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Bling Empire: New York's Blake Abbie on LGBTQ+ Asian Representation

Bling Empire: New York's Blake Abbie on LGBTQ+ Asian Representation
Jill Schweber

The reality star tells Advocate Now why it's important to showcase the intersectionality of queer and Asian communities.

Bling Empire: New York is shaking up the world of reality television with its representation — not just through its depiction of Asian culture, but also its showcasing of queer talent.

Openly queer cast member Blake Abbie shares the significance of the show, beyond all the glitz and glamor.

"I think what was really important for me was to be able to connect to a brand, a story, a project, that was talking about culture," he tells Sonia Baghdady of Advocate Now. "And that's essentially what Bling is."

Bling Empire: New York Star Blake Abbie | Advocate Now 

Bling Empire: New York follows wealthy Asian and Asian-American socialites as they navigate life in New York City, though not every cast member was an expert on city-life. Abbie joked that his fellow co-star, Dorothy Wang, had a hard time adjusting.

"We definitely helped her adjust, and she's still adjusting. The last night after the premiere, she wasn't quite sure where we were in the city, actually," Abbie laughs. "She was like 'I've been going uptown and downtown' and I was like, 'Literally there are only two ways to go in New York — Up or down.'"

With a Chinese mother and a Scottish father, Abbie stresses the importance of mixed-race representation, noting that while his family and friends never made him feel 'other,' that's certainly not the case for everyone.

"I think it's really important to bring different kinds of Asian experiences to the screens," he explains, adding, "Both my parents were really supportive of each other's cultures, and I don't think a lot of people necessarily have that experience."

Abbie also says that he intended to showcase queer joy through his presence on the show and didn't want his journey to be portrayed as a "sob story."

"You have to be able to see yourself in other people's shoes to be able to see where you can grow and what kind of dreams you can have," he says. "A big thing for me with the show — we kind of touch on my identity as a queer person. I was really clear with the producers that I didn't want my story to come across as a sob story, to have shame around it. ...I didn't have any shame, I've just grown up to be who I am."

In a slight divergence from its predecessor Los Angeles series, Bling Empire, Abbie shares that the New York show is raising the bar for the franchise by exploring Asian experiences, diving into difficult topics such as recent anti-Asian hatred and violence.

Abbie adds that it's important for the series to use its platform to tackle a variety of difficult subjects.

"We can have these fabulous lifestyles while also recognizing there are people that are suffering, there are people that need our support. And as people who have platforms, we should be able to help these people."

Bling Empire: New York is available to stream on Netflix. For more interviews like these, watch Advocate Now on The Advocate Channel.

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