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Billionaire ‘Bling Empire’ heiress Anna Shay dies. She was 62

Anna Shay wearing a choker with a pendant and smiling at the camera, with her dark hair swept over her right shoulder
“Bling Empire” billionaire heiress Anna Shay died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 62.
(Rodin Eckenroth / Getty Images)
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“Bling Empire” star Anna Shay has died unexpectedly. The 62-year-old reality TV star suffered a stroke on Monday.

A Netflix representative confirmed Shay’s death to The Times.

“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,” her family told The Times in a statement.

“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.”

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Shay appeared on Netflix’s “Bling Empire” when the reality series premiered in 2021. A billionaire heiress whose parents accumulated their riches in the arms and defense technology trade, Shay was the wealthiest of the cast members. Known for her sharp one-liners, she was a fan favorite, with “Best Burn” reels dedicated to her savage wit.

Her American father, Edward Shay, who founded the global defense contractor Pacific Architects and Engineers, met her part-Japanese, part-Russian mother, Ai Oizumi Shay, in Japan, and together they moved from Japan to Los Angeles when Shay was a child — along with her pet pocket monkey.

Shay’s father died in 1995 and her mother in 2015.

The notoriously private heiress has her moment in the spotlight in the streamer’s reality TV spin on “Crazy Rich Asians.” But she’s not in it for the fame.

Jan. 15, 2021

Due in part to her unique upbringing, and in part because Shay believed in taking advantage of everything life had to offer, she had a wealth of stories and talents that she had acquired over the course of her extravagant life. She could pilot a helicopter and run a military obstacle course. She learned to speak Spanish so she could manage a Cuban salsa band, and took a sledgehammer to the walls of her Sunset Boulevard estate, insisting she’d renovate it herself.

She was also known for her incredible generosity. She told Town & Country that she’d met a homeless man at a flower market at 4 a.m. who introduced himself as Elvis, and she put him up in an apartment and filled it with groceries for a month. She was also known to buy the salesperson the same item she bought for herself at luxury stores, and loved a good trip to Target, where she would often spend several grand on groceries and goodies only to take them home and give them away.

According to Marie Claire, Shay was married and divorced four times. But Shay, not one to kiss and tell, never revealed the identities of her four elusive husbands.

She is survived by her son, Kenny Kemp, who also briefly appeared on “Bling Empire” and was featured on BuzzFeed News in 2015 for his extensive collection of bongs and glass pipes valued at half a million dollars (at the time of publication) and stored in his mother’s basement.

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Shay told People in 2021 that she wasn’t expecting “Bling Empire” to garner so much attention. “Did I expect the show to be successful? No. I wasn’t even expecting to be in front of the camera. I’m very shy and I went along with whatever situation was happening,” she said. “I was just being me.”

Shay was known both for her love of diamonds and for her pearls of wisdom that she dropped on castmates and during confessionals during her three seasons on the show.

“You don’t let the clothes wear you, you don’t let the car drive you,” Shay said. “Don’t be impressed by things. I don’t get impressed by things, but by people and who they are. ... This is not a dress rehearsal, you have to live life to its fullest.”

Despite her opulence, Shay had a down-to-earth outlook on life and luxury, and bragging about wealth was one of the heiress’ biggest pet peeves.

“I think the ones who talk about it don’t really have it,” she told The Times’ Ashley Lee in 2021. “Why would you wear something to show it off? My mother came from aristocracy, and my dad came from the South Side of Chicago. They told me that if they ever saw the clothes wearing me or the cars driving me, they would take it all away and never buy anything for me ever again. I’m glad they did that.”

Shay’s close friend Florent Bonadei, a client executive at the Parisian luxury jewelry house Boucheron who was also featured on “Bling Empire,” spoke with The Times on Monday about Shay’s untimely passing.

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“I am so saddened by the loss of Anna Shay. Truly, I would not be where I am today without her friendship,” he said. “Anna was as glamorous as she was eccentric. She was incredibly generous with her wealth, but even more so with her love and her loyalty.”

“To be Anna’s friend was to be invited into a magical world where one day you are eating caviar in Paris and the next night you are watching TV in L.A. on her sofa surrounded by animals, laughter and joy. Her heart was humongous and knew no boundaries. I take some comfort in the fact that so many people had the chance to see how incredibly special Anna Shay was through the show. I will always be incredibly grateful to have the honor to call her my friend. I am sending love to her son and all those who loved her as we all mourn the fabulous, one-of-a-kind Anna.”

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