Jeff Jenkins (“Keeping Up with the Kardashians”) has hit reality show gold once again with “Bling Empire.” The eight-episode Netflix series is great mindless fun, delicious to watch, a perfect escape from the pandemic.
And in the sea of Los Angeles-based crazy rich Asians that you get to know in “Bling Empire,” Kevin Kreider is the odd man out, the only one who doesn’t have seemingly infinite resources, the regular guy—if you can call a male model with chiseled features and a penchant for taking off his shirt a regular guy. Kreider is the voice of the viewer, who expresses shock at the opulent lifestyles and balks at price tags, but who somehow also manages to fit in with this group of wildly wealthy friends and frenemies. In this exclusive interview with Lifestyle, Kreider bares it all. He talks about money, Asian masculinity, cut scenes, his relationships with his costars and what else he thinks people should learn about him.
What made you say yes to being part of the show? [I thought] that I could change the representation and the image of an Asian male. How has the show changed your life?
I haven’t changed my messaging, I haven’t changed who I am. People are actually receptive and listening to the message. How has “Bling Empire” changed your friendship with your costars?I think we’ve gotten closer. People I’ve gotten closer with are Kane [Lim] and Kim [Lee] but especially Kim. I think we both understand now that there’s going to be a lot more people coming into our lives but they might not have the best intentions. So we’ve always been there for each other even before the show got really popular. I think there’s more of a trust between us.
Your relationship with Kim had an interesting trajectory in the show. Now there’s a lot of talk about the possibility of you guys dating, but also how you’re not following each other on social media…So what is it, really? Is there something there?
Well I did follow her one time but she just didn’t follow me back so I unfollowed her and she did the same thing apparently. But now I find that following her on social media is the least important for me because we talk every day, we text, we call. Obviously, we’d like to probably explore more stuff when things are slightly normal, but we have a really good relationship right now.
Has spending time with Kane and the others changed your relationship with money in any way?
Yeah, it definitely has. It’s changed my perspective in the sense that I’ve been working too hard for money, instead of working smarter for money. I think I can do both. They value their time and resources, and a lot of the way they make money is by actually really helping a lot of other people; at least from Kane’s perspective, that’s what I see. It’s a different perspective because I think everybody thinks you work nine to five, get up early, be consistent and you’re supposed to make millions, but that’s not true. It’s really about what you do, why you do it, and all that good stuff.
There’s been a lot of talk about your actual net worth. There’s one story that said you’re actually worth $10 million. Is that true?
I think whoever started that rumor was making a future prediction of what my net worth could be someday. I know it went down from $19 million to $10 million? I’m probably going to bank more toward my future value being $19 million.
Have your costars changed your views on fashion?
Yeah. I still don’t want to pay $2,000 for a shirt… But I probably won’t shop at really cheap stores so much. I kind of see value in maybe spending an extra 20 bucks for a nicer T-shirt or pair of jeans just so it looks better and lasts longer.
Did you watch the show? Who did you watch it with?
I watched the whole show by myself first. Our showrunner recommended watching it by ourselves first because it’s a lot to process and I’m glad I did that. I was kind of in awe… because we never saw it before it came out. I was processing, like, this is my life, this is something that was documented. And then I watched it with my buddy Kane and one of his buddies. It was Kane’s first time to watch it. It’s a little surreal for all of us. It’s quite a weird experience.
What is the difference between “Bling Empire” Kevin and real-life Kevin?
When I’m at parties, I really am kind of a social butterfly. There’s not really many opportunities to take my shirt off except when I’m partying with my other friends, like if they’ve got a pool. I think also that the real Kevin doesn’t play as dumb on camera. I mean, I know I’m dumb in some moments, but that’s just people in general… I’m not afraid to show that. But I think a lot of people are surprised because on social media, they see me as somebody who’s wiser and inspirational and wants to help people, which is absolutely true. But at the same time, I have a fun, dumb side to me that is very playful. We’ve seen you shirtless on Instagram a lot, too.
Who takes off his shirt more often? “Bling Empire” Kevin or real-life Kevin?
Real-life Kevin ’coz I gotta post that sh-t, you know. How was that mouth massage?Oh my god, I think everybody should get one. I felt really relaxed. It was not orgasmic but it’s definitely something that I think everybody should try once.
What was the most crazy rich Asian thing you’ve seen any of your costars do?
This wasn’t really caught on camera but one day, toward the end of filming, Anna [Shay] bought three Mercedes-Benzes with her credit card and I was like, “What the?” It just made no sense. She’s only one person, what did she need three for?
Do you really use a skateboard to get around?
Yes I do… Right now, because of the pandemic, I haven’t really gone out that much. If it’s less than 2 miles, I’ll definitely skateboard.
Do you still wear the Dior sneakers Anna got you?
No, I’m afraid to wear them. They’re so nice and they’re the most expensive sneakers I’ve ever had. I don’t want them to get dirty and old.
Let’s talk about Anna Shay. So many people are obsessed with her. We love how you defended her during the penis pump incident. What’s Anna like in real life?
Anna really didn’t need defending from anybody, but I just felt like I had to because she was so kind to me. I would say that in real life, she really is like that, she really doesn’t have any filter, she really doesn’t give sh-ts about what people think about her. She really can do pretty much almost anything she wants. That was a very accurate portrayal.
I’m going to say the names of your costars. Tell me the first word that pops into your head. Kane.
Even more lavish.
Kelly [Mi Li].
If you can swap lives with one of your costars, which one would it be and why?
I think I’d actually swap lives with Kim Lee. I’d love to know what it’s like to show up to a party and DJ and get paid $50,000. That’s just amazing. And I’d love to know what it would be like to be a hot [female] version of myself… I know girls in general get 10 times more attention than men. But to be a hot Asian girl like that, the attention must be outrageous.
Is there a moment you shot that you wish made it into the show?
Yeah. Funny you say that, they didn’t use a lot of stuff that I thought was funny. I remember wearing one of Kane’s shirts and it ripped in the back. It was a $500 shirt. I had a scene with Anna. I took her [out for] gelato to thank her from the bottom of my heart for making this a great experience for me and they cut it out. Another one was Guy Tang hired me to be the face of his hair campaign. He really wanted me to pave the way for Asian guys to feel attractive about themselves.
Have you talked to Andrew [Gray] since the show came out? Did things get awkward after he saw your attempts to start something with Kelly?
No, we haven’t talked and I can see why we haven’t talked. [Andrew and Kelly have] been together this whole time and there’s no reason to talk. Everything we did and said on the show didn’t really mean anything. It’s not like Kelly and I kissed or did anything.
What you and Kane did to help Kim find her dad was really sweet. But I can imagine how difficult it must have been. What was that trip like?
It was exhausting. Out of all the things that I’ve done in that show, that’s when I started to feel really tired because it was emotionally draining. This isn’t acting where you go through the scene, you do it over again and you don’t have to take it home with you. This is real. And so, there’s no shaking it off once you go home. You just don’t really know how to process it. The emotions eat away at you a little bit. So that was very, very difficult. I ate a lot when I was in South Carolina. That’s kind of how I dealt with it at the time. But that was actually one of my favorite times, though, too, because I felt like we did something special.
People have been talking about the Ted Talk you did about Asian masculinity. What do you want to say to people who still have a stereotypical view of Asians?
The stereotypical view is exactly what led me to my insecurities and me feeling really bad about myself. But instead of actually just staying in that self-pity, I ended up dedicating my life to changing that. Not just about myself but the viewpoint of other people. That Ted Talk was first time ever doing a public talk. And I became really passionate about changing these perspectives and talking about it from my own experience especially as an Asian male model. I never once took on acting roles or reality show roles that portrayed Asian men in a stereotypical way. Maybe that could have made more money consistently, I wouldn’t have had to experience all the broke times that I had and struggling. But my integrity and what I believed in was so strong. If I had taken those roles, I wouldn’t have this amazing role to begin with because that’s what attracted people towards me. Somebody dropped out (of Bling Empire) and Kelly showed my videos to the producer. “Hey, this guy just moved here, he’s cool, we met him, he should be in the show.” That’s what I continue to want to do. I’m actually currently talking to other agents and management companies who believe in my vision and want to make my vision come to life which is not just dispelling but also creating a new narrative towards Asian men and masculinity and the way they’re treated in the mainstream media. It’s not just Asians watching “Bling Empire” and they, “Oh, this Asian guy, he’s no longer just the hot Asian guy, he’s just the hot guy,” which crosses over cultures and boundaries that all Asians wanted to begin with. I just feel like that’s a very positive thing.
Have your DMS been blowing up?
Yes. I cannot keep up with it. It’s insane because before the show, I always go through my DMS and my comments and answer everything and now it’s so overwhelming I can’t keep up with anything. I try to answer as many as I can. But yeah, I mean the DMs are just insane. I’m getting d-ck pics and videos of girls and girls kissing other girls and I’m just thinking, “Is this some dude trying to pretend to be a girl?” It’s just amazing. These beautiful women out of nowhere just approaching me on Instagram and using my own pickup lines on me. They’re asking me if I like to cook pancakes and cuddle and I was like, “That’s what I say.”
What’s the strangest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
I think the d-ck pic was definitely one of them. Others ask weird questions that are very outdated like one girl asked, “Do you date white girls?” I date girls, come on, it doesn’t matter.
Will there be a next season?
We hope so. It hasn’t even been out for two weeks yet. I mean didn’t Bridgerton just get renewed for a second season and it was like out for a month already? It’s too early for us to know.
Do you Google the show or yourself or keep up with the reviews?
I have Google keywords for me, Kane, Kim Lee and Bling Empire. So anything that comes up with us immediately comes up. There’s so much. I actually stopped reading so much of the articles because it’s just too much to keep up with.
What do you want bling Empire fans to know about you that we don’t get to see in the show?
I want them to know that yeah, I do act like a bro sometimes but I have more intelligent than I think I come across in the show. I have lots of different thoughts about masculinity, about fitness and health. I’m college-educated, believe it or not. I’m not just a model and just dumb. So I just want people to know that.