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Bling Empire star Anna Shay dies unexpectedly aged 62 – details

The Netflix reality star first appeared on Bling Empire in 2021

Anna Shay attends the world premiere of Netflix's "The Gray Man" at TCL Chinese Theatre on July 13, 2022 in Hollywood, California© Getty
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
June 5, 2023
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Anna Shay, who rose to prominence with her appearance in the first season of Netflix reality show Bling Empire in 2021, has passed away unexpectedly.

The late reality star was 62, and her family confirmed on Monday, June 5 that she died from a sudden stroke.

"It saddens our hearts to announce that Anna Shay, a loving mother, grandmother, charismatic star, and our brightest ray of sunshine, has passed away at the early age of 62 from a stroke," they said in a statement to People.

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Her family added: "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."

Though Bling Empire, a reality show about the fabulous lives of a select group of wealthy Asian and Asian-Americans living in Los Angeles, was canceled after only three seasons, Shay became a fan favorite quickly into the inaugural season.

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Part of the intrigue into her life was largely the mystery surrounding her background and wealth, and where it all came from.

Anna Shay attends 'Bling Empire' Season 2 Netflix Event on May 12, 2022 at a private residence in Los Angeles, California© Getty
Shay at the premiere for Bling Empire's second season

During the show, she was described by co-star Kane Lim as "half-Japanese and half-Russian and super, super wealthy," and credited "weapons" as one of the drivers of her alleged billion-dollar wealth, claiming that her father "sells bombs, guns, defense technology – and it's worth, like, a few billion."

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Shay later disputed those claims to People, telling the outlet: "I asked [Lim], 'Why did you say my dad was in arms?'" and that: "He goes, 'I don't know.' He thought he knew, but maybe he didn't know and was just guessing."

Christine Chiu, Leah Qin, Mimi Morris, Kelly Mi Li, Jaime Xie, Anna Shay, Kim Lee and Dorothy Wang attend 'Bling Empire' Season 2 Netflix Event on May 12, 2022 at a private residence in Los Angeles, California© Getty
The stars of Bling Empire

NBC News has since reported that Shay's father, Edward Shay, who died in 1995, was the founder of the American defense and government services contractor Pacific Architects and Engineers, or PAE.

Today, his company's clients include massive institutions such as NASA and the U.N., though back in the 1960s and 1970s, the outlet reports "it provided cover for the Phoenix Program, a CIA-led operation to weed out undercover communist Viet Cong operatives and their sympathizers through a strategy that led to torture and, at times, killings of Vietnamese people and others."

Maria Jose Lainez and Anna Shay attend Unscripted and Influencer Preview of Netflix Holiday House at The Grove on December 02, 2022 in Los Angeles, California© Getty
Shay's last major public appearance

Though Shay herself never addressed her father's professional history and involvement into what researchers described as one of the "ugliest aspects" of the Vietnam War, she did admit that she was surprised by the amount of fame and cult-following that Bling Empire brought her.

"I wasn't even expecting to be in front of the camera," she also told People, admitting: "I'm very shy and I went along with whatever situation was happening. I was just being me." She is survived by her son Kenny Kemp and some grandchildren whose identities are not publicly known.

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