boucheron

V: You told me that your favorite driving song was “Move” by Ludacris.

AS: Yes. I also think every child needs to listen to Tupac. 

V: Where were you born?

AS: Tokyo. 

V: And why do you live in LA?

AS: Well, my father is from the south side of Chicago. He went to work for this man. When the man got older, he asked my dad if he would buy his property. He did. He met my mom. She comes from aristocracy and they lived here in Los Angeles for five years without getting married. In Japan, you don’t do that. I have an older brother. He’s a doctor and a head of genetic research.

Anna wears cape Valentino, Bra Wolford, Jewelry Boucheron

V: What do you think people in Los Angeles are particularly bad at?

AS: Being themselves. 

V: Why did you want to do this photoshoot with your friend Nicola Formichetti?

AS: There are projects, and then there’s art. This is an art form. 

V: Do you have anyone you look up to when it comes to fashion?

AS: My mother. And why? Because she’s the one who taught me that the dress doesn’t wear you, you wear the dress. It doesn’t matter whether you spend a dollar or a hundred thousand dollars. You have to create the magic within yourself. Wear clothes however it makes you feel comfortable. She once said, “I know who I am. I don’t need to dress for other people. I dress for me.” So that’s how I dress. 

Anna wears all clothing and shoes Valentino, Bra Wolford, Jewelry Boucheron


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