Bling Empire star Leah Qin has revealed that she was not a paid ‘a penny’ for her time on the hit Netflix reality series – and was forced to spend thousands out of her own pocket for her appearances on the show.
The 26-year-old real estate developer, who featured alongside Cherie in multiple episodes during the show’s run from 2021 to 2022, opened up just weeks after fellow star Kevin Kreider revealed that he was paid less than a UPS driver for all three seasons.
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com about the reality of how finances were handled with cast members, Leah explained that many had to pay for their own parties, wardrobes and hair and make-up, with Leah splashing ‘six figures’.
‘I did not get paid. Not a penny. Zero,’ the reality star confirmed.
She stated that due to the rush to begin filming, she was provided with an ‘appearance release’ by Jeff Jenkins Productions but was not able to adjust the terms before getting in front of the camera.
Bling Empire star Leah Qin has revealed that she was not a paid any money for her time on the hit Netflix reality series
She explained: ‘They gave me an appearance release and then my lawyer is like, “Hmm, let’s, let’s talk about this” and they said “Let’s just film first and then we will deal with it later”… They implied my contract will be revisited later.’
DailyMail.com has approached Jeff Jenkins Productions for comment.
All three seasons of the unscripted docu-series which followed the lives of wealthy, materialistic East and Southeast Asian Americans based in the Los Angeles area, before it was shelved last year.
While fans might have expected the show’s extravagant parties to have been paid for by Netflix, however the cost came of the cast’s own pocket.
Leah added: ‘Our cast had to pay for our own events, you know, their own parties, our own wardrobe.’
In fact, the reality star herself spent ‘about six figures’ on a variety of costs.
She continued: ‘For example, my makeup artist charges me $600 to $800. If you come with me the whole day to a location, it will be over $1000. For one day.
‘I did film over 20 scenes so you can do the math.’
Reflecting on how she felt about having to spend her cash at the time, Leah admitted: ‘ At that point I wasn’t really thinking about making money through being on a reality show. But people must be respected for their work and their dedication.
Leah with the Bling cast – from left to right – Don Morris, Mimi Morris, Christine Alexandra Chiu, Gabriel Chiu, Devon Diep and Kevin Kreider
The real estate developer says she was forced to spend thousands of her own hard-earned cash for her appearances on the show
‘People throw themselves out there, being open to the public about their own story. I do feel we deserve that respect.’
She added: ‘When you’re on a show called Empire, you always wanted fashion that’s on point, right? So, we bought on season fashion so that’s why, there was way more spending on that.’
Adding her thoughts about the current battle to ensure reality stars receive fairer wages, Leah stated: ‘I believe that everybody who puts their hard work to contribute to society deserves to get paid and respected.’
As for discussing pay with other cast members, Leah added: ‘It’s very tough to understand everybody’s situation but I do hear people talk about it here and there…
‘I read the article with Kevin and what he said about the payment is what I heard. In my personal experience, for multiple reasons, I did not get paid.’
Indeed, her co-star Kevin exclusively told DailyMail.com that he was unable to afford to buy a car while filming the series due to the criminally low wages.
Bling Empire followed the lives of wealthy, materialistic East and Southeast Asian Americans based in the Los Angeles area
Kevin was part of the main cast and first appeared on screen with the late billionaire heiress, Anna Shay, who died ‘unexpectedly’ in June following a stroke, aged 62.
The hit show was made up of an entirely Asian cast and followed a group of super wealthy Asian Americans as they navigated their way through life.
However, Kevin didn’t share the same flush background as his co-stars and was positioned as an outsider who was often treated to lavish gifts from Anna.
‘UPS workers were paid more than I was, and they have benefits,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘That’s how little we got paid.’
For context, a UPS delivery driver can expect to make around $18 per hour, with a warehouse package handler set to take home a similar wage. The minimum wage in the state of California is $15.50, compared to $15 national minimum wage.
‘I heard how much a friend of mine was making for a pilot and he wasn’t even the main lead, yet he made more than I did in a whole season of Bling Empire,’ Kevin continued. ‘I worked my ass off for Bling. I mean, I was literally filming almost every day.
The self-made real estate mogul (pictured in June with other members of the cast) explained that many of the cast even had to pay for their own events and parties while filming
Leah opened up just weeks after fellow star Kevin Kreider revealed he was paid less than a UPS driver for all three seasons
‘We had to be available for almost a whole year. I dragged my ass to like three, six-hour interviews. So, when you put the hours together, I worked probably lower than minimum wage.’
His comments came after former Love Is Blind star Nick Thompson revealed he is on the brink of losing his home after being paid less than minimum wage for appearing in season two of the Netflix dating program.
Amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, it was declared in August 2023 that the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists was standing by Real Housewives of New York alum Bethenny Frankel and fellow reality stars in their mission to unionize.
Netflix pulled the plug on Bling Empire and its spin-off Bling Empire: New York earlier this year, with Leah blaming ‘fake made-up drama’ for its demise.
She is now focusing on the future – including her hopes to launch a reality show focused on self-made entrepreneurs.
The project is currently on pause due to the ongoing strike, but the star will work as a producer.
‘My own show is about entrepreneurs,’ she stated. ‘They have their drama, but they are leaders. I can’t tell you the cast, but I can tell you that everyone is googleable.’
The 26-year-old is currently developing a new reality series showcasing the lives of entrepreneurs
She continued: ‘A lot of them come from San Francisco. They know how to handle things. I think this is going to be inspiring for the audience.
‘Right now, there are a lot of shows that showcase that show flashy life and money. There is a good amount of people whose everyday life is not like that.’
The TV star added: ‘I grew up without money and had to struggle to survive. There is a lot more sweat and effort to get where we are today. I am going to show a part of this.
‘It is surrounding my life and I will make sure that everyone on cast is paid. All the people on my show are self-made. They all have an underdog story.
‘We are on pause because of the strike but we look forward to putting the pilot together. I am hoping the pilot will be done by the end of 2024.’