Netflix’s latest craze Bling Empire has firmly sat among the most streamed shows in Singapore on the streaming platform since the reality TV series first aired on January 15.
There’s a good reason for that. Apart from its similarities to Crazy Rich Asians, which was set in Singapore, the show also features a local cast member, Kane Lim.
A young entrepreneur in the real estate business, Lim has made a name for himself in Los Angeles thanks to his flashy lifestyle, strong social media presence, and his high society friends.
As you sink your teeth into the eight-episode series, here’s everything we know about Kane Lim. Beware: some spoilers ahead.
Who is Kane Lim?
Kane Lim is a 31-year-old Singaporean living in Los Angeles, first introduced in Bling Empire as a fashion devotee: in the first episode, he chooses an outfit for fellow cast member Kevin Kreider and also gives jewellery advice to philanthropist Christine Chiu.
Lim is also introduced as a practising Buddhist. He told The Straits Times that he became a Buddhist three years ago and that it has taught him to be compassionate. “I’ve been a vegetarian for the last three years and I’ve stopped smoking,” he added.
How did Kane Lim get his following?
While Lim already had a decent following on social media thanks to his flashy lifestyle, the Bling Empire cast member attributes his Instagram fame largely to none other than Rihanna.
“I vividly remember how my phone died from the amounts of notifications I had. She has been super kind to comment when she liked an outfit, or even telling [me] what jacket I should wear to her concerts,” he recalled.
Why did Kane Lim leave Singapore for Los Angeles?
Born and raised in Singapore, Lim moved to LA about eight years ago for school and decided to live there “as I see many opportunities to bridge the East and West”, he told Voyage LA.
In a separate interview with Tatler Singapore, Lim also revealed that he saw his move to the Californian city as a way to challenge himself. “Growing up, Singapore is my home, but it’s so limited to what I want to do in terms of creativity or just expanding my knowledge,” he said.
Lim also saw the move as a way to forge his own path, noting that his life in Singapore was easier due to the support from his parents, and having the family business as a safety net to fall back on. “I just felt like my future was based on somewhere else that’s much bigger. With a bigger platform,” he said.
What does Kane Lim do for work?
In his Instagram bio, Lim describes himself as a real estate developer, investor and philanthropist. He reportedly runs an investment fund in LA with a portfolio that includes real estate deals, and on his LinkedIn page is listed as the Director of K-ix Capital and President of the company Merryland Pacific Limited.
Who are Kane Lim’s family?
After the release of Bling Empire, reports have circulated claiming that Lim’s father is a billionaire. According to Lim, those claims are false, though his father does control a “billion-dollar company”, he told Yahoo! News in a January 19 interview. “He’s not that rich! Unless there’s something he’s not telling me!” he told the outlet.
Lim’s family has business interests related to real estate, shipping, oil and tankers, Kreider revealed in Bling Empire’s first episode. In the same interview with Yahoo! News, Lim said he has deliberately avoided making the identities of his family members public, because he wants to forge his own path. “I do it on purpose because I don’t want to depend on them,” he said. “And that’s the premise of the show – to craft your own empire.”
Questions about Lim’s family were even explicitly designated off-limits in a recent interview published January 21 by 8days.sg, though he did tell the outlet that Singaporean singer Stefanie Sun and Taiwanese actor/singer Vivian Hsu are friends of the family.
Though Lim is open about his lifestyle on social media, his family is extremely private and discreet, he told Yahoo! News: “All I can tell you is that my grandparents came from Communist China with nothing. They’re so private; even in the way they dress, they’re so simple. They don’t flaunt anything. I’m actually the black sheep of the family – I’m the only one with social media and everything.”
As mentioned earlier, Lim’s LinkedIn profile names him as President of the company Merryland Pacific Limited since 2008. Merryland Pacific Limited is “wholly owned” by a Mr Lim Oon Cheng, according to a form attached to a 2015 company announcement on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). Lim Oon Cheng, also known as Kenny Lim, is believed to be Kane Lim’s father.
Lim Oon Cheng and his niece Lim Huey Yih were fined S$11.8million for insider trading in April 2015. The civil penalties were imposed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore after the two admitted to insider trading that made them a combined profit of $4.7million in 2009.
Lim Oon Cheng, who made a profit of $3.8million, also admitted to false trading, and was fined a total of $9.6million – reported at the time as the biggest penalty ever handed down for insider trading in Singapore.
Lim Oon Cheng is also the brother of oil tycoon Lim Oon Kuin, better known as O.K. Lim. The latter is the founder of Hin Leong Trading, which was embroiled in a scandal last year that saw the company file for bankruptcy in April, marking one of the world’s largest collapses of an oil trading firm.
In August and September 2020, O.K. Lim was hit with two charges of abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating in Singaporean court. The offence carries a fine and a jail term of up to 10 years. Lim, his children and a Hin Leong employee have also been sued by HSBC Holdings to recover millions in financing the bank alleges they obtained with forged documents.
What is Kane Lim’s family doing now?
In an interview with 8days.sg, Lim revealed that his father, whom he did not name, sits on the board of Sian Chay Medical Institution. The charity organisation’s website names “Lin [sic] Oon Cheng” as a director and board member from 2016 to 2018. Lim Oon Cheng donated $1million to Sian Chay in 2016.
In 2017, Kane shared on Instagram a poster of a Sian Chay private dinner and concert headlined by Stefanie Sun and Vivian Hsu. In his caption, he wrote, “This is a project that I have been working on for months that my dad is heading. It was an ambitious project to pull off by far[,] the biggest we have done and I’m so happy to announce Love From Sian Chay 2017.”
What do Kane Lim’s family think of Bling Empire?
Lim said his family’s response to the success of Bling Empire was somewhat muted. Messages he sent to his family’s WhatsApp group chat about the show’s popularity on Netflix was met with complete silence, he told 8days.sg.
“You know Asian parents,” he said. “I could tell that everyone read my messages, but there was no comment, so I deleted them. I was a bit disappointed, but I’m used to it.
“The funny thing is they told me that their friends are proud of me, but I’m like, ‘I don’t care what they think, I want to know what you think!’”
Lim then unsent his WhatsApp messages, only to receive a response in the chat: “Oh, what an achievement.”
How did Kane Lim become a cast member on Bling Empire?
Lim was reportedly instrumental to the creation of Bling Empire. He told Yahoo! News that he was approached by longtime friend Kelly Mi Li, who is also a cast member. According to Lim, Mi Li was inspired by Crazy Rich Asians, and together, the two pitched the idea of a reality television series with a similar concept to Keeping Up With The Kardashians producer Jeff Jenkins.
Once Jenkins greenlit the idea, Lim began reaching out to his influencer friends in Los Angeles to shape the show’s cast. “I didn’t ask for any producer credit, but I actually pulled a lot of the members on board,” Lim said to Yahoo! News.
What are Kane Lim’s hopes for Bling Empire?
Lim hopes Bling Empire will have a twofold impact on viewers. The first is escapist entertainment. “I hope this show will bring people joy, and laughter and also tears. I just want people to have fun and take this lightly,” he said to Yahoo! News.
He also hopes that Bling Empire will ‘humanise’ the wealthy. “We’re all fun people and we’re all humans in the end,” he said in the same interview, arguing that rich people also have problems that the average Joe doesn’t experience, such as concern for their personal security.
Lim said, “There’s also more drama. You know, sometimes they say that having less money, you can be happier. You know there’s a balance to it.”
Kane Lim is a philanthropist. What are his charity activities like?
In 2014, Lim started an Instagram account to sell branded fashion items from his own collection, channeling the proceeds to various charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and non-profit animal welfare organisation Race For The Rescues in the US.
The account, @thefashionfund_, is still up, though its last post was dated 2015. That same year, Lim sold pre-loved branded goods that were estimated to exceed S$20,000 in total retail value at the Singapore Red Cross International Bazaar.