Despite Their Wealth, House Of Ho’s Bella & Kim Face The Same Struggles As Most Asians

It can be easy to turn your nose up at the Crazy Rich Asian-ification of Asian television. As an East Asian-Australian woman, I’ve been desperate to see my community on screen, but the representation we’ve recently been afforded has been telling us the same story: Asians are wealthy, entitled and can easily be reduced to caricatures as entertainment for the masses.
You can imagine my surprise then when I sat down to watch House Of Ho Season 2 and found that I shared many similarities with the family’s Gen Z women. Even though I was chatting with two women from extremely wealthy backgrounds, I found a sense of kinship and familiarity in our battles grappling with familial expectations and cultural values.
House Of Ho is textbook reality TV. The unscripted series follows a multigenerational American-Vietnamese family based in Houston, Texas. It’s a modern-day dynasty, with the Ho family’s banking and real estate development ventures reeling in multi-million dollar fortunes. 
Season 2 sees the introduction of several new family members, including Washington and Judy’s Californian cousins, 22-year-old Bella Ho and 25-year-old Kim Ho. From the get-go, Judy gushes about the pair. “They’re confident and secure in who they are,” she says in Season 2, adding that they’re “well ahead of the game”.

"But at the end of the day, bare bones, we're experiencing the same problems that [others] face individually and as a family.”

kim ho
“It’s a blessing that just being able to do this with our family, we're able to represent the Asian-American dream, or just a Vietnamese family in general,” Kim Ho tells Refinery29 Australia. “So if there's anyone out there who feels like they're alone, they're able to see that [we’re] facing the exact same things, maybe with a little bit luxury in between. But at the end of the day, bare bones, we're experiencing the same problems that [others] face individually and as a family.”
She’s right; while I don’t have a camera crew and a slew of producers following my extended family, the themes of marriage, relationships, addiction, career, love and identity that are so prominent in House Of Ho can be found in most people’s lives. 
Growing up in the US, the duo has had a very different experience of their culture than of their grandparents, Binh and Hue Ho, who came from Vietnam in the ‘70s as refugees.
Kim Ho, Judy Ho, Lesley Ho, Bella Ho.
“My parents are very traditional; my dad is the breadwinner and my mum is a homemaker,” Kim says. “For the longest time, my mum really wanted me to have a similar lifestyle so she prepared me to be the perfect Vietnamese wife. She made sure I was aware of all the Vietnamese customs, and [made] sure I was able to cook and support my family, which is super cool.”
Though her mum didn’t attend high school, let alone college, Kim is “very appreciative” of the education she passed down to her. “What I've learned here is that there is importance in honouring your family sacrifices, but it's also important to live for yourself as well.”

“What I've learned here is that there is importance in honouring your family sacrifices, but it's also important to live for yourself as well.”

kim ho
By that, Kim is referring to how her parents initially expected her to marry rich and skip out on college. Now, she is an aspiring dermatologist. “I really like how the human body works, how resilient we are,” she says, adding that she always makes sure all her family are slathered in sunscreen. “Asians do not raisin,” she laughs.
Bella’s family structure and upbringing were quite different. “Both of my parents [are] breadwinners; my mum’s a singer, my dad's an entrepreneur. It was very difficult for my parents to be there all the time and be present. I'm so grateful for everything that I have because of them… but it is complicated,” she admits, and is careful with her wording when speaking about her relationship with her mother
“For the past 10 years, I’ve tried so hard to be the daughter that she wanted,” Bella says in a heart-wrenching, tear-stained conversation in episode four. It’s at a time when she hadn’t spoken to her mum for at least a month and a half. “It makes me feel like I was wrong, like I could’ve been a better daughter.”

"I'm so grateful for everything that I have because of [my parents] but it is complicated."

Bella Ho
Mother-daughter relationships, particularly in Asian family dynamics, are rarely straightforward. Seeing such a raw and vulnerable display of this on House Of Ho is touching. Before she opens up about the effect her largely absent mum had on her, she acknowledges the “trauma of immigrating” to America, as well as the bullying her mum endured for being mixed race. 
“But at the end of the day, what I realised is that I've also sacrificed a lot of my mental health because I felt I owed it to my mum to be a certain way or do certain things for her. Being around my family members and being on the show really opened my eyes [to how] I'm still my own person,” she tells Refinery29 Australia.
“I cannot water my own plant if I'm having to constantly water hers as well, there has to be like a balance. She has to respect me just as much as I respect her as my mother.”
Heavily tied to the expectation of being a ‘good Asian daughter’ is the continuation of culture — Bella stresses that this is a core pillar of the evolved American dream. 
“Our parents had to sacrifice and learn new things — learn how to read and write in English — and that it's now our responsibility to spread their our culture to our friends and people around us and our children later on in life.”
Kim Ho and Bella Ho.
It’s a beautiful full-circle moment that a lot of first- and second-generation Asians can relate to. There’s a scene where Bella, Kim and Judy are grocery shopping and Bella is eager to learn how to make traditional Vietnamese dishes like cá kho tộ and bò nướng vỉ.
“I'm so proud to be Asian American," Bella tell us. "There's nothing that I would trade it for.”
House Of Ho season 2 premieres on Stan on Thursday, August 25.
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