There are plenty of big personalities — and even bigger blowups — on Netflix's Bling Empire, but Kelly Mi Li knows how to avoid the drama. She describes herself as the "more balanced one" within her wealthy L.A. friend group, who all star in the new Netflix reality show. "I'm kind of the peacemaker," Kelly says. "Or I try to be, at least, because there's always a lot of drama and issues in our friends group."
On Bling Empire, Kelly's story mostly revolves around her fraught relationship with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But off camera, she's often busy working as both an entrepreneur and film producer. As one of three people on the show who's "self-made," Kelly says that she usually doesn't have time to be at every lavish get-together. As a result, she sometimes doesn't hear about her friends' gossip and bickering until after it happens. "I can't go to lunch five days a week with them," she says. And if a social event falls on a weekday, "I'm like, 'I'm sorry, I have to work.'" Still, everyone is understanding. "I work very hard," Kelly adds. "Success didn't come easy; being an entrepreneur is not a nine to five. You're on it 24/7."
Here's everything else to know about the Bling Empire star.
Befitting of Los Angeles, Kelly is a media and production company executive. She was previously a managing partner at East West Artists, a talent management company, and co-founded Organic Media Group. She's currently a partner at Greyscale Lab, and most recently founded Wet Paws Media.
Even during the pandemic, Kelly has kept busy. "I'm in post-production right now for a little thriller that I shot during COVID called AMP House," she explains. "And then I have a new TV show called Cypher that's coming out [in] early spring in the U.S." She's also working on a music documentary called Immediate Family, which follows the lives of legendary 1970s session musicians, and Afterward, a thriller starring Aaron Eckhart and George Lopez.
In all of her work, Kelly hopes to bolster Asian representation in media. "I moved [to the U.S.] from China when I was 9, 10 years old, and growing up I didn't really have people who looked like me on TV," she says. She's currently working on a script "somewhat based" on her and her ex-husband's life, and she's interested in portraying not only their pride for their culture, but demonstrating that it's OK to show the hardships, too.
Bling Empire explores Kelly's relationship with Andrew Gray, an actor best known for his role as the Red Ranger in Power Rangers Megaforce. They have a pretty volatile relationship throughout Season 1, and Kelly says that filming the show definitely changed the dynamic between them. "I think the show magnified [our issues]," she says. "Just because there were so many other people in our private life."
She adds that her relationship with Andrew is pretty different than her previous ones. "[With] my ex-husband, everything was always great, like he wanted to please me," she says. But "underneath, he was building resentment or doing other things behind my back."
Kelly is not a frequent Instagrammer, but she does occasionally share the projects she's working on, her adorable rescue dogs Kilo and Sophia, and pictures with family and friends. (She's also clearly an avid traveler, but notes that she's taking the pandemic seriously and isn't jetting around like she used to.)
She'll certainly have more followers to mitigate after the debut of Bling Empire. But ultimately, she hopes what viewers connect with are the show's emotional stories. "Money is great; it gives you the options and the fun. But at the end of the day, you're not gonna die with your money," she says with a laugh. What really matters in life is the "human connection, being there for each other."