Chicago native Kelly Mi Li (@kellymili) has made a serious splash this year as an executive producer and cast member of over-the-top Netflix reality series Bling Empire. Here, Li dishes on her Chicago faves and what she’s been up to since season one.
What are some of your favorite spots to visit when you come home?
I think Chicago really has some of the best museums; the Art Institute is phenomenal, and there is another art center called Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport that is really underrated—I go to their exhibits as much as possible. Outside of that, the restaurant scene is so great. For my mom's birthday I took her to RPM Seafood. Gibson's is classic and fun and you can go shopping [in the Gold Coast] and then go eat. Obviously Lincoln Park, you have the park and you can go eat right there. I really say with Chicago you really get the best of all worlds: You get the water, you get the beach, you get the people, you get the culture, the art and the park.
What can fans expect from season two of Bling Empire?
In season one we really introduced a lot of topics about family, love and culture, and in season two we just really want to expand more on everything and do a deeper dive into the Bling Empire world, which is a world that isn't normally seen by a lot of people and in the Asian culture. I think fans can really expect more bling, glamour, extravagant parties, as well as more intimate and personal stories from each of us.
What have you been up to since season one?
There is just so much. Obviously, Andrew and I broke up, so for me it's really just been self-discovery and going to individual therapy. I started my mental health journey and self-discovery journey because of the show really, and then of course just wanting to be the best version of myself. I also adopted another puppy named Sophia.
What do you want fans to know about you?
I want to keep things as raw and real and vulnerable as possible because I think a lot of things in our society are very filtered. I just really want to keep showing the real me—the good side, the bad side. I am a work in progress every single day and I want to be able to show that.
As the world reopens, what are you most looking forward to?
Really just traveling and connecting with people again and learning different cultures. I booked my first international trip earlier in July to Greece for a week. I know some parts of the world are not doing really well so hopefully things will open up, and hopefully, COVID-19 will be behind us and for the rest of the world as well.
How are you becoming a voice against Asian hate?
Asian hate crime is something that is very close to my heart and is something that I speak out about a lot on my social media. I joined an organization called Hate Is A Virus—I launched a community action fund with them, and our goal is to raise $1,000,000. I personally matched the first $25,000 to kickstart it and we are almost at $900,000, so we are really close to our goal. Any hate crime, any racism, any discrimination is completely unacceptable in our society, and I just hope that we can keep building on positivity and spreading love—and it's not just the Asian community, it's all communities. Support each other, speak out against social issues and connect across communities—a lot of it starts with education awareness. Know that we are fighting hate and hopefully can make the world a better, safer and more equal place for all of us.
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHED BY IAN PHILLIPS; PHOTO ASSISTANT THOMAS PHILLIPS; STYLED BY KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT AND AMIR DOBOS; OUTFIT BY OTT; PEARL ACCESSORY BY DULCE BESTIA; HAIR/MAKEUP BY JENI CHUA FOR EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS USING CALDERA LAB & URBAN DECAY; RETOUCHING BY DRO DRO @ NNF.