For quite some time, we’ve been able to peek into the lifestyles of the rich and famous via reality TV. From Cribs to Keeping Up With the Kardashians to basically every single program on Bravo, we’ve gotten a sometimes-infuriating look behind the curtain at how the other half lives, what they eat, what they wear, and the like. But Netflix’s latest addition to this category, Bling Empire, takes what you think you know about rich people and multiplies it by, give or take, a billion, showing off a level of wealth and casual fortune that’s truly astounding.
Starring, among others, an heiresses to arms dealers and a descendant of Chinese royalty, Bling Empire is lifestyle porn to the nth degree. Whether they’re jaunting to Paris for dinner or taking a private jet to shop in Vegas, the cast of the show is so unfathomably rich that, if we’re being perfectly honest, we sometimes don’t even know what they’re talking about. What is “high jewelry?” Who is Shaman Durek? Aren’t there pills you can take for “Mellerio” now? As such, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down some of the most ridiculous, confounding moments on a show simply dripping with them. Follow me, fellow
poors people of reasonable means, we’re taking a trip to the other side.
The Louis Vuitton High-Jewelry Necklace
For a show named Bling Empire, it’s only fitting that the first major drama between cast members revolves around literal diamonds. The first episode of the series features a dinner party hosted by the Grande Dame of the show, billionaire weapons and private defense heiress Anna Shay, where every guest gets their own personal waiter. While that might seem like the biggest flex of the night, the always impeccably styled Christine Chiu shows up at the party wearing a necklace that Anna also owns. For those of us who immediately think “puka shell” whenever they hear the word “necklace,” we’ll need to adjust our frame of reference a bit to understand why this was such a big deal. As Christine says in confessional, the necklace she shares with Anna is classified as “high jewelry.” High jewelry, according to jeweler Hedda Schupak, is a lot like pornography: “You can’t exactly define it, but you know it when you see it.” Okay, we’re officially confused but also turned on. “High jewelry should contain only the finest quality of rare gems and precious metal, be of distinctive design and exquisite craftsmanship (presumably handmade), probably comes from a famous designer or jewelry house,” explains Schupak. In short, this is not your mother’s Tiffany diamond engagement ring. This is not your co-worker’s Cartier love bracelet. This is on another level entirely. This is the real fucking deal.
This specific piece of high jewelry Anna and Christine own might stand out even among the finest jewels locked in a vault under Harrods. It’s a white-gold–and–pink-sapphire necklace from Louis Vuitton (ever heard of him?) which was featured in a 2012 New York Times profile about the commercialization of the old-school high-jewelry haunt Place Vendôme in Paris. I’ve always said that when a Louis Vuitton jeweler moves in next door, you know the neighborhood has gone to the dogs. While the actual price of the necklace is undisclosed on the show, Bespoke jeweler Taylor & Hart estimates that Christine and Anna’s necklace each cost well over £100,000. So, Christine woke up the day of the dinner party, put on that necklace to compete with Anna Shay, and decided to choose violence.
The Baccarat Paperweight vs. Sponsoring a Child
Shaken but not stirred by the matching £100,000 necklace, Anna Shay punishes Christine by moving her to a less desirable section of the dinner table and ignoring her for the rest of the night, which is her right. In the wise words of Countess LuAnn, money can’t buy you class or a good seat at an Anna Shay dinner party. Still, Anna finds it in her immense heart to gift Christine and the rest of her dinner guests a Baccarat glass paperweight as a thank-you gift. While the paperweight doesn’t classify as “high jewelry,” it retails from as little as $175 to as much as $1,200, depending on the design. Judging by the number of waiters, which indicates there were, at the very least, 20 guests present for dinner, and by the design, which looks closer to the $174 model, by a conservative estimate Anna Shay dropped well over $4,000 for the party favors.
Christine, however, was famously unimpressed with the gift. “For my Chinese New Year party, Dr. Chiu and I sponsor an orphan in China for every guest in attendance,” Chiu says. “Anna gives me a paperweight. When Anna’s bored of playing these childish games, I would love to introduce her to better uses of her time and resources than rearranging table seating.” Per the Child Fund, sponsoring a child costs on average $39 dollars a month. For many reasons, it is impossible to compare Anna and Christine’s thank-you gifts. We don’t know how many guests were in attendance at the Chiu’s Chinese New Year party or how long the Chiu family committed to sponsoring these children. Was it 20 children or 100? Was it for one month or one year? In any case, what is clear is that giving out Baccarat paperweights and sponsoring Chinese orphans are apples and oranges, but one definitely seems to have more of an impact, as a paperweight (even an expensive one) is effectively obsolete in modern society. Does anyone even use paper anymore? Does Anna Shay know about email? It’s impossible to know.
Mellerio vs. Boucheron
It was the high-jewelry fight heard round the world. Christine invites Anna over for hors d’oeuvres (read: fancy appetizers) as a sort of peace offering after NecklaceGate. However, a peace treaty cannot be brokered between the two jewelistas, because they find themselves on opposite sides of the Great Parisian High-Jewelry House debate that has been sweeping the nation: Which high-jewelry house is the oldest in Paris, Mellerio or Boucheron? Anna is very adamant that Boucheron is the oldest, while Christine is absolutely certain it’s Mellerio (pronounced like “malaria” but with an “o”). As it turns out, history seems to have sided with Christine on this one. Founded in 1858 by Frederic Boucheron, Anna Shay’s beloved Boucheron is technically the oldest jewelry atelier in the Place Vendôme (remember her!), which is located in the 1st arrondissement in Paris. But Mellerio, founded by Mellerio dits Meller, opened just up the block from Place Vendôme on Rue de la Paix in 1613. So, Christine is correct despite her incredibly irritating need to compete with Anna Shay, solidifying their Margo Channing–Eve Harrington dynamic. While she may have been right about Paris fashion houses, Christine’s knowledge ends up earning her an embarrassingly late invitation to Anna Shay’s next soirée so, ultimately, the Grande Dame wins again.
Dr. Chiu’s Sculpt Machine
There is always at least one absolutely eyebrow-raising, Über-rich person thing at a Christine Chiu event. She’ll shut down Rodeo Drive for a Chinese New Year party. She’ll have a Gucci claw machine at Baby G’s first birthday. She’ll break out a Botox bar at her leather party and snottily call out Anna Shay for enjoying anal sex. But of all the bells and whistles Christine Chiu trots out over the course of the season, one of the shinier, more ridiculous items has got to be the sculpt machine that she unveils at her and Dr. Chiu’s “#KeepItTight” leather party benefitting their surgery business, Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc. While her husband Gabriel Chiu is the one from a dynastic Chinese family, Christine was reportedly the one making dough, as she was the director of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery when Dr. Chiu was hired. Christine told Women, “I was making more money than Dr. Chiu when we met!” Okay, girl-boss alert!
The couple have grown Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery into a “go-to” plastic surgery outlet and medspa, and at the party, Dr. Chiu gives attendees a test run on a state-of-the-art machine that, if you’re playing close attention, is an Emsculpt machine, designed to lift and tone your abs and butt without the use of surgery. Tight abs, no scars, what’s not to love, right? “You want to position yourself so that the tapping is centered between your perineum and your vajayjay,” Dr. Chiu tells Kelly as she gets on the Emsculpt, taking great care to use the clinical world for a woman’s genitalia. The results can be positively orgasmic, both literally and figuratively, as Dr. Chiu warns Kelly that the Emsculpt has resulted in multiple patients having orgasms. If you were thinking about getting a Emsculpt machine for yourself, it’s going to cost you: There are a lot of versions of the product available for a cool 5K, but if you want the heavy-duty, top-of-the-line machine that Dr. Chiu has, it’s going to put you out about $150,000, and that’s for a used model. But a vibrator that sculpts your abs has got to be worth it? Get ready to blast your ass into pleasure town!
Perhaps the most rich-person thing of them all, the Bling Empire gang gets a shaman to come and do spiritual readings for them on the beach one night. But they don’t get just your standard, run-of-the-mill shaman. No, no, they got Shaman Durek, Gwyneth Paltrow’s spiritual adviser and boyfriend to the princess of Norway, of course. According to his personal website and Instagram page, Shaman Durek, a spiritual bridge, healer, and meditator, is a sixth-generation shaman who eschews medicine or plants and communicates directly with the spirits themselves. Durek has documented this ability in his book Spirit Hacking and via his podcast Ancient Wisdom Today. Durek’s mastery of ancient wisdom has landed him the coveted role of GOOP’s spiritual adviser, though it’s unclear how involved Durek was in the guidance that led Paltrow to create her exploding vagina candle. Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, fourth in line to the Norwegian throne, went to Durek for a spiritual reading, and the two connected on a deeper level and have been dating ever since, recently recounting their love story in a spread for Vanity Fair. Fingers crossed that Durek will play himself on the inevitable The Crown spinoff The Crown: Norway. Until then, if you’d like Durek to help you get in touch with your spiritual side, a reading from him costs, on average, a cool $1,000. That may sound like a pretty penny, but as the saying goes, the closer to GOOP, the closer to God.