Bling Empire’s Kane Lim On Being Kiasu And What He Misses Most About Singapore - Feature Image

If you’re reading this, we assume you’ve finished binging Bling Empire and part of the population responsible for propelling this reality TV series to the number one spot in Netflix Singapore’s Top 10 shows.

But if you’ve been living under a rock, Bling Empire follows the lives of some very wealthy Asians living in Los Angeles. Among them is Singaporean real estate developer, investor, and philanthropist Kane Lim who has been living in Los Angeles for the last nine years. As one of the main members of the cast, Kane appears frequently and is known for his extensive shoe collection and being the kind one who shows genuine care for his friends.

What was the casting process for Bling Empire like for you?

Honestly, there wasn’t much of a casting process. So, Kelly (Mi Li) and I had this idea three years ago to do a reality version of Crazy Rich Asians but more fun and obviously with more drama. We took this idea to Jeff Jenkins [Producer for The Simple Life, Mariah’s World and Keeping Up With The Kardashians] and we just started off from there; it came together because Christine, Kelly, Cherie and Jaime, we’re all friends to begin with.

Was it difficult being surrounded by a camera crew all day?

Initially, it was but I told myself that I cannot allow it to affect me so I started telling the crew, “Can you stay on my left? That’s my good angle.” After that, the camera crew will always know to be on my left and once they’re on my left, I’m comfortable and I can do any scene I want.

Is the show scripted?

We’re not actors to begin with, so when people ask me if it’s scripted, I ask how is that possible? There are certain scenes where the producers are like ‘Can we re-shoot this again?’ And I’m like, ‘I can’t because we’re not actors.’ 

Do you think the show presented your authentic self?

I actually liked the way I was portrayed and I’m very happy because that’s genuinely who I am. There are obviously some things that I regretted saying but that’s not the producers’ fault.

How did your love for fashion come about?

My mom was really into fashion and I got that from her but I think Instagram and social media also played a huge part. I joined Instagram for fun and people started acknowledging [the pictures that I posted]. Rihanna followed me and it just propelled my Instagram followers by 20, 30 thousand and I was like, “maybe there’s something here”. I’ve always gravitated towards nice things and I read that Sagittarians are the most materialistic people out of all the zodiac signs. I have to credit social media for pushing that envelope and Rihanna as well. 

If there was a fire and you can only save one pair of shoes, which one would you pick?

I’ll take the crocodile skin Christian Louboutin shoes because it’s the most expensive pair and I’ve never spent this much on shoes. If I were offered to buy it again, I probably wouldn’t. I can’t believe I spent US$15,000 on a pair of shoes. 

What did you do with the red high-tops you won from Kevin in the bet?

I put it in the recycle bin. I should’ve bet for something more valuable than his high-tops. This was not scripted and the producers asked us to make a bet and it was done in the spur of the moment.  The producers were like “You’re perfect for TV cause you’re so witty and fast, and you give what the producers want without them asking”.

What was 2020 like for you?

I thought it was one of my best years because it taught me to be alone and look at opportunities that present themselves. I have more understanding of myself as a person and what I need to improve on.

2020 was quite normal.  You know, Anna and I still go shopping. Even when everything was shut down, she’ll get things brought to the store window and she’d be pointing out the things she wanted so it’s literally window shopping. I miss hanging out with my friends in a public place, LA is completely shut down so we can’t eat in public, we can’t eat inside [restaurants]—it has been tough but I have to credit my practice of Buddhism to be able to be alone most of the time. And I’m actually okay with it but obviously, I want it to change.

What spurred you to practise Buddhism?

I grew up Christian. My dad and mom are very staunch Christians. They go to church all the time. Moving here [to Los Angeles], I think there was a sense of me trying to find a spiritual practice and three years ago, my friend introduced me [to Buddhism]. In Buddhism, it’s all cause and effect, karma right? You’re not good to me, it’ll come back to you. So I always believe in the concept of that.

A few years ago I had this spiritual experience and from then on, I started delving into Buddhism and practicing it, and seeing the changes in my life. In Buddhism, they never tell you to be vegetarian but they emphasise that being vegetarian will keep you healthy. It helped me with meditation, and being calm. Buddhism is very interesting because when you dive deep into the sutras and the teachings, it’s just incredible and everything makes sense to me.

In the episode where we talked about Cherie’s mom, I’m usually afraid of death and there’s a fear of dying and sickness. In Buddhism, it teaches you to practice fearlessness and death is just like you’re going to somewhere else. And hopefully you go to somewhere else better, right?

As the unofficial Singaporean rep of the show, what do you hope the international audience’s impression of Singapore would be?

I think I would like the audience to know that the new generation of Singaporeans is quite giving. For example, Kim Lim is a very dear friend of mine and she’s always promoting her giving on social media. I would just like to let people know that Singaporeans are very cultured, we’re well-mannered. We have traditions we are very respectful of people and we’re also very giving in that sense.

What do you think is the most Singaporean thing about you?

I love hawker food. There’s so much diversity in terms of food. There’s Cantonese food, you have Korean and all sorts of cuisine.

I’m very kiasu too, always want free stuff, you know? Every time I buy stuff like cosmetics, I’ll be like, “Can you give me the La Mer samples, please?” I can obviously afford anything I want but I just want to score a good deal and kiasu-ism is always going to be part of me. Anna will always buy things without looking at price tags. For me, I’ll always be like “Is it on sale?”

What do you hope the viewers take away from the show?

I think viewers should be able to take away the fact that the more money you have, the more problems you have. Not many people understand that until you’re living it. For example, you have to be very careful about who you allow in your life. I’ve lost so much money just by trusting people. I think people have to understand that with money comes a lot of problems as well. 

How did your parents react to the show?

When Bling Empire hit number one on Netflix Singapore, I actually texted my parents and there were no comments from them. And they actually criticized certain things that are in the press and I’m like, “Dad I cannot control what is said on the media.”

I was on the phone yesterday with Kimmy (Kim Lee’s Mom) and I told her that I was so proud of her, because being an Asian parent, they don’t really show their love to their kids so outwardly. I hope that from this show, Asian parents can learn to express themselves.

What do you hope to do in season 2?

I hope they come to Singapore. I tried to make a trip but it was hard to organise it for 50 people, including the cast and crew. In Season 2, I definitely want to highlight Singapore and show the Singaporean culture, not just the rich parts; I want to show HDBs, I want to show the hawker centres. I want people to see how diverse Singapore is as a society and also how amazing the country has evolved in just 60 years.

In the season finale, we saw Cherie proposing to Jessey. Obviously, due to the pandemic, they weren’t able to hold their wedding. What would you give her as a wedding gift?

I have this amazing idea to host a wedding at the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands. I want to do the wedding in the pool itself. So I might throw the wedding for her and arrange the logistics to Singapore. I don’t think it’s easy to shut down Marina Bay Sands but I think I have contacts in Singapore so I would like to do that for her as her wedding gift.