You may know Kim Lee as a mainstay in Netflix’s Bling Empire reality series, which follows “wildly wealthy” Asian socialites, but the 32-year-old Los Angeles native has been making waves as a model and a DJ for nearly a decade.
Roughly 95 percent of all professionals DJs are male, and 80 percent of all DJs are either white, Black or Hispanic. There is very little representation from Asian women in the community, and Lee is well aware of this.
“I get a lot of messages from a lot of girls like, ‘Hey, thank you for showing that as Asian women, we’re very strong, we’re bold, we’re fierce,'” she told In The Know. “It just makes me feel good that I’m actually influencing a lot of women out there.”
Lee said she got into DJing in the first place because she was hanging out with the Black Eyed Peas, and group member Apl.de.Ap offered to manage her. That gave her the extra push she needed to take the plunge and attend Scratch DJ Academy in Los Angeles.
“For the first time in my life, I felt so confident and passionate and I just went with it,” she said.
Lee booked her first gig in 2012 in Vietnam, where she was part of a music festival “of like 20,000 people.” She said she was “one of the first” female Asian DJs to bring DJ-friendly music to the country.
“Word kind of got out and a lot of people got really, really curious about me and my DJ partner,” she explained. “They were like, ‘Who are these girls? Their energy on stage was just very high energy.’ I guess it got a lot of people’s attention.”
Lee didn’t immediately gain everyone’s respect, though. She said she had people judging her all the time.
“I had people, big names just telling me, Kim, you’re too this and you’re too that and stuff,” she said.
“It’s been a crazy adventure, especially being a female in a male-dominated industry,” she said of her success.
Some critics said that what she was doing was “not the right Asian representation” because DJing doesn’t represent the entire community, but she finds immense value in the work she does.
“I think we’re definitely breaking barriers. And we’re paving the way … just like what the Crazy Rich Asians movie did,” she said.
Like Crazy Rich Asians, Bling Empire is all about the fabulous parties, fashionable clothes and irresistible drama LA’s fleet of Asian socialites partake in.
That’s not all it is, though.
“The show is definitely more than just the glitz and the glamour. Being Asian where a lot of us are raised to not express how we feel,” Lee told In The Know. “And I think everyone on the show did a great job and we’re just showing our vulnerable side.”
On the show, Lee opened up about her family life and the journey to finding her dad. She said it was “very hard” to go through all of those emotions in front of the camera, but she’s glad she did.
“And for me, I’m a very outspoken Asian-American woman. I speak my mind,” she said. “It might get me in trouble sometimes but at the end of day I’m speaking up and this is how I feel.”
She said the whole process — from making it big as a DJ to becoming a reality TV star — “hasn’t been easy,” though she knows she makes it look that way.
“I think the person that been really motivating me is myself,” she said. “And it comes off kind of stubborn or rebellious but I believe everyone’s very special and unique in their own way. And we should embrace that and not let society tell you else-wise like you [that] you’re not enough.”
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