Andrew from Bling Empire is abusive and we need to talk about it

He gaslights, manipulates and love-bombs Kelly

Bling Empire is full of so many great things. As well as queen Anna, boujee fashion and iconic parties, the Bling Empire cast highlight important issues around identity, adoption and surrogacy. It’s rare and refreshing to see discussions on TV like the ones Kevin has about his birth family. But there’s one part of Bling Empire we all need to talk about. Andrew is where reality TV goes from drama to plain uncomfortable, and we have to call out his actions in Bling Empire for what they are: Aggressive, gaslighting, love-bombing, and all-round manipulative – in short, it’s abusive.

Kelly, who Andrew is with during the series, repeatedly calls him “toxic” and says their relationship isn’t “healthy”, but also says he has “a great heart”. People on Twitter are calling him the “definition of an abuser”, and saying Kelly needs to leave the relationship. Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as “an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour”.

Here’s why people are calling Andrew from Bling Empire abusive, manipulative and toxic:

When Andrew shouted at Kelly in Paris on Bling Empire, that was verbally abusive

Kelly tells her friends on Bling Empire Andrew “gets a little crazy sometimes”, and they “fight here and there – but that’s every couple right? There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, we fight.” Kelly’s right – small arguments are a part of any relationship, and there is no such thing as perfect.

But Kelly and Andrew don’t have small “fights”. Anna takes the pair to her favourite restaurant (which involves jetting off to Paris, nbd) for Kelly’s birthday. Anna takes Kelly shopping for her birthday present, leaving Andrew sleeping off jet lag at their hotel. He phones, asking aggressively “what the fuck is going on?”, before continuing to swear and scream at Kelly down the phone for not telling him where she was going. You can hear crashing, and it sounds like he’s throwing things around the room or kicking furniture. Kelly looks visibly uncomfortable, as does Anna, and it’s incredibly hard to watch.

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It’s controlling, aggressive, and escalates over something tiny that shouldn’t even be an issue. She was trying to be nice and let him sleep in, what part of that warranted his reaction?

Kelly says the Paris incident wasn’t “the first time” Andrew has treated her this way, and when they fight he normally wants her to be “stuck in a room with him until we work it out”, sometimes for up to “eight hours”.

That is not healthy or normal – in fact, it sets alarm bells ringing. As Anna says: “If he has issues, don’t put it on to her”. They go to counselling, and the psychotherapist also tells Andrew he has to “separate Kelly” from any feelings he has about his childhood.

All Kelly’s friends want her to break up with Andrew

It’s clear Kelly’s mates literally have no idea what she sees in him – in the first episode, they sit down for lunch and immediately ask if she’s “single yet”. Anna encourages her to stop “putting up” with Andrew, and tries to set her up with Kevin instead. This is so telling, your mates want you to be with the person who’s best for you, which Kelly’s Bling Empire friends clearly don’t think about Andrew.

Kevin asks what Kelly “gets out of this relationship”, and her answer is that Andrew “doesn’t sleep around”. But, as Kevin tells her – that’s the absolute most “basic” requirement of human decency from someone you’re with, not something to build an entire relationship on.

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We first see Kelly and Andrew kissing in towels, when they’ve just gotten out of the shower. Kelly says “trust has always been an issue” due to her past relationships. In her 20s, she was married to a Chinese businessman who, unbeknownst to her, was “running one of the biggest cyber scams in American history”, and was arrested in 2015. She’s clearly been hurt badly in the past, but that doesn’t mean she can only be with people who won’t cheat on her.

He’s manipulative and makes Kelly feel guilty

Fair to him, after the Paris incident Andrew does say he “overreacted”, and apologises, saying he’s “not happy with his actions” and “we’re both still learning”. But I’m sorry, that’s not good enough, he’s a 33-year-old man. There comes a point where you’re not “learning” any more, and your actions just show who you are. He then starts crying and tells Kelly he loves her, and she comforts him.

Kelly talks about her internal conflict, how one side of her will say she’s “playing with fire” but the other side will say “he’s so sweet and he’s changed this time”. She says it’s this second side that “wins” – she stays with Andrew because “his intentions are good” and “he has a good heart”. Intentions aren’t good enough, it’s someone’s actions towards you that count.

“Andrew only has me, so I don’t want to abandon him. I know he wants to change, he just doesn’t know how to,” she says. Kelly feels like she needs to stick with Andrew, and says he doesn’t have anyone else so doesn’t want to “abandon” him. Even though Kelly says their relationship is “not healthy, it’s so toxic”, she feels like it’s her job to help “fix” Andrew. But the thing is, it isn’t. It’s up to Andrew to work on himself, and Kelly isn’t obligated to help him do this, or to sit around and wait for him to “change”.

And Andrew isn’t just manipulative, he gaslights Kelly

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. The tactic involves “persistent manipulation and brain washing” to make you doubt yourself, and can make you lose your entire sense of identity. People who gaslight often lie repeatedly to their partners, pretending things didn’t happen or making them think they’re “crazy”. Over time, victims doubt themselves – and as they’re insecure, they depend even more on their abusive partner.

When Kelly and Andrew sit down to talk about the incident in Paris, he says he feels like there’s “a huge lack of honour” in their relationship. A flashback to their argument shows Andrew telling Kelly she didn’t show him “any respect”, saying “I don’t know why you want to hurt our relationship.” He tries to make Kelly feel guilty for his own actions, when she hasn’t done anything wrong at all.

Many people online have called out Andrew’s gaslighting behaviour for what it is. One said: “Andrew is a garbage man. The way he guilt trips her for his selfish and rude behaviour is horrible and she keeps trying. Just cuz you’re not cheating doesn’t mean you’re a good man. There’s nothing wrong with talking to other people, you can’t expect her to suffer in silence.

“Andrew didn’t learn anything. Kelly tries yet he doesn’t. The way he prayed to Jesus to excuse his behaviour, I laughed, what a disgrace of a man. You don’t treat a woman like that. You don’t use love to excuse yelling and emotional abuse. Rot you gaslighting bitch.”

He repeatedly love-bombs Kelly

After they decide to separate, Andrew and Kelly meet on a bench. He tells her she’s his “best friend”, and goes on and on about how “important” she is in his life. Other scenes show Andrew being incredibly affectionate, telling Kelly how much he loves her. This love-bombing shows how toxic and abusive relationships, like Andrew and Kelly’s in Bling Empire, aren’t just about aggressive fights. Women’s Aid says: “Like any other relationship, one that ends in abuse began with falling in love and being in love. A woman may still be in love with her partner and believe him when he says he is sorry and it won’t happen again.”

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Love-bombing is when a guy drops the L-bomb super early on in a relationship, and generally lays loads of affection on you – but then a couple months later, right around the time any normal person would have said “I love you”, he turns nasty or disappears altogether.

Love-bombing is “a term to describe men who come on strong, showering you with gifts and presents and then disappear”, according to relationship expert India Kang. The guy floods a girl with affection to give her a false sense of security before either leaving, or becoming manipulative from the control they now have over their partner.

It can make you think you’re in love when you’re not, and the love-bomber is in control of the whole relationship because of how early they showed their “love”. He can then switch his emotions and withdraw the affection in retaliation to things you do, to make you feel like you’re in the wrong. This means they can manipulate the whole relationship.

Kelly says that her friends just see the negative part of her relationship, as opposed to the “loving” side of Andrew, and hopes this “loving part” will “evolve” into a “positive” relationship. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter how “nice” someone is, you can’t be expected to just sit around and wait for them to change, dealing with all their toxicity in the meantime.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can find information about domestic abuse from Women’s Aid here, and contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58. You matter.

Bling Empire is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, quizzes, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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