There are enigmatic reality stars, and then there's Anna Shay from Bling Empire. The moment we meet her, the millionaire — or is it billionaire? — heiress is taking a sledgehammer to her walk-in closet while wearing a ballgown. She's on the way to a party, but, sure, why not knock down that pesky wall first?
If you've seen the Bravo series Southern Charm, Shay is sort of like the Patricia Altschul of Bling Empire. She's older than the other cast members, she throws events, she treats everyone to expensive gifts, and she sometimes tries to fix their dating lives.
The information we get from Shay on the show only makes her seem more mysterious. "Anna Shay’s half Japanese and half Russian and super, super wealthy," cast mate Kane Lim explains. "Her money comes from weapons. Her father sells bombs, guns, defence technology. And it’s worth like a few billion." We also hear that she was somewhat reclusive, but is now back on the scene.
In episode 1, Shay takes a cast member to her favourite restaurant for her birthday... which is in Paris. She gets to be a stand-in flight attendant on the plane, saying, "My father really never wanted me to have a job." By episode 2, she's getting naked on camera during a Dior fitting at her home. In episode 3, a cast member finds a penis pump in her shower and shows everyone. (Shay's response: "This is not a 'screw you' situation, this is a 'fuck you' situation.") In episode 4, she reveals that she's been married and divorced four times. Throughout it all, her quiet speaking voice sounds like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.
This all to say, Anna Shay is hard to get a grasp on. The weapons thing sounds messed up ... She does know how to serve a diss ... Oh! There's her boobs. That's essentially our collective train of thought when watching Shay on Bling Empire.
While it's not explained further on the series, Shay is the daughter Edward Shay. Edward founded Pacific Architects and Engineers, a defence and government services contractor. Her late father founded the company in 1955, according to its website, "as an architectural and engineering firm assisting the U.S. government effort to rebuild Asia in the wake of World War II." According to the website, the company now works in "aviation, capacity-building and stabilisation, critical infrastructure, expeditionary logistics, identity and information management solutions, integrated security solutions, test and training ranges, training solutions and more." Shay and her brother sold the company in 2006.
Shay's mother, Ai-San Shay, died in 2015. According to her obituary she was Japanese with a Russian grandfather. Edward was American, so it sounds like Lim's summary of Shay's background wasn't entirely accurate.
Shay doesn't share that much of her life publicly — that could change now that she's on a reality show — but she was featured in Genlux magazine in 2015. Answering the magazine's questionnaire, she said that she had six Labradors, that her favourite places are Rome, Paris, and Florence, and that she's played piano since she was three years old. Shay also talked about being a board member for The George Lopez Foundation. She commented on her love for her family, including her son Kenny Kemp, who is shown on Bling Empire briefly.
Speaking of Kemp, he was covered in a 2015 BuzzFeed News report about bongs, because he owned a collection of them worth half a million dollars that was housed in his mother's wine cellar. The then-21-year-old was described as the "sole heir to hundreds of millions of dollars and a passionate stoner whose support of the functional glass art industry provides a needed infusion of legally acquired money." This is bizarre, but also not so surprising considering everything else we know about Shay's eccentric life.
Other than that, Shay's made headlines for her real estate dealings. She put the mansion she's living in on Bling Empire on the market for $16 million (£11.7 million) in 2020, as reported by Dirt. (The show filmed in 2019.) Dirt also reported that Shay bought another, smaller mansion from Dr. Phil's son, Jordan McGraw. That home had previously gone viral because of its incredibly strange decor. In the article, Shay is referred to as "a low-profile but wildly wealthy local socialite and philanthropist."
And, really, that pretty much sums it up — as long as you add in designer clothes, a French best friend named Florent, DIY home projects done while wearing couture, and, of course, a penis pump.