Interview Asian American Model Kevin Kreider

Article by Kevin Young
Photo credit Niko and Xue Liang

Kevin Kreider, a Korean adoptee from Philadelphia raised by Irish-German parents grew up to become a pioneer Asian-American male fitness model. Kreider has been in many international commercials and photo-shoots for: Gillette, Target, Men’s Health Magazine, Puma, Reebok, Hugo Boss, and many other well-known brands.

Kreider was at the zenith of his career securing booking after booking but that soon changed when he became bald, suffering from alopecia areata (stress induced hair loss.) Initially feeling somber, he set out to overcome a childhood goal. That goal was to learn how to skateboard. After accomplishing this goal Kreider took it a step further by setting out on a long trek to skateboard from Santa Monica to New York City.  Kreider documented his trip for all to see. The film, Kevin & His Skateboard will be released in the near future but in the meantime Kreider sat down with us to discuss his experiences as a model and his unfathomable skateboard odyssey.

What was it like growing up as a Korean American adopted by Irish-German parents?

In the short sense it kinda sucked. There are a lot of kids who really looked at you in a different way because you are different. You feel like you are inferior and they would always be like I’m just kidding around. Bruce Lee! That kind of stuff really hurts. It kinda of ruins your self-esteem.

How did you become a model?

What ended up happening was that I was actually a fitness model. I was a personal trainer and then I become a fitness model. So that’s how I got introduced to the modeling industry.

Did winning the 2007 Philadelphia Mr. Macho Man competition help launch your career?

I think it gave me some confidence. I don’t think It actually launched my career. What really launched my career was my personal training business. It’s actually kinda weird this one guy at the gym told me he knew a publisher from men’s health magazine but he actually didn’t know him. But I still sent my stuff in.  It still helped though because I got to learn about more agencies and ended up signing with Ford models.

What do you like and dislike about modeling?

There’s a lot of stuff I don’t like about modeling actually. Especially now that I actually think about it. The one thing I don’t like about modeling is that it’s all appearance based. There’s a lot of cattiness and drama behind the scenes with other models. But there are amazing things about modeling too. For instance I’ve had the chance to travel the world. I’ve been to South Africa, all over Asia except for Japan because of modeling. The people I have met have been amazing as well. The people that are working at the photo-shoots, the camera crew and the other models can be great to work with.

You traveled all over the world. Where would you like to go on vacation or work?

Yeah I really want to go to Bali. I’ve never been there. But if I had to go back to a country it would be Thailand. I really loved the Thai people. Their shoots were great and fun. They weren’t easy because they were long shoots. Sometimes 24 hours long. The first job I did was a TVC commercial and it was literally a 30 hour shoot. There were no breaks but the upside was they really treat you like a person out there. The people were really kind and really had the best intentions.

You felt like your career was over after suffering from alopecia areta (stress induced hair loss). What caused you to become so stressed during that time?

Thinking about it, I really think it was mostly me that caused most of the stress. Finances weren’t so great, credit card debt built up, roommate issues, landlord, you name it! Everything just seemed to fall at the same time. It just started to get to me after my apartment had bed bugs. The landlord didn’t tell us about this and we had issues for about 3-6 months. This was my third time moving in one year. So just the pile of moving, finances, bed bugs, roommates it just caused me to be over-stressed. Looking back I think I could have handled it a lot better. What’s funny is career wise everything was going great. I was booking commercials, and had lots of shoots lined up.

You skateboarded from Santa Monica to New York. Did this journey make you mentally stronger?

No it actually didn’t. I don’t mean it in a negative way. What I mean is that you are constantly on an adrenaline rush for that many days straight. And if you wanna say have I learned anything to help me become stronger then yes I learned a lot about having energy on the road. There’s a lot of energy wasted. Energy sometimes you can’t control. I would tell myself “calm down” “please don’t give up” “things will be fine.” I’ve actually have been in a bit of a funk since I stopped this skateboarding journey two weeks ago. I talked to this girl who ran across America from San Francisco to New York City. Jessica Gomez. She left a day after me and we arrived in New York the same day. We met on the George Washington Bridge and finished our trip together. She told me about the adrenaline totally leaving you. That’s what I went through these last two weeks since I stopped skateboarding. I have been in kind of a mental funk. I’m doing better now though. I’m stretching, eating healthier and surrounding myself with loved ones. These things are getting me out of it. Now I feel like I will become mentally stronger.

So what made you decide to turn your journey into a documentary for all to see?

It wasn’t actually my idea. The producer that I filmed a short film with out in Los Angeles heard about my skateboarding journey and I told him about it because he was booking plane tickets and I told him not to buy me a plane ticket because I’m just going to use my skateboard. He’s like why don’t we film it. “That way you can share your journey to inspire people to travel and do something with their lives.” So I said that’s a great idea.

How did you plan out the long winded route from California to New York?

The major cities were our main points. Between these cities we found towns that were skateboard-able. From there we just planned it out day by day. So after I was done for the day I would look at the map and decide which town to skateboard through the following day. Google-maps helped quite a bit. But at the same time asking around helps too.

You traveled all across the U.S. Which city is your favorite?

I really love Chicago. Chicago was my favorite city. And Illinois is my favorite state that I’ve been to. The people were just extremely friendly. Everyone was just wonderful there. Chicago is in-between New York and living in the Midwest because the people are just so kind. Chicago is a big city and it’s beautiful. The architecture is beautiful. The people are just kind hearted. So I appreciate Chicago.

In an interview with Newstalk 1060 you said that route 51 was miserable. Can you elaborate on how it was difficult to navigate through this route?

Well 51 was the most miserable point up until I hit route 30 in Pennsylvania but it was just really miserable. The hills were just up and down nonstop so I had to walk and then go down. So the whole day I wasn’t skateboarding that much. I literally was walking and then coasting down the hills. To do that for the whole day was just miserable. And then I went into Pennsylvania and I had to deal with mountains. So that was actually the worst of my travels.

You met a lot of people on your journey. Can you talk about someone who stood out to you other than Jessica?

Yeah I met a guy named Viet Pham who is an Iron Chef winner on the Food Network channel. He took me out to breakfast and was telling me all the fears he had in life. How he was scared to become a chef opening up a restaurant in the city because of the prices and styles he wanted. He was told that it was too expensive and the foods he wanted on his menu had already been done but he did it anyway because that’s what he wanted to do. And then he went on Iron Chef America. He opened up 3 restaurants now and is very successful. So that was a big lesson for me and this documentary is supposed to be inspiring for other people but really it was just me overcoming a fear and going through obstacles and taking on a big challenge in my life to make myself stronger. So other people being inspired is a side effect of the documentary.

How long did it take to complete this journey? And it must have put a lot of stress on your body skating boarding 8 hours per day how did you endure it?

It took exactly 90 days. It was one month shorter than I anticipated. I was able to do 60 -70 miles per day flat. It was actually 8-12 hours. To tell you the truth I just relied on the adrenaline. You go so far for so long you don’t feel any aches or pain in your body but now actually when I stopped my ankles are hurting me more than when I was on the trip. So I do think that you need to stretch and eat properly because when I was eating crap I was only doing 30-40 miles per day but then when I started eating properly and cutting down on caffeine I was able to skateboard longer.

You said in an interview with Yahoo Shine that you were planning on moving to Los Angeles to learn video production skills. Do you still plan on moving there?

You know it’s funny you said that because my whole perspective has changed so much since that interview. I really expected to have an answer by now. But I’m not quite sure if I can still model because my hair isn’t coming back like I would like it to and my physique isn’t exactly the way I like it to be either. So it’s not that I’m insecure it’s that I’m being logical. I do like being in front of the camera but at the same time I like being behind the camera. So right now I’m not sure what my future will be like. Right now I have just finished the documentary and am building up my own personal training business in Philadelphia. I like to make NY my second home again but not quite sure if it’s possible.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Yeah stop listening to other people. Listen to yourself. I let a lot of people influence me. Be who you are. Don’t let other people influence you.

Any advice for Asian-Americans who want to become models?

Yeah there are so many Asian American models out right now compared to when I first started. It’s a lot more competitive now but the more faces that are out there the better it will be for us. But my word of advice is stop competing with each other! Stop hating each other or being jealous of each other thinking there aren’t enough roles or jobs out there. One thing that was pleasurable about modeling in the beginning was we weren’t competing with each other. So don’t fight each other be supportive of each other.

There’s a lesson to be taught after hearing about Kevin Kreider’s adventure. Kreider didn’t let alopecia areata undermine him into a stupor for long. Kreider used it to empower himself which lead to the inception of him traveling cross country on his skateboard. Be sure to check out his amazing 90 day journey when Kevin & His Skateboard is released.

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