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‘Bling Empire’ is the new rich kid on the block

Hollywood appears to be having a bit of a boom these days with content created by and starring people of Asian descent.

It’s been a long time coming.

When “Crazy Rich Asians” was released in 2018, it became the first major Hollywood studio movie since “The Joy Luck Club” came out in ’93 — yes, 25 years prior — to feature a predominantly Asian cast.

“We promote Asian storytelling. Not just Asian stories, but Asian people in stories with the full spectrum of the human experience,” Chieng said at the time. “When you say, ‘Oh, it’s not enough attention on Asians, it’s more black and white, that game becomes like you’re playing the discrimination Olympics.”

Here’s where we are seeing more representation:

Kelly Mi Li (left) and Kane Lim (right) are shown in a scene from "Bling Empire."

Reality TV: “Crazy Rich Asians” ushered in a fascination with the wealthiest and most successful in the culture including docuseries “House of Ho” on HBO Max (which is owned by CNN’s parent company) and “Singapore Social” on Netflix.

The newest rich kid on the block, Netflix’s “Bling Empire,” is my own personal obsession at the moment.

I talked to one of its cast members and producers, Christine Chiu, last week. She shared her theory as to why it has taken a while for reality projects about and starring Asians to catch Hollywood’s attention.

“I believe that the Asian culture is just very private, I don’t want to fault the entertainment industry for not giving us an earlier shot so to speak,” Chiu said. “I do feel that the industry does want to have cultural diversity because it does serve them well. Case in point, look at ‘Bridgerton.'”

“Bling Empire” also explores real racial and cultural challenges faced by some of the cast members, like model Kevin Kreider’s identity struggle from having been adopted from Korea into a White family in the US. This topic is something he also had explored in Doris Yeung’s 2019 documentary, “The Ugly Model.”

And, of course, “Indian Matchmaking” was a huge hit for Netflix last year.
Lead character Raya is voiced by Kelly Marie Tran in "Raya and the Last Dragon."

And there are more projects coming.

“Mortal Kombat” starring Lewis Tan is set to be released in April and “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu has reportedly been tapped to direct the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical “Wicked.”

The forthcoming Disney animated film “Raya and the Last Dragon” has sparked discussion.

The movie is about a young woman named Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran), who is on a quest to find the last dragon in order to unite a people.

It features stars of Asian ethnicity, including Tran, Golden Globe-winning actress Sandra Oh, Awkwafina and Gemma Chan. But the casting stirred controversy, given that the story in the film has a Southeast Asian origin and many of the actors cast are of East Asian ancestry.
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (third from left) stars in "Never Have I Ever."
Television: Netflix won both viewers and rave reviews last year for “Never Have I Ever.” Starring Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the dramedy is about a South Asian American teen and her life following a family tragedy.

Korean American actor Daniel Dae Kim shared the news last month that he has snagged his first lead role in a TV series in the second season of Nat Geo’s anthology thriller “The Hot Zone.”

“Hardly the biggest news given what’s going on in the world today,” he tweeted on January 13. “But after 31 years of working in TV, this is my first series lead.”
The TV gods giveth and they taketh away, however, as last year marked the ending of “Fresh Off the Boat,” a beloved sitcom about a Taiwanese American family that ran for six seasons on ABC.
(From left) Blackpink members Jisoo, Rosé, Jennie and Lisa formed their hit girl group in 2016.

Music: This one was almost too easy because there are no bigger groups in the word right now than K-pop boy band BTS and girl group Blackpink.

The latter was the subject of a Netflix documentary released in October.

For your weekend

Three things to watch:

‘Bliss’

Owen Wilson (left) and Salma Hayek (right) star in "Bliss."

Ahhh, love.

In the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, check out this mind-bending love story that follows the recently divorced and unemployed Greg (Owen Wilson) as he meets the mysterious Isabel (Salma Hayek), who lives on the streets and is convinced the world around them is just a computer simulation.

“Bliss” starts streaming on Amazon Prime Friday.

‘Malcolm & Marie’

Zendaya (left) and John David Washington (right) star in "Malcolm & Marie."

February is also Black History Month, so let’s give some love to two of the premiere young, Black actors of our time.

John David Washington and Zendaya star in this Netflix film described as featuring “smoldering tensions” and “painful revelations.”

It looks hella intense and I can’t wait. “Malcolm & Marie” starts streaming Friday.

Erin Jackson appears in season two of "Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready."

Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready’ Season 2

Tiffany Haddish has found success in comedy and is sharing the wealth.

The second season of her series showcases comics like Erin Jackson, whom Haddish handpicked to perform 15-to-20-minute sets. Get ready to laugh your … pandemic pounds off.

“They Ready” is currently streaming on Netflix.

Two things to listen to:

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters performs onstage during the "Rock in Rio" festival at the Olympic Park, Rio de Janeiro, in September 2019.

Believe it or not, the rock band Foo Fighters has been around for more than 25 years.

The group feels timeless partly because it just seems to keep getting better and better.

The band’s latest, “Medicine at Midnight,” drops Friday and is its 10th studio album. The release was delayed because of the pandemic so we will get to see if it was worth the wait.

Cristela Alonzo attends the International Myeloma Foundation's 12th Annual Comedy Celebration at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on November 3, 2018, in Los Angeles.
Comedian, actress and writer Cristela Alonzo hosts the true crime podcast “Chicano Squad.”

It tells the story of how 40 years ago a series of unsolved murders in Houston’s Latino community led to the formation of the city’s first all-Latino homicide squad. The five young officers had very little experience and resources at a time their community was suffering both discrimination and abuse from police.

“Chicano Squad” is streaming now.

One thing to talk about:

The late Dustin Diamond played Screech on "Saved by the Bell."
The death of “Saved by the Bell” star Dustin Diamond Monday at the age of 44 came as not only a shock, but also a painful reminder of yet another child star who struggled with early fame.

Beloved as Screech on the popular high school comedy, Diamond never quite found the same amount of success after the show ended.

His 2009 book “Behind the Bell” put him at odds with some of his costars due to the backstage tea he spilled. He went on to perform stand-up and appear in reality shows, while some of his former costars continued acting.

There were also legal issues, which added to his woes. Diamond’s death just weeks after revealing his battle with cancer and at such a young age ends any possibility of a different ending to his professional story.

Something to sip on

A video of country music star Morgan Wallen has surfaced in which he reportedly used a racial slur.
When the backlash hit country music artist Morgan Wallen after video of him using a racial slur had surfaced, two camps sprang up.

There were those in country music whose attitude was “We’re better than this” and those who felt that “Actually, we are not.”

Mickey Guyton is a Black country artist whose song “Black Like Me” stirred conversation last year about racism in the genre. She tweeted on Wednesday regarding the Wallen controversy: “When I read comments saying ‘this is not who we are’ I laugh because this is exactly who country music is.”

She should know, given the racism that has been hurled her way.

And Guyton isn’t the only one who spoke up.

Grammy-winning artist Maren Morris has long been an ally of the Black community and tweeted “It actually IS representative of our town because this isn’t his first ‘scuffle’ and he just demolished a huge streaming record last month regardless. We all know it wasn’t his first time using that word.”

Wallen quickly lost the support of radio, his record label and others, but the issue is so much bigger than just him. Here’s hoping this incident sparks the hard and necessary conversations and actions needed in the music industry.

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