Cover (L-R) Kelly Mi Li and Kane Lim in episode one.

What does the breakout star of the series do when he's back home in Singapore and is there a season two? Find out in our exclusive interview

Since Netflix released Bling Empire, its latest reality series that follows an all-Asian American cast around Los Angeles, members of the cast have lit up social media as people around the world try to find out more about each member. Here in Singapore, all eyes are on Kane Lim—the sole Singaporean repping the little red dot on the show.

Lim, a 30-year-old real estate entrepreneur, showed off his patriotism (and homesickness) by even throwing a Singapore Day party of sorts for his friends during the show. But that’s not all that people are talking about.

It’s his over-the-top fashion, flamboyance and ability to get along with just about everyone that makes us so curious about this Singaporean who has been based in Los Angeles for the past nine years.

From uncut scenes to where he enjoys hanging out in Singapore, get to know more about this trendsetter below, as he speaks to us in an exclusive video call.

People are so curious about your life and all that’s going on with you, so tell me what you’re up to these days?

Kane Lim (KL) Life has kind of been the same—I still go to Rodeo Drive although shopping’s very different now. It’s literally window shopping. We pick out the bags from the window and say ‘Ok, that one’. When the Covid-19 pandemic first started, none of us could enter the stores! So some of us from the cast would actually go to Rodeo and just stand outside the store and point at what we wanted. It was quite amazing.

What made you move to Los Angeles? 

KL It was more for my own independence and challenging myself. Growing up, Singapore is my home, but it’s so limited to what I want to do in terms of creativity or just expanding my knowledge. Everything back home was so easy: the support was there, the [family] business was there. Eight years ago, I just felt like my future was based on somewhere else that's much bigger. With a bigger platform. And lo and behold, we have the show now.

What made you agree to do this show?

KL Number one, I think there was a good premise. Number two, there was a lot of trust between the producers and us. Because none of us need to do the show. Maybe Kevin or certain desperate cast members? (laughs)

If you look at it, Anna [Shay] and I, for example, we don’t actually need to do this show. Put out our lives for the whole world to see? And be subjected to public scrutiny and our own safety? LA isn’t very safe compared to Singapore where you can just go out wearing whatever you want.

I thought the producers were super credible. Look at Jeff Jenkins—he produced The Simple Life, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and The Simple Life was hands down my favourite show. I’ve seen what they have done and the first time I met [Jenkins], I said: ‘I’m going to call you uncle Jeff!’ and we still talk on a daily basis. There is a lot of trust, to begin with, and when we shot the pilot and pitched it to different networks, Netflix loved it. I knew it would be different from other platforms; we wanted to produce a show with so much more substance. Obviously, the trailer came out and people were probably like ‘Oh my god, another stupid crazy rich show again, we don’t want this’ but then episode two hits you in the face. So being able to work with such a strong team helps.

What didn’t we see in the show? What was the craziest moment for you?

KL Actually, there were a lot of shopping scenes that weren’t included! One was when Anna and I were shopping and she was looking at a $10 million dollar diamond but that scene didn’t make it.

But craziest moment? I guess it was when Kim fell flat on her face!

Yes, that looked so painful!

KL You know, two minutes prior to her falling, we were all sitting by the pool and I thought that I’d go get some blankets. And she just happened to fall flat on those blankets later on, so if those blankets weren’t there—her fall wouldn’t be a funny meme right now. But she’s fine, the blankets saved her.

How did you guys become friends? Did the friendship really begin before the show began?

KL Yeah, so the only cast member that I wasn't close with was Anna because she was actually friends with Jeff Jenkins. She usually does investments in films, so a lot of behind-the-scenes work. She was actually surprised that she was even on the show in the end. Kelly and I have known each other for over eight years, Christine as well. And Cherie... it was all super organic, everything came together very well. 

Your shoe display is major goals. And I want to ask: How much would you say you spend on clothes? Do designers give you free things? 

KL I'm waiting for free things! (laughs) Some designers, after the show came out, they were like 'Ok we’re going to send you a few pieces'. And I’m like now you’re going to send me free things?

Right, after all these years and all that you’ve spent?

KL I know, right? (laughs) Well, to answer your question, I do get free things but I spend a lot of my own money on clothes, shoes and actually, jewellery takes up the chunk of it.

Is there a number to share?

KL More than seven figures for sure, easily. I mean, come on, I’ve been doing this since I was born! It’s so easy! 

 

I see that you meditate and pray a lot in the show. What inspired you to practise Buddhism?

KL The funny thing is both my parents are super staunch Christians. They give back a lot to their church. About three years ago, I was in a bad place and was overweight, depressed and didn’t know what to do with my life. A friend introduced me to Buddhism and I had a very spiritual moment and when I dived into the understanding of Buddhism and studied it, it just became one of the only religions that made sense to me. In Buddhism, Buddha says that if it doesn’t make sense to you, question all the teachings. When I went deeper, I got a hold of what life meant and the cause and effect of things. And also the compassion part of it, it’s one of the only religions that teach you to embrace other religions. So when I go to church with my mum, I pray with her too. And if I go to a Catholic Church, I bow to Mother Mary, too. Buddha is the enlightened one so in the end, religion is the same [for all] as it all ties to compassion.

I’m vegetarian as well ... but you’re not told [in the sutras] not eat meat. It’s just cause and effect, and it made a lot of sense to me. I’ve never been happier and healthier throughout my entire 30 years.

I noticed the compassion during the scene when you were telling Kevin not to step on the ants while in South Carolina

KL Oh, so here's one more thing that didn’t make it onto the show. Since I do real estate development, before we demolish a house, we’d do a prayer ceremony. Because a lot of spiders, ants would get killed inevitably in the process. If you think about it, we think animals are unaware but that’s not true. There are spirits and animals that can relate to these messages.

In the show, you said you were feeling a little homesick and threw a little Singapore Day party. How often do you come home to Singapore? 

KL I love Singapore, I come home twice a year and I wanted to come back this Chinese New Year because I always come home for Chinese New Year and as I said on the show: you get money, right? I’m a bit worried this time because where’s my money going to come from? (laughs)

I just feel so safe at home but unfortunately, I can’t come back this year because of the pandemic and the quarantine that I'd be subjected to. I’ve a lot of work to do for the show as well.

What do you love to do in Singapore?

KL I actually help out with the monastery there; it’s called BW monastery in Woodlands. We’d raise funds during the New Year and whatever proceeds I make will be donated to the monastery and it helps the community as a whole, not just the Buddhist community. I involve myself in a lot of charity work. The last time I was back I helped out with Red Cross Singapore and I also worked on a project with my dad, where we raised over $10 million for Sian Chay medical institution.

But obviously, I come back for the food as well!

Where do you love eating? 

KL Hawker centres! There’s one in Novena with really good vegetarian food and one more in Tanjong Pagar.

(Related: Where Do The Top 20 Chefs In Singapore Go For Their Hawker Fix?)

Through the show, I also noticed that you get along with all the cast members. What does friendship mean to you?

KL I think it means compassion for all. I’ll give you an example that has nothing to do with the cast.

After the show came out, I gained a lot of new followers on Instagram. And there were a few who were porn stars. And immediately you judge them, right? And then I read one of the messages and I felt so disappointed in my practice because I judged people based on just their page.

The message went something like: 'My family and I loved the show and love how compassionate you are.' And I felt like such a failure, that's why Buddhism is so important to me. We all come from different backgrounds.

Friendship also means being able to support each other during the toughest times.

Did cast members get closer after filming?

KL So I didn’t know Anna, right? And she joined the cast at the last minute too. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, she has become like family to me. My parents are always reminding me on the phone to thank Anna for them. We have a very good bond and I call her my godma. She’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

The only scripting was maybe Andrew’s acting. 

—Kane Lim

So, is there a season two? 

KL I’m not sure—it really depends on your review! But I would love a season two for sure.

It also depends on how the public is receiving it and Netflix's decision, too. But I'm so proud of what we’ve done. It’s number one on Netflix in Singapore and number four in the US. For an entirely Asian cast to be on a global platform in the top 10—I think we did it already. So whether or not there’s a season two, I think we’ve done something quite special.

Plus it’s a real-life cast. And I assume nothing was scripted?

KL Correct. None of it was! I've been telling people this. Even for me, as I watched the episodes, I'm wondering: how can you script that? Like the penis pump scene, people asked me who planted it there? For Anna, she was hesitant when that was shot. Because that’s her private life that's going to be scrutinised. But she said 'Whatever, it’ll make for a good show'. It was actually truly there and had belonged to a guest.

You also watched Cherie’s birthing scene, along with news of death, the South Carolina scenes—none of that was scripted. The only scripting was maybe Andrew’s acting. 

What else would you like to share with fans of the show?

KL I just want to say that I'm very grateful because it takes a huge team for all this to be possible and successful. From producers to the camera crew to audio members—you see two of us in the apartment filming but there’s actually 25 of us around the set just hiding somewhere.

Everything was all shot so beautifully—it looked like a movie just watching it. So I have to give the team so much credit into making this an amazing show.

Bling Empire is now available on Netflix.