Richmond’s booming property market, as many people are aware, attracts all sorts from all over.
Few of them, one might assume, come browsing Terra Nova mansions or River Green’s multi-million dollar penthouses looking for a “bargain.”
That was until Chelsea Jiang arrived in the city a couple of weeks ago, sniffing out single-family homes in the Steveston area.
Why was 24-year-old Jiang looking to buy in Richmond?
“My parents love Richmond and they love the restaurants and they love the grocery stores,” said Jiang, a recent honours math grad from the University of B.C., who’s set to star in an online TV reality show called Ultra Rich Asian Girls.
“It’s not that expensive in Richmond; it’s really cheap and I have a budget of $2 million. I started looking two weeks ago.”
When the News caught up with Ottawa-born Jiang Wednesday, she was in the act of viewing properties in Steveston, ahead of Thursday’s River Rock Theatre launch of the show, which follows the extravagant lives of four young Asian women, living off their wealthy families in the Vancouver area.
“It’s all about the entertainment,” Jiang said of the show, a promo video of which has attracted more than 300,000 hits on YouTube and more than 2.8 million hits in China.
“(Going into TV) is part of my path, but not all of it; it’s not going to be my whole career.
“Getting into fashion and running my own business is where my goals are at.”
Jiang, who was driving a Lamborghini earlier this year, but now drives a Range Rover, said she’s developing her own fashion business right now, funded by her parents, who are real estate developers in Regina.
“My parents are helping me financially, but it’s me who’s making the decisions.”
Visits to thrift store, Buck unlikely
Jiang left Ottawa at age seven to attend school in Beijing. She moved back to Ottawa when she was 14 and came to Vancouver at 18 to study math at UBC.
Jiang currently lives in a luxury condo on Marine Drive near UBC — the same building, she says, that Premier Christy Clark called home until a couple of years ago.
In case you’re wondering, you’re unlikely to find Jiang shopping at the local thrift store, with appearances more likely at Leone and Holt Renfrew in Downtown Vancouver.
It’s doubtful you’ll also see her in the Buck & Ear in Steveston, with Yaletown her “hang-out” of choice with friends.
Asked if there are comparisons to fellow reality TV show The Real Housewives of Vancouver, Jiang said she’s not a fan, although she does like the Beverley Hills version of the series.
She wouldn’t say why. Perhaps the Vancouver one was too lowbrow?
Born and raised in Vancouver, producer and creator of Ultra Rich Asian Girls Kevin Li noticed there were three distinct groups of Chinese-Canadians, “the villagers; the immigrants from Hong Kong fleeing the takeover and the new ones from mainland China.
“The most recent ones are the most interesting ones to me; they’re driving the Ferraris and the Lamborghinis and carrying the expensive handbags,” said Li, who’s spent 17 years in the television industry, as an editor at CityTV and CTV in mainstream news and later as a producer of documentaries and other Asian reality shows.
“People are talking about it and I thought about a year ago, while chatting with friends, that this would be a really good topic and maybe I could make this into a show.”
Li has his own production company, complete with equipment, so, other than some private sponsors, didn’t need too much investment to pull off the show, which premieres on YouTube Sunday, Oct. 26, with a possible 13 episodes in series one.
Indeed, such was the reach of the show, the casting call attracted interest from as far away as Singapore and Taiwan, asking for young women to pitch themselves as possible stars.
“There are lots of people with this lifestyle out there, but not too many with the stories — such as Chelsea and her math honours.”
Out of 40 entrants, Li met with 16 hopefuls, before paring it down to Chelsea and:
Flo Z (Florence), who holds a master’s degree from the prestigious Istituto Marangoni Fashion Design school in Milan and speaks Mandarin, English, French and a little Italian; Coco Paris (Coco), at 19, is the youngest of the bunch, is Taiwanese and a singer;
Joy is an international student studying fashion marketing and is an aspiring model.
The show itself, which will have English subtitles, is a cross between the millionaires on Rich Kids of Beverley Hills and Keeping up with the Kardashians, according to Li.
“For three months, we simply followed them around their daily lives; checking out fashion shows and parties and we filmed them traveling around Europe together,” he said.
“They knew of each other, but didn’t revolve in the same circles.”
As well as living in luxury condos and driving Lamborghinis, Flo’s family owns a Bentley and Rolls Royce.