Kelly Mi Li // Ep 50 // Entrepreneur, Producer, and Star of Bling Empire

Welcome to Episode 50 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Kelly Mi Li on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Kelly Mi Li is a Chinese-American serial entrepreneur, film producer, and the founder of Wet Paws Media. She established one of the first and more successful tech incubators in Los Angeles in 2011 and was the managing partner at East West Artists, a company under HTC that managed some of the biggest musicians and actors in Asia and America, from 2016 to 2019. While at East West Artists, Kelly teamed with her own Greyscale Lab merchandising firm to brand and service some of today’s top talents.

Now as a television and film producer, Kelly brings a unique blend of talent management, merchandising, and IP development. She has an animation film with Stan Lee in post-production called Panda Vs Aliens, a Michael Shannon film called Echo Boomers that premiered both in theaters and digitally on November 13, 2020, and a full FBI decoding series called Cypher with Sonar Entertainment that has hit #1 on Netflix in the territories where it has launched (Cypher is set to premiere in the US spring 2021). She also recently starred and EP’d in the Netflix hit unscripted series, Bling Empire.

Currently, Kelly is in post-production on a thriller feature titled AMP House and in pre-production for Aaron Eckhart’s crime drama, Afterward. She has five more projects in the pipeline to be shot in 2021 under her new production company, Wet Paws Media.

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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. Hurting is Kelly mili. Kelly is a Chinese American serial entrepreneur film producer, and the founder of wet paws media. She established one of the first and more successful tech incubators in Los Angeles in 2011. And was the managing partner at east-west artists. A company under HTC. They managed some of the biggest musicians and actors in Asia and America from 2016 to 2019. Now, as a television and film producer, Kelly brings a unique blend of talent management, merchandising and IP development. She also recently started ups and the Netflix hit unscripted series of Ling empire. Currently Kelly is in post production on a thriller feature titled amp house. And in pre-production for Erin Eckhart’s crime drama afterward. She has five more projects in the pipeline to be shot in 2021 under her new production company, wet paws media Kelly. Welcome to the show.

Kelly: (00:01:22)  Thanks Maggie. Thanks Ryan.That was an awesome intro. You’re so impressive and Cowie. Thanks for having me. I’ve been really excited. I’m a fan of you guys as a work as well. So. Really excited,


Bryan: (00:01:37) really excited to have you on the show and congratulations on all your successes. We want to hop right into it. Kelly, tell us about your upbringing and what led to like the hustle mentality.


Kelly: (00:01:46) Okay. Oh, okay. So I was born in China in , so it’s a little bit of Southern part of China till I was about nine and a half 10. We moved to the us because my mom was doing anti-cancer research for UIC. Um, at that time it was definitely, yeah. Huge change just because, you know, there was a language barrier. I had to learn a whole new language as well as you know, um, we all know the immigrant story, you know, we, our first apartment I think was like, $250 a month. And we had to get a roommate at one point and my mom just worked super hard. She was, um, you know, doing the researcher in daytime and she was working two other jobs at nighttime at restaurants and stuff like that. Just to make sure that, you know, the bills get paid then, um, to reestablish ourselves. Um, my, both my parents were doctors in China, but unfortunately when you moved to the U S you have to do your residency all over again. My mom just really didn’t have the support. For it, I guess, to do that. Right. She wants, she needed to make money too, in order to support us. Um, my dad, at times he came out, you know, his visa was under my mom’s so illegally, he wasn’t able to work. And so he did little odd jobs here and there, like washing carpets and stuff like that. After a year, I. I think as a man, he just like Eagle kind of got in a way where he just didn’t really, you know, you know, he just didn’t speak the language. He didn’t really have a group of friends here and he didn’t really want to work with our jobs. So he ended up going back to China and he just never came back. So my mom and me kinda was at my mom, raised me single single mom. And then, um, she just worked really hard and rebuild herself. Uh, by the time I, uh, started going to high school, we moved to a really nice suburb. So I was able to attend, you know, Better school. And just from there, she really just established itself. Um, I think that’s where I really got my, you know, entrepreneurship mentality. Um, it’s just really my mom.


Bryan: (00:03:34) Wow. That’s your mom is so, so strong and yeah, totally. Or did you go somewhere else?


Kelly: (00:03:40) My, my mom actually still listen to Chicago right now. So I really hope that she moves out to LA soon. Um, you know, I’m, I’m, uh, finishing my new house right now, so there’s a lot more extra rooms for her and my grandma. Um, my mom’s been taking care of my grandma by herself for 20 something years. And, uh, yeah, she’s just, she’s amazing.


Maggie: (00:04:04) Oh, yeah. A lot of prompts to your mom’s. She’s definitely super strong. Um, and so back in Chicago, how was it like growing up in Chicago? You know, when your parents had moved to the U S I’m sure it was very hard for them having a language barrier and everything like that. What was your upbringing like in Chicago and how did that shape your eye?


Bryan: (00:04:19) Yeah. Did it make you more confident in being Asian or it just right now, like, we want to dive deep into it later, but like the Asian reputation, the media part, it must’ve came from somewhere. You know, and most likely was, can you came from your childhood identity? We want to hear more about that.


Kelly: (00:04:33) What I really, I appreciate it with my mom was that she, you know, um, show his, kept me up with my, you know, with my Chinese culture. We celebrate all the Chinese, uh, holidays, but at the same time to school says she put me into, we’re not all. Uh, Asian kids. So my, the schools I went to growing up in elementary school, middle school, as well as high school, uh, was very diversified. And I think that’s why that I’m able to connect with a lot of different people for me, like growing up. I think my mom also never really, um, Tommy, like. Race in a sense where I was just taught to treat everybody the same. So I have friends from all walks of life, all diversity, and doesn’t matter, like if they’re virtual cores. So I think that was also really great. So in my mind it was funny. Cause I didn’t really realize race was a thing it’s I don’t know if it’s, it’s not really not evil, whatever, but I just didn’t really realize it’s an issue until later on in life, just because I was taught to, you know, treat everybody exactly the same. Um, So, and then, um, but you know, during the weekends we always, uh, you know, always surround ourselves with a lot of, uh, you know, Chinese and Asian, uh, friends. And then, you know, on, during the weekdays, when I went to school, I have my friends who are, you know, Who are India who are, uh, who Y who are Chinese, who are black. So just kind of all diversified. Um, but you know, and then my mom also, she, she, uh, for fun, she watches Chinese soap opera. So I got really into it with her. And that’s also, I think one of the things that kind of caught me up, uh, kept me up with my Chinese culture as well.


Bryan: (00:06:10) Uh, yeah, that’s, that’s really awesome to hear how connected you are and how you view the world too. It’s like, it’s very diverse and. Um, so I, you know, we hear you, so we looked you up online and we noticed, you know, like about your households and everything. And we understand that we won’t dive into like you and your ex-husband like, we’ll let people listen to that in different podcasts. But right now I want to focus on, you want to hear about like the first turning point. What was your first hustle? Like and how did it lead to like where you are today with your media companies and producing bling empire, you know, like how does that all connect together? Curious.


Maggie: (00:06:47) Yeah. You’re super successful. And we just love to know like, where you got, you know, how did you kind of build this grit and hustle mentality? You know, I know you got a lot of, from, uh, from your mom and I’d love to know, like, you know, the process of building so many companies

Bryan: (00:06:59) yeah. Going from like zero to now, what was that entire journey like?


Kelly: (00:07:05) Yeah. Yeah, I don’t even know. Like it just, I think, you know, God has a weird way of leading me into things and I’m kind of just here to do his work and, you know, follow the way it’s supposed to. Um, I started, I think the hustle mentality really started when I was like, I think it’s 12, as soon as I was able to babysit. So starting then, I, I think by the age of 12, I’ve never really asked my mom for money. Um, so I started babysitting, so I working at restaurants and, uh, when I turned 18, uh, I got my life insurance license. As soon as I turned 18, like the day after I went and got my life insurance and health insurance license. And I started working for New York life. And even during the time I was doing a lot, I was going to school and I was doing that and I started. Uh, I was going to school for finance. So I worked for, I was doing personal banking as well with this bank called Harris bank, but at nighttime and then the weekends, I was always still at, you know, working at restaurants and working at nightclubs. So I, cause I I’m like a social person. So for me, I like if I’m going to be out, I’d rather be making money. Right. Um, so just one thing led to another, um, by the time I was, uh, You know, I start really, my passionate time was a really food and beverage. I loved, I love to just the energy and I love making people happy. So I quit Ashley, my finance job, and I had to drop out of school and I started doing just really focused on food and beverage. Um, I was, uh, I was, I held the open bunch of nightclubs and restaurants in Chicago. And then when I came out to LA one time, I, uh, Experienced boutique hotels. Cause at that time in Chicago, locals didn’t really hang out. Hotels, hotels in Chicago were very corporate. It was like Hilton Hyatt, you know, Marissa. Um, they were just, and there weren’t any like boutique hotels seeing. And then when I came out to LA and then it was like, I think I stayed at the Mondrian. This is years ago when it was all white and there was a sky bar and people were partying locals or, you know, just having a great time. And I was like, Wow, this is what I want to do. So I actually moved when Bassett Chicago pack two bags moved to LA about two weeks later. Um, and had no plan in place a week later, I got a job, um, to open up, uh, to Ashley, just boutique hotel by ended up doing two hotels for them. Um, and then by the age I was 20, I think 23, I, uh, bought my own restaurant on sunset. Um, cause I was, you know, at that time was 18 hours a day, seven days a week, I had literally no breaks. So I was like, why am I doing this for somebody else? You know, I’m like, I need to be doing this for myself. So, um, that was my first business and I sold it about three years later. Um, and then during that time with the restaurant, I also opened up a private lounge, uh, called, uh, Jim Morrison’s. It was Jim Morrison’s old apartment, so it’s called the Morrison room and it was one of the speakeasy places where, you know, No press, no pictures allowed. Uh, you walk through a dark alley, you have to follow the light of lizard. Cause he’s a lizard cane. And finally find this like lounge that has beautiful view that looks over sunset that nobody even knew existed. Um, so that was such a great experience for me, but I was, I was just burnt out. So after I sold my business and that I started getting into tech investment, um, and then at the time, uh, me and my, my, my ex, um, Um, open started won the first incubators in Los Angeles. Um, and we’ve invested over, you know, over 30 startup companies and, um, yeah, and then they’re just all really great companies. They’re all still doing really well. I’m just really proud of just seeing how, like, I love seeing business starting off with a seed and just really grow because. And then you grows into this, like, you know, some of the companies, hopefully they’ll go, I appeal soon. And just being able to see their journey is it’s a, it’s amazing and be able to support as well. You know, because as entrepreneurs we have to support each other is all about collaboration. Um, it’s all, you know, it’s all teamwork, you know, it takes an army to make a project work. So everybody, you know, have to do their part and everybody has to get the credit that’s due. And, um, it’s a team effort. Um, And then, uh, let’s see, after that, I, uh, I was, uh, I, I, I was just hanging out with a lot of my friends who were in entertainment. There were a lot of artists and talents and, um, at that time everybody wanted their own street wear line. You know, like this is when Drake’s will be all came out everything. So, uh, I partnered up with a good friend of mine that I’ve known for, you know, years, his name’s Joel, you know, boy. And, uh, we ended up. Uh, establishing this company called gray scale lab, which we still have today. And, uh, we started a company start off by doing, um, merchandise, um, and brands and products for different. Celebrities and talents. And we worked with some amazing people. And now as things kind of evolved, um, last year we kind of really focused on more corporate clients. And then, um, last year, uh, you know, when the whole pandemic first started, we were, uh, helping hospitals because a lot of hospitals that were short of a PVE staff, so we were ended up, um, Actually donating, we were donating Lauer, overnight shipping stuff to, to, uh, to New York. And, uh, because of our relationship in the import export business, we somehow just got into it that we supply directly from hospitals to try to call any of the middle people out. So, um, avoid people from psychology. But that was that part with the entertainment thing back. So, you know, because I, president came in, um, and, uh, one of my good friend and mentors and partners names, Jason ma um, he started, I think, I think everybody knows Jason. Jason at the time was looking for somebody to kind of partner and then run his East West artists just because Jason is so busy, he’s traveling all the time. So, um, so you know, me and Jason spoke and then that’s how I got into East West artists. And I was there for about two years. And then afterwards I realized, you know, I just really, I want to produce I’m a business person producing is kinda like, it’s kinda like running a business where you’re putting different parts together. Um, but you never really get bored because every project. You know, it’s its own quote unquote business. And once you’re done, you move to your next one kind of thing. So, and then that’s one of the things that is my problem. One of the things is that I get bored sometimes when I, when I want to do something, I’m just, I, if I feel like I’m doing something over and over again, I’m like, okay, I need more. I need, I need another challenge. I need a, you know, I need something new. So, um, that’s also why you, no, I started producing afterwards. I just, it’s just a better fit for me for being an entrepreneur. Yeah.  


Bryan: (00:13:33) Wow. I love that. There’s so much to unpack. Like I really want to unpack that. I there’s a similarity, similar story to your story at any, any, any other successful person we had in the podcast. It’s like they took that risk, you know, being to LA or New York or wherever on a whim and trusted that things kind of unfold for them. And it’s crazy because when you look back, it makes sense. Like we, what happens today is because you did this, this and this, you know,


Maggie: (00:14:05) Yeah, I just wanted to say you are so amazing. You’re super multifaceted. And I love how you’re just like open to take risks and go into different industries and see how you’re able to help. And I love, you know, your whole hostel story is just super amazing. I love it. And thank you so much for offering to, you know, just help the hospitals during COVID. That’s just so amazing for any of you.


Kelly: (00:14:28) Anything we have to do because we have the view, the society. There’s one, right? Cause we have to, you know, unity is what really it’s like, I I’m really hoping that we have more of, because people can’t shouldn’t look at each other, like, this is you, this is me. This is your problem is my problem. Because end the day, we’re all, we’re all human and we’re guests on this planet on earth. Yeah. So we had to take care of each other. So I think that’s one of the things that, you know, again, I’m just really passionate about is that just let’s all come together. Share love, unity, share healing, all of us.


Bryan: (00:14:55) Yeah. One thing we also have to appreciate is your. Hustle mentality and your girlfriend totality, you know, it’s like you keep challenging yourself. Like what’s next? What’s next? What’s next?


Kelly: (00:15:06) Yeah. Yeah, the thing is that, you know, like, let’s say with Chicago, if I didn’t move out from Chicago and because for me, I’m like, Chicago is always going to be there. My friends are always going to be there. Right. So if things don’t work out, the worst comes to worst. I’ll go back to Chicago, you know, and same thing with the business, you know, Hey, I came from nothing and of course also. You know, don’t get me wrong. Like a lot of my business I’ve done. Yes, we are very successful. Now. I’m really grateful for that, but there’s also a lot of dips being an entrepreneur is being able to pick yourself back up again when you’re at a down and build again, you know, everybody, not everybody, but a lot of people can do it. You know, once or, or something that’s, uh, you know, when login opportunity, everything comes together, you can make it once. But I think the true entrepreneurs, ones that who can keeps getting knocked down and keeps coming back up and keep rebuilding. So, um, you know, so I’ve been, I’ve lived a really, you know, poorly. So for me, I like I’ve done it. I can do it again. So I want to take the risk and, uh, make a difference and build things that’s meaningful.


Maggie: (00:16:04) Yeah. And so as an entrepreneur, I don’t think definitely want to talk about blink empire a little bit after too, but the, as we’re on the topic of entrepreneurship, I would love to know if you had any challenges being like a female entrepreneur, um, especially as an Asian female entrepreneur. And like, if you did, like, how did you overcome those struggles?


Kelly: (00:16:23) Um, you know, I’ve always been male dominated industry, you know, from finance to restaurants who tech to entertainment, they’re all male dominated industry. I think my big thing is that walking a room. Walking in a room like yourself and know your value and know your power. Because I think a lot of people, what happens to them is that they project already. What other people think of that before they walk in a room like, Oh my God, I’m going to be in a boardroom with, you know, uh, These very powerful men who are twice my age, who are, you know, maybe different ethnicity, whatever it is, they’re projecting already. Oh, they’re going to what they’re going to see me. They’re going to see me as a tiny little Asian girl. Who’s young, who’s low. You got to get rid of all that stuff. Know your value, walk in, like you belong there and talk to them like they’re your equal. That’s how also, how people respect you because you can’t project that you can’t project. What people think of you when you walk in. Right. So I think that’s one of the things I think that’s very important.


Bryan: (00:17:21) Yeah, that’s super powerful. Or for we’re released just to hear, because that has been our focus for majority of last year. It was like, we want it to focus on female empowerment, email the female entrepreneurs, because the statistic shows like ventured back emails for companies and female entrepreneurs in general has dipped in thousands morning. You know, and we just want to listen to you and know that there’s other people listening, listen to you right now, Kelly, about it really inspired by your story and your hustle story. 


Maggie: (00:17:53)   And so would love to talk about bullying. I’m higher now start like, take us back and we know that you, um, had produced it. And so a lot


Bryan: (00:18:04) to know it was,


Kelly: (00:18:06) it was, it was definitely very challenging, but it was so fun and rewarding.


Maggie: (00:18:12) Yeah. Brian and I watched the whole series and we were absolutely in love with it. Um, I think it’s, you know, when we watched the trailer, it’s hard to see like what exactly is inside the actual series. But when we actually watched it there just so much about Asian culture issues as Asian representation, and we were just really in love with it. And I would love to know, like, what was that process? Like? How did the inspiration for bringing empire start and, you know, w w what was it like?


Bryan: (00:18:35) Yeah. Yeah. When you posted the Asian officer network, I’m like, Whoa, like. Because when we hop into zoom, initially, you didn’t talk about these things probably caught me by surprise. I want to hear the origin story about it.


Kelly: (00:18:51) Okay, great. I mean, it kind of started when I read the book crazy rich Asians, you know, and when I read the book, I was like, Oh my God, these are all fictional characters of my friends. You know, even in the book, they mentioned a lot of real places, you know, that they referenced to and I’m like, My real friends, family actually owned these places. So, um, you know, started kind of working on this, this idea afterwards and start putting together, you know, so talking to some of my friends and, uh, King was the first person I sign up with the cats, you know, um, you know, of course at the beginning was a little bit difficult because his parents are very private as they should be. Um, but once a guy has. Parents’ blessing, you know, things kind of start rolling. Um, and then, um, when I obviously what I’m match up Jenkins and, um, Jeff just a, such a veteran in this industry and he’s just the best at what he does and being able to partner up with him. And he really helped me round the ideal up a little bit more. And, um, He bought Anna in and he, uh, who I absolutely adore, but Anna has been friends with him for 10 years. He bought Anna and then Christie, I actually have known for over 10 years as well. So the cast kind of just rounded up really nicely and, um, Yeah. And I think also, because the thing is that, you know, a lot of these Asian projects, we all help each other launched the next one. Right? So for us, you know, the really mentality started after when crazy rich, Asian and movie does so well. Um, and this whole. Kind of helped us kickstart our project. And then we’re just really hoping that, you know, blink empire is going to help kick start another project. That’s all Asian led just think it’s so important to have Asian representation, you know, in mass media, um, growing up in the U S it was, you know, it was difficult because you didn’t really have anybody to look up to and on television. So, you know, I remember when we were like young girls playing game is like, It’s like, which celebrity do you look at? Do you look like, you know, and then my friends had all these things, all these people to pick from, and I’m like Lucy, Lou, or Lucy, Lou I’m like I had nobody to pick from. Um, you know, so I think also, you know, this. Again, being one of the first, all Asian led reality shows. Um, just hope that we broke another barrier, um, because you know, there’s, there’s just generalize, you know, like there’s no scripted movies, scripted TV series, sit-com, you know, fresh off the ball. Um, but now that, you know, hopefully with reality, we’re able to show co showcase the Asian culture and Asian community a little bit more as well.


Bryan: (00:21:16) Thank you for that. I mean, I really appreciate the storyline and the highlighting the different Asian cultures, because I asked for us because we’re not a modeling. A lot of people look at Asians, like all chains, but when you bring in, like, there’s the Vietnamese, Korean is Chinese and we all, we yeah. Were Asian, but we’re all different and really freaky for. Highlighting that diversity, not only within the entertainment industry, but diversity in the Asian community, because we’re all different from each other and makes laugh.


Kelly: (00:21:47) Absolutely. And we really hope that, you know, when we get future seasons, we can really expand on that because we only got eight episodes. So there’s so much we can do. And then I just think Asian culture, we just, there’s so much more we can talk about. Um, so I’m just really hoping that, you know, other seasons, we can just expand the storyline and narratives a little bit more.


Maggie: (00:22:05) Yeah. And I think one thing to point out is that, you know, I love how we’re all celebrating that there is more Asian representation of media. You know, when blink empire came out, we were all super happy that there is more, more Asian representation. But I think that I can speak for everyone that we would love to get to a place where it’s normal. You know, it’s normalized to have more Asian representation, you know, and I don’t know when that’s going to be, but I think we’re taking the right steps to get there.


Kelly: (00:22:31) Okay. It’s going to be a journey and it’s a movement. And then all we can do is just project by project, you know, day by day. And also, you know, one of the things that. It’s very important to have, have Asian reputation in front of cameras, but as well as bad to cameras, you know, so there’s a lot of amazing filmmakers costume designers, um, as well as, you know, like product production designers, all that stuff. So just hope that there’s going to be more in front of cameras as well.


Bryan: (00:22:56) Yeah. We love the positive side since story, but the same time we understand that by running Asian Austin network, a lot of people, our community do get discouraged with the answer. No. Uh, uh, no MIT is not good and just turn away and we understand that producing the stereo is not an easy task and I’m pretty sure you heard no. I’m trying to highlight that a moment where you’re like, just taking in all of those nos and trying to like, like navigate that and just feel, stay strong revision. Cause it’s super important for the audience to hear, especially. On the younger audience, because we get discouraged when people tell us no, especially someone who is older and quote unquote, more establishing powerful. And we hear that as like, Oh, they’re right. Maybe they’re right. And we doubt ourselves, but I want to hear you. And how’d you want to combat in your own experience by producing the show?


Kelly: (00:23:40) I actually loved the war. No, just because for me, I think the worst thing is for somebody not answering your bag, like I’m like, Nope, perfect. That that’s not as, because then you’re, it’s a, you know, that, you know that you’re closer to it. Yes. Right. And then the thing is, again, belief in your project, believe in your vision, believing your product and just really believing yourself because you know, like, I think like also the thing with, uh, you know, with knows that we’re, we all get a lot of nos, you know, and the people who are successful are the ones who are not doesn’t get them down. And then just also a little bit with, uh, you know, I’m a very emotional person, cause I’m, you know, I’m, that’s one thing I’ve been working on the last couple of years is a lot being more vulnerable. But with business a lot of time, you have to remove the emotion from a word. So, um, no, it doesn’t have to be a negative or it could just, it could also be a positive way if you put your emotion to it, to put, take the emotion out of it. So I know not to take the emotion out of it. Um, so I think, just say don’t get discouraged, keep going and believe in yourself and you’re going to get a yes. And, um, no, it’s just basically, uh, you know, just close with getting you closer to it. Yes.


Bryan: (00:24:51) The gritty part of it is what separates any successful person from Google. We’re just dreaming. So I appreciate that. We want to like dive deep into the mental health aspects of the Asian community. And particularly when washed empire, we noticed that you and your boyfriend did therapy and really liked that breaking the negative connotation of that. And before we kind of dive deep into that and want to talk to him more about you and Andrew.


Maggie:  (00:25:19) And I just want to add on top of that, like just watching a whole series, just seeing how, like your relationship with Andrew had evolved during the whole series. I’m sure you guys know you, you guys have been together much longer than, you know, what we saw during the series, but I just love like your growth, um, while we were watching it and I love how you’re able to be so strong and know when to walk away. Because when, you know, you did see episodes where, you know, you did get mad. No, you be like, I’m just gonna step away for a little bit and let you cool off. And I’m gonna come back when we can be able to talk in a very mature way. And I love like you showing that strength. Um, but like my, you know, the love to hear your perception on like couples therapy and how like eight Jens perceive that because there is like a bad connotation to therapy in a way, but we want to break out of that stereotype because it does show a lot of strength to go to couples therapy. Do you want to have like a more solid foundation by mother?


Kelly: (00:26:16) Yeah, no, absolutely. For me, you know, um, I really didn’t even. I really didn’t start exploring therapy till I was in my thirties. And I really, I, I want to say, I really didn’t know myself until I started going to therapy therapy works. I think it’s so great to get to know yourself more. Um, you know, drew and I, uh, Paris was filmed the end of 2018. So it’s been a while. Um, and after the show wrap, we took about six month break that we literally had no contact and it wasn’t like a plan like, Hey, we’re going to get back together. It was like, This is not working out. We’re going to just we’re for short breakup we’re we might never get it together. And that wasn’t on the plan. So, you know, during the time my, my assistant was dropping off the dock and vice versa, I’m picking up the dog. So we really didn’t have that much contact. Um, and then during the time was when I really started doing therapy, myself, individual therapies, and I start reading a lot of books and I realized there. Like, I just, I, you know, it’s like, it’s like, you live through it yourself for like 30 plus years. So you’re like, you should, you feel like you should know yourself, but like you really didn’t start digging deeper and peeling off the layers until, um, until again and reading and going to therapy. And also one of the things I kind of realize is that. Asian Asian male and female, especially female, I think has a lot of the, uh, similar negative core beliefs because we grew up, you know, with the tiger moms or nothing’s good enough. Right. So I remember, you know, in school I was a mom. I were so hard. I got a 90 on this Tasha, why don’t you get a hundred. But it’s the same thing as a, you know, she’s like, but you know, the difference. So just nothing was really happy. So I developed a negative core belief that I was, I’m just never good enough. Doesn’t matter what I do is never good enough. Um, you know, and also another thing is that just that, you know, in, in Asian culture, we’re taught to work really, really hard, but we’re never taught how to work really smart. Um, so for me to, um, go into therapy and really digging in and realize. You know, I had codependency issues, you know, maybe it wasn’t as clear on the show as it was, you know, choose codependency because he had famine issues. But my codependent issue is I, you know, because my, my, uh, my dad left at a young age. I. Wanting to be in a relationship that I feel needed, I needed to be, feel needed. That makes sense. And that’s also codependency. So, um, you know, so therapy works and I just really hope more people will go to a find the right therapist. So cause cause there are a lot of options out there, but find a one that, that, um, that gets you and that’s really gonna do the work with you. That really cares. Um, I think just, yeah, the stigma with the therapy, you know, mental health. Yeah. This is bad. And we will love to break that because people think that, you know, especially the Asian culture, think that therapy means something’s wrong with you. If there are paintings weak, and as you know, we’re very prideful culture. Um, but there’s nothing wrong with you at all. I’m going to therapy is extremely normal. Anybody should go to everybody. I think we should go to therapy and, you know, we get trainers for our physical body. Why don’t we get therapists for our mental health as well? So, yeah.


Maggie:  (00:29:20) So, yeah, I mean like that and you undo it together still, right?


Kelly: (00:29:25) Um, sorry that I slept that story. Sorry. You know, I, uh, I think it was like, you know, I don’t know how it started to heat. Maybe. I don’t know. He was dropping off the dog one day or whatever, and we’ll go home and we’ll take the dog and we’ll go on for walks. So just slowly, like, you know, we’ll see each other, like once a week for an, for 30 minutes hour when, when we exchanged dogs and then, um, And also I realized a lot of work. He was doing, he was doing tremendous amount of work on himself as well. I’m so proud of him, so proud of him, um, because you know, anger issue, a lot of that stuff. It it’s a, um, you learn it from your childhood and also your parents learned from. Their parents, it kind of goes on because they think that’s normal way of expressing. Cause for, to him in his mind, there was nothing, right. It was just his way of expressing things. Um, so you know, him and being able to just complete working on himself and again, lots of reading and therapy, um, you know, just, just one thing led to another and we’re back together. We’ve been back for, I think about. It’s been about like seven a month now, since we got back together and things are just night and day. And then I just, you know, the other day I was, was like two mornings ago. I was telling him we’re still living separately right now. And I think it’s, it’s it’s for the bus. And then eventually we’ll move in, move back in together and hopefully build a family. Um, but the other day I was, I was talking to him. I was like, you know, for the first few years of our relationship, my heart always wasn’t settled. It always, I always had so much anxiety, always like, yeah, Don’t know what’s going to come and don’t know what’s going to tick. And don’t know like when the next big thing, I don’t know where it’s going to happen, where like now I just feel like when I wake up in the morning, I feel grounded. I feel calm. I feel peace. And that’s such a beautiful feeling.


Bryan: (00:31:12) Yeah. Yeah. I am cherry. I cheer him the whole time because. I mean, I don’t, I’m not sure if I should say it in the podcast, but I do resonate his anger issues. And I, I think that there’s more to that because I think that in Asian culture, like the guys that are typically more angry, you know, and it is generational trauma and I’m always cheering for him because it took personally for me a while to like, overcome. The issue of, and nowadays is pretty much a hippie, but I’m really cheering for him. And I really appreciate that you guys are, are working things out and cheering for you guys to see each other, hopefully in season two, you know,


Kelly: (00:21:55) I am, I’m hoping season two as well. And I’m, I hope that the audience would be both see the loving and the caring side of him because, you know, he really has a. He is, he has such a pure heart. And, um, it would just, you know, that we were able to show see too much of it during season one, because yeah, during filming, we weren’t, we were going through a difficult time, you know, personally as well. So of course the camera will catch all that stuff. Um, so I’m just hoping to seed into it that we’ll be able to see a more WRAL, you know, um, and a caring side of Jew. Um, but yeah. And also another thing like you mentioned is that, you know, let’s all dig deeper, you know, like the surface layer. Yes. The surface layer has angry and he is blah, blah, blah. But let’s dig deeper. What, what triggered out? What was the, what’s the reason he’s, he’s the way he is and let’s do our best and, um, be able to help another person, you know, and vice versa, obviously.


Bryan: (00:32:43) Yeah. I guess I’m kind of curious too. And this is from my own personal curiosity. What was it like being on set and being filmed about. Being so vulnerable on camera. Like where are you? Like some points where you just like, cut, cut. I don’t want this on the air, but what was it like, like being filmed, constantly talking about your emotions. How about things that, that you’re sharing to reach a large audience, essentially, essentially, you know,


Maggie:  (00:33:07) the relationship, you know, that type of stuff becomes really personal and a lot of people, they post on social media, just the good times about the relationship, knowing that too. You very vulnerable and talk about the hardships of your relationships. So what was that like as well?


Kelly: (00:21:55)  Yeah, I actually, there hasn’t been a moment where I was like, cut. You know? So at the beginning, the most difficult thing for me was that, you know, I’ve always been behind the scene. I’m a producer behind the scenes. So for me to switch and being in front of the camera, I have to stay present and like, not worry about what’s going on behind the scenes. For me, it’s so weird. I’m like the corner of my eyes. I will be like, I got to pick that up or like somebody is going to trip on that wire or something like that. I had the ribs remove myself, then just focus on, you know, being the present and being in the moment and also, you know, with signing off for the show. And when we decided, you know, we’re going to, because originally I wasn’t going to be on camera. I was, it was originally for the show when we pitched it was always the eyes and stand behind the camera. But, um, No, but once I made the commitment to being in front of the camera, um, you know, you, you just, you have to, you just have to be vulnerable. I have to let go and have to almost think the camera’s not there. And don’t you can’t think about, Oh my gosh, 192 countries is going to see this. You just, you just can’t. Um, my kids are so smart. They know what’s acting, they know what’s real. And you know, I don’t want to have. Sorry. I want to say, I don’t want to half-ass anything. Right. So if we’re going to do something, we a hundred percent. So, um, you know, at a point that also our coolers are every single crew member was so great that you just, you forgot you just forget you forget it. Yeah.


Maggie:  (00:34:39) Yeah. That’s amazing.


Bryan: (00:34:40) Out of curiosity, do you, like, how has your life changed and your visions change after being in prior chemo and what kind of. Do you notice any subtle differences? Like, Oh wow. Like people are like recognizing you in the streets wa like you like dramatically change after the show.


Kelly: (00:34:57) Um, my schedule definitely got a lot busier, you know, I didn’t have, I already had a really, really busy schedule and I have great staff around me that just, that takes care of a lot of things for me. Otherwise, there’s no way I can function. Um, but just got a lot busier. Um, as far as people recognizing me, I literally have not been all that much. I was doing an interview the other day. Yeah. How do you find this new, like fame and stardom then when you go out, like, I was like, I leave, I only leave my house to walk my dog, like around the block. That’s really it. But I’m hoping that when things are, you know, opening up and more and more, and then we’re able to just, you know, connect with the, with the fans. I try my best to, you know, as much as I can through, you know, DMS and all that stuff to connect with anybody you just cause there’s a lot of worries out there as well. Like a lot of, you know, because of what I showed on, you know, on television. Um, a lot of women are opening up to me about their relationships and their problems, as well as, you know, we share books with each other, you know, so like some people would recommend books for me and I’ll recommend books for them. And, you know, I just little love to build a community of, um, Just that we can all heal together and just all share more love together. Um, so yeah, I will, I’m looking forward to be able to connect with more people once COVID is done.  


Maggie:  (00:36:09)  Oh, I love that. Yeah. I definitely think that the emails had really looked up to you just because you know, of everything that happened in the series. So thank you so much for being such an inspiration. Um, and so this was a recorded, uh, before COVID right.


Kelly: (00:36:23) We were very lucky. We wrapped at end of 2019. So before Colby, um, I just, you know, like, because we love these big parties, we’d love throwing these part big parties. So, um, you know, if it was during COVID, it would have been almost impossible


Maggie:  (00:36:41)   each episode and I’d be like, They have so many parties to go to. And I’m like, I only go to a party like once, every couple of months, I’m like, yeah.


Bryan: (00:36:49) Was it like for you? It was that like for you, when you, when you were living in LA, I was like, yeah.


Maggie:  (00:36:59)  And so I I would love to know, like, what part was your favorite part in the series? Because you guys have so many events you guys have like, thank yoga. Meetup and I saw him and that came out. So just so many events and we’ll have to know, like, what, what was your favorite?


Bryan: (00:37:15)   Is there a bit of a scene where you’re like, ah, so fun. Let’s do it again.


Kelly: (00:37:20) Yeah. My favorite scene, I wasn’t like let’s do it again cause I wasn’t there. But, um, my favorite favorite scene was when Sherry gave birth. Um, I was, it was so beautiful, so vulnerable and um, you know, you just can’t get more. More vulnerable than, you know, giving birth on camera. Um, you know, obviously I’ve heard that Sheree was giving birth that, you know, I’ve been there for baby showers and all that stuff, but seeing it on television was a whole different experience. Um, that scene, I was literally balling. I don’t even, I would just tissue after tissue, after tissue. I am at all. Um, so that was that’s my favorite scene. It just so beautiful. So beautiful.


Maggie:  (00:37:56)   And Kelly, what are your goals for 2021? We know that you’re working on so many different things and I’d love to know what your goals are.


Kelly: (00:38:05) Oh my gosh. I just want COVID to be over. I miss traveling. Um, you know, one of the things I, I being an entrepreneur and the reason I, I changed my industry from, you know, from restaurants, from other, you know, that I had to be there physically, is that being entrepreneur, I love being able to travel, you know, and that’s also one of the things that, the reason I, um, Like producing. I love being on set. I love, I love cause it’s fun because you get to go out, go somewhere and stay there for like, you know, a month or two and really learn the local culture. So for me, 2021, I just really hope COVID is under control and we can get back to traveling and our real life and human connection. Um, as far as work goes, you know, just keep building, uh, what POS media and really just tell more true stories. And then I think also make. This year, one of the things I really want to focus on, speak a little bit more picky with my projects and my time I want to do things with are meaningful. Um, I don’t want to do things just, just cause, um, you know, I, I want to do things are meeting for full and then that’s, um, That I’m very passionate about. I realize a lot of time back then was I tend to do things so out of courtesy, you know, I take a lot of courtesy meetings. I do proudest of Curtis. I want to help everybody, but at the same time, I’m only one person and I still have to keep doing that. But at the same time, I need to limit that and ask myself, is this something I really want to. Spend my energy, my time, my resource to, um, and, uh, you know, like you said, every project takes so long. I rather give that person know than drag them off or whatever, like, okay, sorry. I don’t have the time to commit that. You know? So yeah, again, just pick projects I’m passionate about and pick projects that are meaningful to me.


Bryan: (00:39:45)   Oh, we were so flattered that you were taking the time to be in our podcast.


Kelly: (00:39:49) Oh I’m so happy. You guys are amazing by the way. So you guys built such a great community and just, it’s a lot of empowerment. It’s a lot of like just, I think community that are just helping  each other. So I really appreciate you guys building Asian hustle network.


Maggie:  (00:40:05)   Oh, likewise. We can say the same about you. Thank you so, so much for being such an inspiration for a lot of Asians, especially as we’re trying to break into more representation in media. Um, and so Kelly, we have one last question for you and that is what, what advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?


Bryan: (00:40:22)   We want to change it up a bit. What advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? That’s beyond the female,


Kelly: (00:40:28) turn every failure into a success. Make when life gives you lemons make lemonade. Um, there is, uh, you know, like you said, there’s P there’s positive and everything that happens for you happens to you. There’s, you know, everything happens for a reason. So again, just look at situations it’s how do I, how can I turn a situation, this unfortunate situation into something positive?


Bryan: (00:40:49)   I love it. I was like, that’s the most you’ve been taking my real life. And it’s been working out


Maggie:  (00:40:58)   to find out more about you online.


Kelly: (00:41:01) Um, I’m really bad at social media. So the only social media I’m, I’m able to keep up right now is my Instagram, which is at Kelly Neely. I will eventually get on Twitter, which I have, and I’ll eventually start doing tic-tac and, and I’m a horrible dancer. So I don’t know if people want me to be on tic-tacs saving everybody by not being on it. Um, but yeah, but Instagram is the easiest way to reach me.


Maggie:  (00:41:24)  Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing. As far as Holly, it was awesome having you on the show. Appreciate you.  


Kelly: (00:41:35)  Thank you. You guys. It’s been a blast and thank you guys


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