Anna Shay, the eccentric heiress and socialite who rose to fame on Netflix’s Bling Empire, has died at the age of 62.
The heiress died from a stroke, according to a statement provided by Shay’s family on Monday (5 June). It was not immediately clear when she died.
“It saddens our hearts to announce that Anna Shay, a loving mother, grandmother, charismatic star, and our own brightest ray of sunshine, has passed away,” the family said.
“Anna taught us many life lessons on how not to take life too seriously and to enjoy the finer things. Her impact on our lives will be forever missed but never forgotten.”
Shay was a Los Angeles socialite who amassed a fortune after she and her brother sold their father’s company, Pacific Architects and Engineers, after his death.
Ever since Shay appeared on Bling Empire, there’s been controversy surrounding her wealth.
On the show, it was mentioned that her fortune came “from weapons,” as co-star Kane Lim said in an episode that Shay’s father “sells bombs, guns, defense technology – and it’s worth, like, a few billion.”
However, many experts consider Shay’s fortune to be tied to the “ugliest aspects” of the Vietnam War.
Between the 1960s and 70s, when Shay’s father Edward used to run Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE), the company reportedly provided cover for the Phoenix Program.
It was a CIA-led operation to segregate undercover communist operatives and their sympathisers through a strategy that led to the torture and killings of Vietnamese people and others, according to research reports.
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Today, PAE’s clientelle includes NASA and the United Nations.
Speaking to OprahMag.com about Bling Empire, Shay said in a 2021 interview she had no idea what she was getting into when she joined the cast of the Netflix show, which chronicled the lives of ultra-wealthy Angelenos of Asian descent.
Originally, Shay thought her friend and executive producer on the series, Jeff Jenkins, wanted her to work behind the scenes.
“The next thing I knew, I was sitting in front of the camera. I’m really quite shy, so it was hard. I never thought about doing this, especially at my age,” she said.
The series drew comparisons to the blockbuster film Crazy Rich Asians. It premiered in 2021 and was recently cancelled after three seasons.
Shay, a fan favorite on the show, was a fixture in Los Angeles high society. She was the only daughter of Edward Shay, the American billionaire founder of the defense and government services contractor, and Ai-San, his half-Japanese, half-Russian wife.
Shay said in the Oprah interview that her mother once told her, “You were born in a crystal ball with a silver spoon.’”
The reality star was born and raised in Japan.
Her only son, Kenny Kemp, earned himself a bit of the spotlight as well, briefly appearing on the series and amassing a huge collection of pricy bongs, according to BuzzFeed News.
Additional reporting from agencies