“I’m very shy,” says Anna Shay, the reclusive billionaire who made her reality-TV debut on Netflix’s Bling Empire this month. She didn’t think, considering her age, she’d get any attention, but has over the past few weeks emerged as the show’s most popular character. She is certainly the most conspicuous — older and weirder than her moneyed peers — but her greatest appeal is that while most of Bling Empire’s cast is busy with histrionics, Anna simply wants to be rich and vibe.
The daughter of late billionaire industrialist Edward Shay and his Japanese-Russian-American wife, Anna often shows up looking magnificently negligent — in jeans and diamonds, her hair tangled and her makeup smudgy. She speaks very little and when she does it’s in a whisper, and usually to impart a bit of clear-eyed wisdom. Things like “Don’t let the clothes wear you,” and “You only have one life, this isn’t dress rehearsal.”
I was unexpectedly moved by these little insights, so I called her up to see if she could give me more. Her cell reception was spotty, possibly because she’s holed up in the Beverly Hills mansion she recently purchased from Dr. Phil’s son, who decorated it in homage to Tim Burton. I didn’t get a chance to ask her about the home (or the penis pump thrown from what I presume was one its windows in episode two), but I did get a few tips on skin, fashion, and what to do with rude party guests.
Do you have a morning routine?
Every day is different. When I had my kids, I was with them. And now it’s just my dogs and I. For breakfast, I eat as little as possible, because I should be on a diet. But I don’t eat breakfast until 2 p.m., and then it’s toast with my friend Maria.
What do you like to do in the evenings?
Well, that would depend really on how one feels. It’s different with COVID, but sometimes [my friends and I] go shopping at Target. Sometimes they want to go to the shooting range. After we might go to the Flower Market or a restaurant.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Everything my mom said about life. She and my father taught me that money isn’t everything and the most important things cannot be bought.
She often said, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” and “I know who I am, and you need to learn who you are.” She never believed in injections and [other] things that I do. For someone that is beautiful, there is always someone who is more beautiful. For someone who is smart, there’s somebody who is more smart. Just be happy and content with who you are.
What’s the secret to hosting a good party?
Well, it’s really quite simple. The secret is knowing who would sit next to who — ensure that a guest is compatible with the people to their right and their left. And remember what they drink so that the waiters don’t have to ask.
Do you have any tips for dealing with rude guests?
Just invite your best friends so they can block. This is not my mother’s advice, this is me. Why did I move Christine [in episode one]? Because I was hosting and didn’t have the time to deal with her. I saw where she was and knew she would not get along with the people next to her, because she asks unnecessary questions. And so I said [to my best friend] Maria, “Help, help.” And so Maria just small talked with her. Your best friend will always have your back. Or your husband, but he has to help host.
What is one beauty tip that you swear by?
Nurse Jamie Sherrill. And wash your face and use Pond’s and Vaseline.
What perfume do you wear?
I use oil and a light perfume. When you get out of the shower, you put on your body cream with no smell, and then the oil, and just spritz on the light perfume. Right now I’m using a rose oil called Caroline. I will send it just to you, okay?
What do you carry in your purse?
Everything. I have a purse — what do you call that? — a big purse. And I put everything that I might need for where I might go next. And then I have a little purse with the necessaries. My wallet, phone, lipstick, eyeliner. And a rubber band to put my hair up.
What is one thing you would never wear?
I believe that one creates their own style. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing something from Target or from Chanel. There’s only one thing that I wouldn’t wear. It’s something straight off of a mannequin, because the mannequin is a size zero. I never want to become … what is it? A circumstance of fashion, a victim of fashion.
A fashion victim?
Yes, a fashion victim.