Kelly Mi Li
Chinese-born serial entrepreneur and successful film and television producer
For people who may be unfamiliar with your work, who is Kelly Mi Li?
I'm a film and television producer and serial entrepreneur with a strong passion for bringing authentic stories to the screen. I'm also passionate about investing and building cause-based businesses as well. I grew up in Kunming, China, before moving to Chicago with my parents. I later moved to Los Angeles in my early 20's and started different companies before ending up in the entertainment industry.
You started off in the food and beverage industry, transitioned into tech investments, and now film. Can you tell us a bit about the experiences that led you to be a successful entrepreneur?
My drive, determination, along with my genuine love for what I do has made me into the entrepreneur I am today! I've always been passionate about business and have owned businesses from a young age. Working in different industries and businesses have shaped me to be versatile and flexible. I can implement what I've learned from one experience into another.
At this moment in time, what makes you happy, and what are you currently passionate about?
There's a lot for me to be happy about! With the premiere of Bling Empire, the amount of love and support I've seen have been so heartwarming. I've had many fans reach out with stories relating to my own. Connecting with the audience has been very inspiring. I'm also so grateful for the strong support system I have. My family, friends, and of course, my two rescue dogs, Kilo and Sophia, have given me nothing but support and love throughout this journey. There's so much to be grateful for! I'm taking it all in, one day at a time.
How does working in front of the camera compare to being behind the scenes as a producer?
Being in front of the camera was challenging and new because I'm more accustomed to being behind the scenes. You're forced to be present and vulnerable with yourself and the audience. However, I was lucky to star alongside my friends I've known and loved for many years. Often we would forget the cameras were even rolling! It ended up being such a wonderful learning experience and exciting journey. I'm happy I decided to step outside my comfort zone and try something new.
With Bling Empire being Netflix's newest hit, what do you hope people will take away from the show?
Seeing the audiences' response to Bling Empire has been overwhelming. I hope the show will allow audiences to have an escape from current difficult times. Bringing entertainment and sharing stories with audiences have always been a passion of mine. I hope that people will also connect with many of the issues and personal struggles brought up throughout the series. Now more than ever, I believe we need this sense of community and connection that can be found through film and television.
Our next issue centers around the theme of "metamorphosis." As humans, we go through changes that allow us to reflect, evolve, and embrace ourselves; what has introduced the most significant change in your life thus far? How have you grown as a person?
One of the most significant changes in my life occurred this past year when I started going to therapy and taking the time to get to know myself better. In Asian culture, mental health and therapy aren't normally discussed, so exploring this in my life was a very new experience. Therapy helped me slow down and be more honest with myself. I took the time to understand how events in my past affect my future. I've since been so much more present and grateful for everything I have in my life. Moving forward, I want to continue this journey of self-discovery and love. I also hope my experiences help raise awareness and destigmatize mental health. By speaking out about these issues and sharing my own personal experiences, I hope to inspire others to do the same.
What are some of your thoughts on the concept of "timid" or "timidness"?
Being timid is a normal part of life. Everyone experiences moments where they feel timid and worried about how certain situations can play out. It's moments like these that challenge you to overcome the obstacles in your life and self-reflect. Every challenge or setback is a moment to rise above the situation and learn more about yourself. When I think about the notion of "timid" or "timidness," I view it as an opportunity to learn.
As Asians, we are often told to follow the rules, traditions and not speak out of turn. How has the community moved beyond these notions? What are some things you would like to do to help the change?
I agree that we were brought up to follow the rules and not speak out of line. However, over time traditions evolve as we grow up. We learn from our experiences and pass these life lessons on to our children. Thus, our community has taken steps to break through traditional boundaries and support a more open conversation for all. I would like to contribute to this change and use my platform to let others know it is completely acceptable to speak up. I believe that acknowledging this issue in Asian culture and starting a conversation about it will help push for change.
What are you striving to accomplish in 2021?
I'm looking forward to being the best version of myself both in my career and personal life. My new production company, Wet Paws Media, has an incredible slate of projects in the pipeline that I'm very excited about. We're starting production on an Aaron Eckhart film titled Afterward and sci-fi series titled Interface. We're currently in post-production on a few other projects. Other than that, I plan to continue therapy and spend more time self-reflecting. I've learned how important it is to disconnect and make time for yourself, so I want to speak out and encourage others to embrace their mental health as well.
When diversity and inclusivity in entertainment are demanded more than ever, Li creates exclusive content to fill this widening void. Used to being behind the camera, Kelly is now one of the newest faces on Netflix in the reality series Bling Empire.