Blake Abbie is a familiar face in the fashion industry.
Having worked at the likes of Industrie, System, and Document Journal, the editor at large of A Magazine Curated By, Abbie, who has also been a street-style darling for years, arguably lives a life as fabulous as his minted costars on the reality show “Bling Empire: New York,” which is due to premiere on Netflix Friday.
The half-Chinese and half-Scottish New York-based Canadian editor said he is aiming to bring a sense of intellectual charm to a reality franchise that has largely focused on lavish fashion, excessive spending and drama.
Abbie said he was approached by Tina Leung, his future costar and an influencer who has made a name for herself on the street-style scene with sexy looks and bold hair colors, to join the cast after the original edition of “Bling Empire” aired two years ago.
The show follows the life of a handful of Los Angeles-based super-rich Asian people, giving the audience an up-close view of their colorful, luxury-filled lifestyles. The series was an instant hit, and several stars from the show such as Christine Chiu, Anna Shey, and Jaime Xie have become fashion week front-row regulars, attracting as many flashing bulbs as Hollywood stars.
The show’s New York spin-off, which started filming at the beginning of 2022, revolves around a whole different cast including China’s Golden Eagle property empire princess Dorothy Wang; fashion influencer Tina Leung; jewelry designer and couture collector Lynn Ban; Thai heiress Nam Laks; Hong Kong businessman Stephen Hung and his wife Deborah Hung; wellness executive Richard Chang and his girlfriend, data analyst Vika Abbyaeva, and Abbie, who has been named by the New York Post as the show’s heartthrob.
Abbie described the New York cast as spontaneous, and said the group got closer after filming wrapped in May.
“While we were not friends when we all started, we all knew someone in the cast. I knew Tina, and I knew who Dorothy was through Ezra, her best friend. Lynn knew Tina, and I have a friend who’s friends with Lynn. Our group is actually really organic. There are of course different personalities and we have different roles to play, but in the end, we do get along,” he said.
According to Abbie, New York’s “Bling Empire” comes with a younger and more progressive point of view, and what happened this season truly reflects his observation that New Yorkers value “cultural coolness” over “monetary figure,” he said.
“In New York, the way that we talk about our ‘bling’ is very different. I don’t think any of my uber-wealthy friends explicitly show their wealth here. Our bling is different. My bling is cultural bling. I’m a downtown New Yorker. I have amazing friends who are artists and designers doing amazing things. What we have is our little black book with numbers for our contact. For me, I don’t care about having an Hermès Birkin. Do I like a Kelly? Yes, but I don’t need that,” Abbie said.
He prefers to view fashion as a cultural phenomenon.
“I see myself as a cultural anthropologist in a sense. What’s interesting for me about fashion is the cultural impact that it makes. That’s also how I view anything that I do. Even with ‘Bling Empire: New York.’ It’s about how our lives are shaped here as Asian Americans. I mean, I don’t really consider myself Asian American. I consider myself Chinese and Scottish but grew up in Canada, but being able to share these kinds of stories is really important to the work that I do and I want to continue doing it,” Abbie added.
Abbie describes his role in the show as the progressive-minded, fashion-loving, fluid guy who is there to observe the situation.
“Tina always calls me brainy blabbie. I come with some sort of intellectual approach to most of what I do. I don’t know if that’s going to show up in the show at all. In this season, I probably come across as a good supportive friend. I don’t get mixed up in the drama. I’m kind of Switzerland. I’m there to support people, which I think is kind of who I am in my real life as well,” Abbie said.
Abbie said that one episode in the eight-part series will focus on him. He spent most of his childhood in Vancouver with his parents and was “cute” and “chubby” until puberty hit in high school, he said. “I haven’t changed much since then.”
“I grew up comfortably and enjoy certain luxuries in life, but I’m not a billionaire like some of the other people’s families on the show. But I think because I have a different kind of perspective on the Asian American experience since I am mixed, I think they were really interested in that,” said Abbie.
The show includes a heartfelt moment where his mother reaffirms her love for his son, regardless of his queer identity.
“This is an escapist comedy, but within the comedy, there’s always some truth. My dad passed away two years ago. I talked about that, and how my queer identity aligns with my Chinese upbringing. I’m the eldest boy of my generation. There are certain kinds of responsibilities that come with that.
“In the show, my mom came to visit me in New York and we have a conversation. My family also came on to the show and we talk about different things. It was nice to clarify things with them. For me, I never had a coming-out moment. I date whoever I want and my family never questioned that as long as I have love and support. My mom wants me to have a family but I don’t think she’s so concerned for me to have a traditional Chinese family,” Abbie said.
His mother grew up in Hangzhou and later moved to Hong Kong. She married his Scottish father, 26 years her senior, in the late ’80s and Abbie was born a few years after they moved to Canada.
Fashion wasn’t Abbie’s first calling in life. He majored in opera singing and Germanic studies with a focus on 19th-century German and Viennese poetry at the University of British Columbia. Upon graduation, Abbie moved to Paris to study classical music with a singing teacher.
“This was a stupid blind dream I had when I was in university. My teacher was like, ‘you should go to Paris and model,’ and I was like, ‘OK,'” recalled Abbie.
His first encounter with the fashion industry in Paris was through the creative talent agency Total World, where he interned for a short time. He later applied for a job at Industrie magazine and worked on the issues with Liu Wen and Haider Ackermann on the cover.
When Alexia Niedzielski and Elizabeth von Guttman left Industrie to launch System in 2013, Abbie followed. He later joined as the editor at large at A Magazine Curated By in 2014, and he was the managing editor at Document Journal between 2014 and 2016. Simultaneously, he was exploring acting opportunities.
His most notable credit prior to “Bling Empire: New York” is the role of Thomas in the mainland Chinese television series “Meteor Garden,” which is based on the Japanese manga series “Boys Over Flowers.” The lead actor from the show, Dylan Wang, was recently appointed a local brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton.
Looking beyond “Bling Empire: New York,” Abbie said he would continue to work as the editor at large at A Magazine Curated By, with the hope that some more acting projects will come through.
“We’re living in a time where we can do so many things all at once. We learned that explicitly during the pandemic. I’ve been really lucky that when I was filming the last TV show, I could be in China and close an issue of the magazine and then fly to a cruise show, and then fly back,” Abbie said.
Meanwhile, he is also working on a couple of television pitches. One of them is a scripted historical drama, and the other one is a fashion-adjacent unscripted show.
“A dream would be to have a proper fashion show for Netflix. I don’t want it to be a game show. I grew up with legitimate television broadcasting fashion. Actually, what’s amazing is that Lynn’s husband Jett Kain worked with Jeanne Beker. She is an iconic ’90s fashion television reporter I grew up watching. She started FashionTelevision in Canada. What is missing in today’s fashion landscape is the energy and magic of what this industry feeds on. Everything is too controlled. We need a bit of that spontaneity,” added Abbie.