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Ultra Rich Asian Girls: more than flaunting wealth?

10/17/2014 05:23 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST
The new reality show Ultra Rich Asian Girls hasn't even released its first episode, and already, it's garnered plenty of backlash.

The web series, from production company HBIC [Hot Bitch in Charge] TV, is centred on four women: Florence Zhao, Chelsea Jiang, Coco Wang and Joy Li.

In the teaser, you see them getting glammed up in their brand-name outfits and purses, and gallivanting around town.

The women speak in Mandarin and English, and the series is actually intended for an audience in China.

Producer Kevin Li, who has 17 years of experience in news broadcasting, came up with the idea when he started noticing an influx of wealthy immigrants coming to Vancouver from Mainland China.

"Who's driving those Ferraris and Lamborghinis at 22 years old?" he asked himself. 

"Maybe this would make a good TV show."

To Li, Ultra Rich Asian Girls is a way of telling a bigger story about this demographic of immigrants, and to have a better understanding of where their wealth comes from.

Li has spent years on programs featuring Chinese-Canadian culture and history, but never found success like this.

"I produce a two-minute video about a few Chinese girls, having a great time, and it had 60,000 hits in 24 hours," he told The Early Edition. 

"What it tells me as a producer is that people would rather watch HBIC TV than educational documentaries. So I thought, why can't I hide something educational in this programming?"

Show will feature 'cultural drama'

Li says the show will be different from the various incarnations of the Real Housewives, or Keeping up with the Kardashians.

"These girls aren't trying to be black, they're not trying to be white, they're not trying to be anything," he said.

"They're Chinese, a lot of the drama that does happen is more cultural drama. They take little jabs at you, rather than go all up in your face."

There will be an attempt to incorporate some Chinese-Canadian history in it too.

Li says the women get a historical tour of Victoria's Chinatown in the second episode.

'Ultra Rich' too much to tolerate for some

The show has already solicited plenty of controversy online, and has been criticized for highlighting a type of wealth that few people have access to.

Comments from an earlier CBC story on the show had people calling the women the "Chinese version of trailer park trash," and asking them to "take their money somewhere else."

Star Florence Zhao is unfazed by the criticism. She says her parents didn't start out rich, and taught her to work hard for her money.

Zhao has a bachelor's degree in math, and just started her own clothing line.

"People should be more open-minded and tolerant," she said.

"I think people who are already not liking the show, I think they're a bit too quick to judge. I don't think we're trying to represent anyone here, or trying to promote any kind of lifestyle."

"We're just sharing part of our lives, with whoever's interested."

It remains to be seen how much the show will target issues of cultural identity, and changing trends in Chinese immigration, but media analysts like Alden Habacon, founder of Schema Magazine, will be watching.

"I don't think there are lofty ideas of [Ultra Rich Asian Girls] changing the world, but it is putting a certain group of people on the radar in a different way," he said.

Habacon refers to how The Real Housewives of Atlanta, although considered by many as fluff, did help audiences see that there are some very wealthy African Americans living in the U.S.

He argues there is social value in that exposure, and that Ultra Rich Asian Girls might have the potential to do the same for Chinese-Canadian women.

The first Ultra Rich Asian Girls episode will be released on YouTube Oct. 26.

On mobile?Click here to watch the trailer on YouTube

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