2021’s first reality binge-watch comes courtesy of Netflix’s Bling Empire. The series, which follows a group of well-to-do Asian American friends in Southern California and their exploits, is billed as a Crazy Rich Asians meets Selling Sunset hybrid that offers a glimpse at extreme affluence and glamour. Post-Real Housewives and Keeping Up With the Kardashians, viewers have grown accustomed to being voyeurs in the world of the super-rich, but Bling Empire offers a new twist on the genre by focusing its attentions on an all-Asian cast, many of whom have connections to fashion and entertainment. As such the show is jam packed with glamorous looks from the latest catwalks, often worn by Jaime Xie, whose daring style is one of the season’s highlights.
Long before she made her way onto the small screen, Xie, age 22, was a regular presence at the European runways, where she took in Chanel, Dior, and Valentino collections and captured street style photographers’ attention. Though she’s now a cast member on Bling Empire, Xie admits she’s more at home in the front row than on the small screen. “Some people think fashion week is too hectic, but I find it exhilarating,” she shared on the phone from California. “I love the craziness, the commotion, the fact that there is always something happening. I’ve loved it since my very first show; from that moment on, I knew I wanted to go every season and every year.”
Despite her innate love of style, Xie grew up far from fashion capitals. The daughter of a cybersecurity technology entrepreneur, Ken Xie—you have him to thank for firewalls and VPNs—she was raised in Silicon Valley. Surrounded by tech rather than clothes, her upbringing was all about school and horses. A champion equestrian, she competed in the sport throughout her teens, eventually ranking number one in the nation in the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Small Junior Hunter 16-17 Division. Though she maintains a love for riding, the tides turned towards fashion when she became aware of design’s artistic possibilities. “When I was younger, I wore Abercrombie, Hollister, all the usual things the kids in my middle school were buying,” says Xie. “Growing up, fashion wasn’t the focus in our family. My mother enjoys clothes and shopping to an extent, but like most people, she isn’t overly invested, so I only discovered the luxury side of things later on. Once I did, that’s when I began to understand the differences in creativity, the way a designer’s vision could lead to truly unique clothes.”
Xie studied up on CFDA Award nominees and LVMH prize winners and poured through collection imagery online. “Back then, I was looking at Style.com and seeing all the pictures from the runway shows. I wasn’t attending any of them just yet, but I loved seeing what the designers came up with,” says Xie. Pictures can only take you so far, and after a time, Xie was ready to start wearing some of the pieces that she was bookmarking. “I remember being obsessed with these Charlotte Olympia shoes where the heel was like a little cage,” she says. “Those were the first shoes I thought were wearable art, and for my eighth-grade graduation, I wore them with a little white dress.”
Bringing glamour to middle school was only the beginning. Throughout high school, her eclectic outfits stood out from the crowd, and her graduation coincided with the rise of blogging culture. With seemingly everyone channeling their energies into a blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram account, Xie figured she should take her perspective on fashion online in 2014. “I enjoyed seeing what was being posted, and I figured other people might enjoy seeing my updates too,” she explains. On Instagram, Xie showcases her bold take on fashion, while her YouTube channel provides a birds-eye view into her shopping habit. Being present on both platforms meant learning the pros and cons of each. “Unboxing videos don’t necessarily show who I am, but on YouTube, people love them,” says Xie. “When I posted my first video, I had no idea that people would respond to that kind of content. It intrigued me because, in a way, I’m only recording things that I’m already doing without revealing much information beyond the clothes and attention grabbing titles. Instagram allows you to curate, you present an edit that represents your vibe, but there is only so much you can convey in a still image.”
What Xie has been able to put forth on social media is a concise overview of her tastes. A fan of emerging designers and contrasts of colour and texture, her outfit selfies are consistently original. A typical look might involve a white suit worn with cropped bralette and layers of silver Chanel chains or reflective separates from Sies Marjan. Quick to switch from the sweet (Prada’s saccharine ice cream prints and pastel Saks Potts outerwear) to the sultry (ruffled Versace straight from the spring/summer 2020 runway or David Koma minidresses with marabou hems) Xie lives for variety.
“I’m open to wearing anything,” she says. “I don’t have a specific style. It’s just whatever catches my eye and holds my interest. Originality is what keeps things exciting for me, and I’m drawn to clothes that are different from anything I’ve seen before or might already have in my closet.” The work of young designers holds a special place in Xie’s heart and her wardrobe. “I love finding a cool new brand, something smaller, and local,” she says. “There’s nothing better than when they crossover into the mainstream, and you’ve been following them since the beginning. I remember being obsessed with Peter Do and meeting him at LVMH. He and their PR girl were shocked that I already knew the entire collection, but when you find something original, it makes you want to learn everything.”
The same quest for newness that makes Xie seek out fresh work from emerging designers led her to Bling Empire. Unlike reality stars who actively seek out opportunities to be on television, Xie felt a degree of trepidation before saying yes. Still, she welcomed taking on a new challenge. “It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” she says. “It was a positive experience, but being filmed by a camera crew [in that way] is awkward. Having your conversations recorded and being surrounded by the crew, you don’t know how to act, especially since I went into it without expectations.” Shockingly, Xie had never even seen some of the most famous examples of the genre before being filmed for Bling Empire. “I never watched Keeping up with the Kardashians or any of the Housewives series,” she admits. “Ironically, over the COVID [quarantine], I finally watched KUWTK, and I now wish I had seen it before!”
Given her newbie status in the reality world, don’t expect Xie to flip tables, throw champagne in the face of a cast mate, or get embroiled in an internet-breaking scandal any time soon. Bringing the drama on a reality show can lead to exposure—just ask Erika Jayne, NeNe Leakes, and the entire cast of Love Island—but Xie doesn’t regret keeping things classy on-screen. “I know that they can cut things to be high drama, but that’s not me,” she says with a laugh. With only days till the series drops on Netflix, the rising star already has her eye on a new batch of projects in fashion and beyond. “I’d love to create a line of sunglasses, of course, but I’m passionate about healthy eating and clean living too. It would be great to create a way that people could discover healthy food brands and recipes as easily as they discover new designers,” says Xie. “My family and I are involved in philanthropy through our non-profit, the Xie foundation, and that is important to me as well. I want to do more than just creating content because as much as I enjoy it, there is so much more that inspires me. There are always ways to do more and give back.”
This article was originally published on Vogue.com