Aug 29, 2017

There’s no shortage of outrageous expressions of wealth in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians book series. You’ve got people who wouldn’t even think twice about flying economy, let alone commercial. And then there are six-figure dress shopping sprees, plastic surgery for fish, and over-the-top yacht parties.

Kevin Kwan has repeatedly cited his childhood experiences as well as tidbits of extreme—and borderline scandalous—anecdotes from his family and friends as inspiration for the opulent world he has built in his books. Without a doubt, the characters he satirizes are true to life, albeit fusions of the crazy rich people in the world we live in.

“I think everyone surprises me, ultra rich or not,” says Kevin Kwan, still not quite used to the lifestyles of the elite. “I think we now live in a world where there is this global wealth elite class of the 1% from all around the world. And whether or not they’re from Indonesia, or from Dubai, or from Wyoming, they all seem to have a tribe. And the tribe seems to kind of like the same things.”

Probably a normal scene for the Crazy Rich Kids

For sure, there’s a generational gap between the elders who secured the family fortune and their younger social media savvy heirs and heiresses—something which he satirizes in his novels. Rich kids have become the new tribe in the spotlight, particularly on Instagram. You have accounts like Rich Kids of Instagram, portraying millennials living their every day lives cruising on luxury yachts, jetsetting on private planes, and even receiving sports cars every birthday.

Truly, with this new social landscape, privacy has become the new luxury. So we took to an exclusive interview with Mr. Kwan himself.

Does it matter more how many followers you have or the numbers in your bank account?
I think it really depends on the person. There’s some [children] that come from what were formerly very private families, very discreet families, very noble families, that [are suddenly] all over Instagram, and tweeting, and showing off those obnoxious wigs.

They may call me old fashioned. I think “What would your grandmother think? She was such an elegant lady, and look at you in this…you look like a stripper on a yacht! Like what are you trying to prove? Everyone already knows your family has more money than god!” You know what I mean? So to me, that’s obnoxious, but I don’t understand new rules on engagement on social media, and how people love to show off.

“They’re trying to define themselves. And they’re trying to find their own identity. Fame is the new social currency.” Kevin Kwan

Why do you think though that people need to prove their net worth, for example, on social media?
I don’t think it’s necessarily just about net worth, I think for a lot of the younger generation that come from very wealthy families, they’re a bit lost.

Lost how?
They’re trying to define themselves. And they’re trying to find their own identity. Fame is the new social currency. I think it comes from inadequacy.

If your parents have accomplished so much, if they built an empire, or they founded a country, things like that, and you haven’t done that, what do you do to find some way to make yourself more prominent or seem more special? You go on social media. And start tweeting flashy pictures of yourself. I think it’s their way of differentiating themselves.

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The Rich Kids of Instagram are real.

What are their best qualities, and their worst?
It’s hard to impose my morality over people. Everyone’s so different. I think, for me personally, I’m impressed when I meet people who have the resources and were well-to-do who are living creative lives and using their money creatively to help others.

I recently met a family that’s very involved in the problems of global sex trafficking. Helping out women who have been abused, women that were former sex slaves, re-acclimate to society. So people who are really involved with these different causes and using their money to help, that to me, I think, are the best qualities.

What distinguishes the rich from the crazy rich?
Well, you know, the rich have airplanes. The crazy rich have airlines.

Header image courtesy of Inquirer.net.

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