The three women featured on the show might live the high life – indulging in gold face masks, booking out harbour restaurants for a speed date, hosting charity fashion parades for dogs at the Opera House – but unlike their Housewives counterparts, there is no ill-will between them. Mother hen, Lulu Pallier, the principal of Sotheby’s International Realty, clearly adores her proteges, sweet 2016 Miss Australia Chinese Pageant winner Emily Yu; and precocious “charity princess” Crystal.
“Ours is a very different culture,” Pallier explains. “The Real Housewives, they’re not very nice, fighting and all that. It’s nasty and I didn’t want to be part of that so we made sure we did something different. Something entertaining, but a happy version.”
The title alone was enough to deter Pallier, who initially refused to be involved.
“I was worried that it would be a negative program about showing off. Maybe I’d be hated afterward. But friends pushed me to do it. They said, ‘You’ll be the voice for our community. It’s about time to show how we live’. There’s very little about Asians on television, and I’m very excited to be part of this.”
Karim Gharbi, founder of concierge business The VIP Sydney, caters to the women’s every extravagant whim. He says the casting process, with which he was heavily involved, was fraught.
“The most challenging thing has been to convince the cast members to come on board,” Gharbi says. “Chinese people are very, very private. None of these clients need to make money or want the publicity. The reason I convinced them to do it is that they can all support their charities.”
In the pilot, Gharbi creates a floating casino for a group of visiting Chinese billionaires, who suddenly insist that hamburgers be ferried from shore. It’s one of the least outrageous requests he’s had, having once been asked to have the Harbour Bridge closed for a chandelier-lit dinner party.
“Australia, and especially Sydney, is a little bit like Vegas for Chinese people. They come, they play hard and they gamble, they have great fun, they buy real estate and they take off.”
He says he has never witnessed any racism towards his Asian clientele.
“We are very lucky. I don’t think racism exists in Australia at all.”
Pallier, who arrived in Australia from China 31 years ago as an 18-year-old student, has a different take on that.
“Every migrant, more or less, would experience racism,” she says. “Even I experienced that at some stage. But over the years, I married an Australian and every day we are learning from each other. We are different. That makes the world interesting.”