Lifetime’s new reality series Raising Asia could have been a clone of the Kardashian franchise, but it is a harrowing look at one family’s quest for fame through their talented child.
Asia Monet Ray finished third on the first season of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition and continues to put in the blood, sweat and tears of becoming a bonafide triple threat. Heck, she wants to be the second coming of Beyoncé and nothing, NOTHING is going to stand in the way of her dream. Asia is eight years old.
Rounding out Lifetime’s summer slate is Raising Asia, a reality series following Asia and her family as she works toward her dream of superstardom. Asia’s family includes her younger sister Bella, her former pro bodybuilder dad Shawn, and former fitness model/momager Kristie. Unlike other quests for stardom, Asia has talent and she knows it. As a protege of Abby Lee Miller, Asia has experience in front of the camera and the drive to pursue her goals. However, watching the pilot raised several concerns about how responsible the adults are in facilitating (or in some cases, enabling) the dream.
There is a fine line between confident and obnoxious, and I’m not sure Kristie or Shawn have established that line for Asia. Some choice quotes:
“My mom thinks she’s raising me, but who’s in charge?” (Asia points at herself.)
“Pop stars do not go to the park. My playground is the red carpet.”
In fairness to Asia, there was a clip in the “This Season” package where Kristie asks Asia where she sees herself in five years.1 Perhaps it’s the age between precocious and growing up WAY too fast that needs definition.
Along the “growing up WAY too fast” trajectory is Asia’s choreographer for her World of Dance debut Anthony. Billy has worked with Asia since she was six years old and is disappointed that eight-year-old Asia has not been picking up the choreography that much faster in the meantime. Legit Q: does Asia know multiplication or long division yet? Anthony’s interactions with Asia are distressing, moreso for the viewer who also has to watch Kristie and her controlling tendencies flare up, adding stress to the situation. I would like to think it’s a mothering instinct, but it ends up manifesting as a tiger mom.
The other major adult in Asia’s life is her manager Billy, who played Christopher on the TV version of Fame.2 I’m sure he’s good at his job, but his presence has a bit of a creepy uncle vibe. To be fair, that could be a built-in bias of the many crooked managers who screwed over young talent over the years. We’ll see what his role is as the series progresses and it could just as easily turn out that he is the most responsible individual on the show.
Can we discuss Anthony’s choreography? The routine is a super sexualized circus lion tamer act, with Asia using a whip to keep her four shirtless dancers in their cage.3 In case you have forgotten—which seems to be the case with all the adults on this show—Asia is eight years old. The people at World of Dance were ready to pull the performance due to inappropriateness, but Asia was the one who argued in favor of the whip. Good for her for exercising her own agency, I guess, but we’re in an awkward social construct here. To Billy’s credit, he voiced his concern about the content of the performance, so that’s points in the plus column for him.
The family has split itself in half: Shawn attends to Bella and her interests while Kristie is solely focused on Asia and her potential career. I do give credit to Shawn for acknowledging that this is a problem and mentioning it to Kristie, but the conversation doesn’t lead anywhere. I don’t think this is the case of parents playing favorites, more a misguided attempt at prioritizing on Kristie’s part. In an interview, six-year-old Bella doesn’t seem phased by the lack of attention, saying she knows her mom loves her. It’s kinda heartbreaking, y’all.
I went into Raising Asia expecting it to be a purely disposable reality show about famegrubbing. Instead, it has turned into a fascinating look at a family that could be destroyed by the Holy Grail they are seeking.