Los Angeles — Bling Empire star Kevin Kreider is a jack of all trades. He is currently filming the second season of the Netflix hit reality show. The show is about a group of ultra-wealthy Asian Americans living in LA.
Kreider wore many hats in his working life prior to Bling Empire. He was a bodybuilder and personal trainer after college and he relocated to New York City to pursue modelling and acting.
Kreider made his Bling Empire debut on January 15, 2021, and that opened up new speaking and advertising opportunities.
The 37-year-old said that he is finally feeling more secure in his career and his finances. Not in the same league as his wealthy castmates including reclusive billionaire Anna Shay and celebrity plastic surgery businesswoman Christine Chiu, Kreider tells CNBC Make It that he expects to finally hit the six-figure salary mark in 2021.
Kreider shares that after growing up middle class in Philadelphia, he always thought crossing the US$100,000 threshold as a marker for success. He added, “Here in LA., it’s a little bit different. Six figures is the baseline. But, to me, it’s a huge success.”
Kreider said it is the first time that he doesn’t feel anxiety with a new show season and a lineup of gigs on the horizon, reported CNBC.
The reality star said that the sense of stability comes after 14 years of “failure after failure”. When he was a personal trainer in Philadelphia, Kreider focused too much on bulking up physically and that affected him mentally. He left for New York after a few years in Philadelphia, leaving his clients.
Kreider then ventured into modelling after being inspired by the likes of Ford model Daniel Liu and Godfrey Gao, described as the world’s first Asian male supermodel. The unsteady work hit his budget and his ego. “I went from doing personal training, to all of a sudden catering. It was very humbling.”
It was during that time that Kreider wanted to try acting and started taking classes for it. But without a steady income, he depended heavily on credit cards to cover everything from tuition to food. “It was literally just trying to survive.”
Kreider racked up about US$26,000 (S$34,000) in credit card debt. He suffered hair loss due to stress during this period, which was ultimately the catalyst for him to prioritise his mental health and wellbeing. There were times he made a dent in his debt like after he booked his first big commercial in 2012 and put the entire US$5,000 (S$6,600) paycheck towards it. He finally cleared the balance in 2014 after a year of chipping away and eventually having to move back to Philadelphia.
“It was such a big accomplishment,” Kreider recalls. “I didn’t realise how much a burden and weight it was holding over me.”
Kreider visited LA in 2014 and it inspired him to relocate there. He became acquainted with some of his now-castmates, such as hairstylist Guy Tang, entrepreneur Kelly Mi Li and real estate heir Kane Lim. Kreider’s castmate Jamie Xie pays US$19,000 (S$25,000) in rent while he just recently settled into the first LA apartment without roommates at a more modest US$1,700 (SG$2,200) a month.
“This is luxury to me — I have 515 square feet just to myself,” Kreider says. “Some people think that’s small, but I tell people, ‘This place is huge! I can’t fill it up.’”
Kreider’s number 1 financial habit is not to spend money he doesn’t have, based on the experience of credit card debt and as a working creative who is not paid regularly. He has learned how to spend more freely on things like self-care.
“For the first time of my life, I don’t feel like I have to be stingy on myself,” like going out to dinner or getting a massage, he says. “That feeling — I can’t put a price on it. I know what it feels like to have to worry about every penny you spend and not knowing if it’ll come back. That’s one thing I’ve learned, too — to always have a cushion of safety in my finances and not overspend it. So it’s something that I learned the hard way, but it’s something that I stand true by.”
Though he’s feeling more financially unburdened, Kreider is quick to debunk rumours that his net worth is in the millions. But he hopes to get there one day.
“I’ll let everybody know when that does happen,” he says. “For a long period of time, I felt like my most successful years were when I was a personal trainer. And now, after the show, I see that my most successful times are still to come. And they’re happening right now.”/TISGFollow us on Social Media
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