Let’s go all the way back to Fall 2007, when a 19 year old Nick (me) landed in Vancouver BC to attend photography school. My naive self had big plans of becoming a top photographer within the year, thinking a job would be handed to me on a silver platter despite my lacklustre work ethic. Needless to say, that year was incredibly difficult. Between moving to a new (expensive!) city, full time school, and working a minimum wage job a few nights a week, I was in over my head. Near the end of my schooling in 2008, I was tasked with seeking out models for my final portfolio to be presented to a panel of my photography teachers.
At the time, Model Mayhem was the best place to look for talent, I was told. However, if you’ve ever been to that site, you’ll know what a circus it can be. Let’s just say there are an awful lot of characters to sift through. Yet somehow, I ended up finding the star of my portfolio and the best model I’ve ever worked with, bar none. This is how I met Kevin Dexter. I still remember it clearly, how we instantly bonded over us both being from Edmonton and trying to take a crack at a creative industry in Vancouver. We were both at the bottom, trying to get somewhere. Kevin was six or seven years older than me, but he treated me with full respect and trusted my creative vision.
I worked with him only a small handful of times over the next two years, but each time was memorable and it always felt like catching up with an old friend. As you’ll see below, Kevin’s career soon turned into the adventure of a lifetime around the world, and has been at it for several years now. I’ve been following his journey closely, and a couple months ago I felt compelled to reach out and find out the next time he’d be in Canada so that we could meet for the first time in over nine years. Turns out, he had plans to be here within the month. The words and photographs below are the outcome of our day spent together on Granville Island in Vancouver.
I spoke about the immediate bond I had with him above, however I suspect that most people that meet him will tell you the same thing. The guy is magnetic in a Will Smith kind of way. Kevin has inspired me to take more risks in life, to simply do more.
Give me an overview of your background and upbringing.
I was born in Montreal Quebec to two loving parents, and I grew up going to a French school. But when I was 10, my dad lost his job so we had to relocate to Alberta to find work. At the same time my mom was having her own battles and she began to fall apart. She was struggling with addiction and mental health issues and so after about 5 years of chaos, they finally divorced. Looking back now, I know it was the right thing to do but at the time I felt betrayed as my mom and I were really close. My dad literally had to grab my sister and I and took the only job he could find which was out west in Alberta at an oil refinery. The only problem was he didn’t know anything about oil. The condition was he could have the job if he would get his power engineering. So my dad moved us across the country, took the job, did the schooling and raised two kids on his own. All at the same time, with very little help. As a kid I didn’t appreciate any of this but now as an adult, I can’t even imagine the kind of stress he must have been under. He’s an amazing guy.
My dad is this super genius type dude, and he was a really interesting guy to grow up with. Obsessed with how things work, he would always drag me along on repair projects, me kicking and screaming the whole way. He wasn’t strict at all and expected us to be able to figure things out, valuing rationalism and intelligence above all else. So since I didn’t really have my father telling me what to do and my mom wasn’t around anymore, I was forced to become independent and take ownership of my life. That mentality has stayed with me as an adult. I truly believe no one owes you anything. That’s your job.
It was through my dad that I learned about work ethic. My dad works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. If my dad hadn’t worked as hard as he had, the opportunities I’ve been blessed with wouldn’t have presented. He found himself in an awful situation with very little help and he was able to navigate his way through it with hard work and sheer force of will. Because of that, I get to have the life I have. I’m so thankful for what he did, and I owe him tremendously. I’m very lucky.
You have one of the most interesting and diverse resumes of anyone I know. Can you share a handful of your most memorable jobs?
There’s a lot to throw in there. My resume probably looks like it has multiple personality disorder. I’ve had so many random different gigs, I don’t even know where to start. My first job was working at KFC which as you can imagine, was awful. But I did it because my friends worked there, only we quickly realized we didn’t want to work at KFC. And so we quit, but not before stealing a ridiculous amount of chicken. My dad, bless his soul, looked the other way when bags of chicken strips and popcorn chicken suddenly appeared in the freezer. I think I bought his silence with food.
I did all sorts of random work growing up. I delivered pizza (such a fun job), I worked on a road crew, I poured concrete, worked at a hay drying plant (yes that is a real thing) and even sprayed weeds in farmers fields. I remember at one point I was working in electrical and I got electrocuted bad enough that it easily could’ve killed me. I still have the scar, but not the job.
I also worked in the oilfield up in Fort McMurray Alberta. I managed restaurants, I served tables, I bartended. When I moved to Vancouver, I did the classic acting hustle of being an extra, and then I did all sorts of weird humiliating promotions and events. Selling cheese in shopping malls. Stuff like that. Then I got a really interesting job working as a model for photography school (Langara college) where I would just stand in while a class of newbie photographers figured out how to set up the lights and use their equipment. Over the few years I worked there, I shot with so many different photographers and often they would share the photos. Over time I ended up building a pretty good portfolio, which is what lead to becoming a model.
However, one of the weirder jobs I’ve done, is I worked as an actor for the training of doctors and nurses. It’s called SP which stands for Standardized Patient. It’s super random but they hire actors to come in and pretend to have schizophrenia or premature ejaculation or some other crazy thing. It’s like that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer has gonorrhoea. Yeah, that was a pretty weird gig and it has since made me a total hypochondriac.
After my Vancouver life, I worked abroad as a model and then also randomly got into working on yachts for a couple of years. Now however, I’m an English teacher and I still work as a model / commercial actor and so that’s what’s keeping me busy now days.
Tell me about your deck hand experience. How has it shaped you?
Yeah that one was a bit of a 180. It’s funny, because nobody says to you “Hey, you should go work on boats.” Well that is unless you have a friend named Tommy Douglas in which case; he will tell you that. At two different times he’s played an integral part in my life. The first time we were sitting down in Vancouver where I was working as an actor and he said, “You know, you might want to work on a yacht. That would be a really cool job for you and you could travel the world.” And I was like, that’s random, but it planted the seed. Fast forward a couple years, I’m living in South Africa and I go on a date with a girl who just so happened to work on yachts. I found myself asking her a lot of questions about it and it soon became apparent to both of us that I was more interested in her job than her so when I went home (alone) I started searching how to get a job on a yacht. Next thing you know, I was doing all these courses to work on boats. Firefighting, survival at sea, security (what to do in case of pirates. Not kidding). It was super interesting stuff but that year ended up being a super busy year for me travel wise and I didn’t have time to make the career change. To put it in perspective: in 2015 I traveled to 24 countries so there wasn’t a lot of time to start a new career.
So after all that, I’m back in Van, totally exhausted, and I get a phone call. It’s my old buddy Tommy Douglas and he says, “Hey, I’m working on a reality show called The Bachelorette Canada and you should be on it.” So next thing you know, I’m signed up for reality TV. As if my life wasn’t random enough. All thanks to Tommy. Anyways, when I’m going through the interview process, they say, “What do you do for a living?” And this little light bulb went off in my head and I just said, “I’m a deckhand. I work on yachts.” Now, just to be clear, at that point I had never actually worked on yachts. It was a blatant lie. A lie however, I intended to make true.
So that’s what we went with. Kevin P the 35 year old deckhand. Then, once we finished filming the show, I knew I HAD get a job on a boat before this show comes out.” I had 6 months to make it happen.
So I flew to France, suitcase in tow and I dragged that suitcase all around southern Europe. Up and down the coast of France, Spain, Monaco and Italy looking for work. I had this little app that would show me where the yachts were, so I bought a little yacht crew outfit, I made up a totally bullshit CV and then I just went up and down the coast hunting yachts. When I would see a bunch of yachts at one port, I’d have to sneak into the port (because often you’re not allowed in unless you’re crew). So I have to walk in with other people and look like I work there. And then I’d walk up to the boats and say, “Hi, my name’s Kevin. I’m a deckhand here and I saw you guys just got into port. I’m wondering if you need any help with a wash down or need any daywork done.” The hope was to get a chance where I could win them over with my hard work and charm them into bringing me on board full time. Easier said than done though. I got countless more no’s than yes’s, but I stuck to it and I ultimately got a job on a yacht based out of Florida. It was pretty damn exciting.
So by the time the whole Bachelorette show came out I was actually working on a yacht in West Palm Beach, which THANK GOD because that would have been really awkward if I wasn’t. And it was news to a lot my friends because many of them didn’t know I had changed careers. When the show came out, they were like “You work as a deck hand? When did that happen?”
Anyways, the actual experience of working on yachts was amazing. It was really hard and I wouldn’t have had the guts to go and do it if I hadn’t already taken a big leap like that before when I moved to Vancouver to get involved in film. Something I’ve learned in my life is taking chances makes you trust yourself to take more chances.
Yachtie life was a real hard go in an industry where I didn’t know anybody. It was a lot of competition and a steep learning curve with insanely high expectations. You’re living in the bow of a boat with a crew mate in the tiniest of rooms and you’re with them 24/7. It’s really cool in so many ways, but it can also be really hard. You have no social life. No gym. No outlet. That’s why there’s so much drinking on boats. So many people end up being alcoholics. Which isn’t my thing.
Also, I very quickly learned that I get seasickness, but by the time I figured that out I had already put all my eggs in one basket and there was no turning back. So there I am on a boat and I’m desperately trying not to let anyone see me puking off the side of (not a great look). Anyways, overall it was a huge learning experience. It was exhausting, but it was also super cool. I got to travel the world. I’ve traveled to the Mediterranean, I’ve traveled to the Caribbean. I went to some beautiful, amazing places up the west coast of Canada. I met all sorts of interesting people and I got to do some really amazing things. It was a dream realized. But do I want to do it anymore? No (laughs). No, I don’t. It was an exciting chapter, and I’m glad it’s done.
You mentioned that you were on The Bachelorette Canada back in 2016. What was that experience like?
So after 2015, I ended up in Vancouver and I’m exhausted after a year of crazy travel. My buddy Tommy says, “Hey, you should be on this show called The Bachelorette.” It just so happened that a friend from my tiny high school up in Peace River Alberta had previously been the Bachelorette so I already kind of knew about the show. But if I’m being honest; I wasn’t into it at all.
At first I said I wasn’t interested so I passed on it, but it kept coming up and casting was persistent and patient with me. I figured it was generally a bad idea to do a reality show (I still feel this way) as there’s always that fear that you will have your heart ripped out or be embarrassed on National TV. But then my old agent (who has since become one of my closest friends and basically a mom to me) asked me why I was saying no to an opportunity like this? She said “This could be a really interesting adventure for you where you might actually learn something.” It was through her that I realized a lot of my resistance to it was just fear, lack of control and my own bullshit getting in the way. So it was ultimately Bridget who changed my mind. I decided, ok, let’s do it. If the universe has put this in front of me, it’s for a reason. You get more with yes then no so I went down that road.
Let me be clear: I signed an NDA so my hands are tied with what I can talk about, but it’s been three years so hopefully the heat has cooled off on that. What I can say is this: to start, we were totally unplugged from the world for the entire time we shot it. I was there about six weeks and during that time I had no phone, no TV, no books or any access with the outside world. It was a super interesting experience and likely the last time I’ll ever be that unplugged for a 6 week period.
To be on a show like that, means you’re essentially in a polygamist cult, right? (laughs) And if that isn’t weird enough, you don’t know what’s true. You’re always being filmed. You’re always being recorded with people listening and logging anything you say. It’s a very weird situation and suddenly it’s one hundred percent of everything as your real life outside of this just takes a complete backseat. The whole thing was bonkers. Luckily, I got along really well with most of the guys and seeing how you spend basically all your time with each other, that made it a fun time. Most of those dudes are really solid and I still keep in touch with a handful of them. Benoit, Seth and David. And yes, even Drew. He’s actually a pretty cool cat…….when he wants to be (laughs).
Then there was the girl. Jasmine Lorimer. Total pixie. Picture Tinker Bell and that’s Jas. But it was much harder to get to know her because you didn’t get to spend enough time with each other. I really wanted one on one time because here was this girl, and she seemed amazing but she kept getting pulled away every time I thought I would get to really get to know her. Still though, I was interested and the moments I had with her were great. There’s something there behind Jasmin’s eyes, like she has a secret. I wanted to know who this girl was. I wanted know more. It was kind of like this carrot on a string thing where I kept chasing it. But we never had enough time.
So that was really hard but the other tricky part was that the whole thing was being filmed, so you’re trying to be natural with each other but it’s kind of like trying to tango in space suits. It’s just awkward. Another thing is that I’m very interested in all things filming, so I’m a total geek when it comes to being on a set. I think for a lot of the other guys, they were a bit awed from being in front of a camera as it was their first time but for me it was more relaxed as I had been around that world more. I was just interested from a technical standpoint in the production process. I would want to talk to the crew but they couldn’t talk to me because they’re not allowed. So, it was hard because those were the people I wanted to talk to. I wanted to talk to the crew, way more than all these bachelor dudes talking bachelor gossip.
Later on when I was done on the show, I finally was able to spend time with the crew and talk to them. It was the coolest thing because you’re going through this experience together, but you’re having to do it while one party is mute. I’m talking to them, but they’re not able to talk back. And finally, when I was done, the curtain was lifted and I got to befriend some of the crew and it was awesome. I’m still good friends with a bunch of those people. That was such a great experience. They really took good care of us.
As for my story with Jasmine, you know, we never really had enough time to build a real relationship. Very early on I said to her, “I don’t know if I’m going to ever get married or have kids. That’s not a goal for me. For me, the first step would first be to have a really good partnership, build that love and then go from there. Now I can imagine if I’m in a really great relationship, maybe I would want to get married and have kids, but it’s not the finish line for me. I think so many of us have had that idea hammered into our heads that that one outcome is what we should want and I just think there is something….. missing in being so one track minded on that. So she knew where I stood from the beginning. Later on we find ourselves (and 50 or so muted crew) rock climbing up on this mountain in Morocco and we finally get the one on one time. But there’s so much pressure. The show keeps asking about love and the next date would have been her meeting my family and to be honest, that terrified me. My family didn’t sign up for that, not to mention I didn’t want to have to explain why my mom’s not around on national TV. So Jasmin and I sat down and we finally had enough time to really talk. And we had one of the most genuine talks I can remember having in a long time. It just felt honest and raw. And I’m so thankful for the way that all went. It just finally felt like, ok. We’re on the same page. I know who you are, you know who I am, and I realized this is somebody who really does want marriage and kids. Who needs that. And I know what you’re thinking: obviously she wants that. She’s on a show where that’s the finish line. But the other side of it, I was very clear about who I am. She knew. And so I said to her, “There’s some great guys here that would give you marriage and a white picket fence, if that’s what you need. But if you’re interested in travelling the world and and having new adventures where we don’t know where we will end up, living somewhere new and doing something different every few years….well that’s what I’m going to do with my life. And I want a partner for that trip. I’m looking for a copilot to adventure with”.
Ultimately, as much as Jas loved that idea, that’s not what she needed. She needed stability. And that is ok. I get that. There is NOTHING wrong with having a place to hang your hat.
I have no regrets about Jasmine and I. I’m so thankful for the time I got to know her, I’m so thankful for that experience. She’s a great girl.
As soon as that show was done filming, I flew to France to go make yachting real and there was about a 6 month gap before the show began airing so by the time it came out I was well into my yacht adventures (thank God). Seeing it retold on TV felt so different than filming it. It was an entirely different experience. For that six months between filming and airing, I had this cool little secret in my pocket (no one knew I had done the show) and I kind of liked having it that way. When it was released and I saw it on TV, I guess it was always bound to feel a bit different than I remembered it. I mean, I was represented very well on the show. They were very kind to me and for the most part they showed me as I am. But it was still weird to watch because, you know, it’s reality TV meant for entertainment. We all know what that is. Also, I think the Bachelor world attracts a lot of people who can be obsessed with the whole Prince Charming idea and I think that can be a bit dangerous. So I got a bit of that which was weird to suddenly deal with.
But all that was overshadowed by seeing the reaction people I actually knew had to it. In a lot of ways it was pretty cool and I’m not going to lie, it definitely played to my ego, seeing everyone so excited. But to be honest; it pretty quickly got irritating. There was a year period where that was the only thing people wanted to talk to me about. And it just I was like, OK, I’m done with this. If this shit ends up on my tombstone (Kevin Dexter 1981-2080, former reality TV Bachelorette contestant), I’m going to be pretty disappointed that THAT was the highlight, you know? I do not want this to be the forever identifier for Kevin. I secretly worry that if I ever end up in jail on the news or something, the headline will read: “A former local Canadian reality TV star has been arrested in Moscow for……stealing borscht or something.” I know that is ridiculous but it just bothers me that there’s some people who will only ever see me for that show, but then again, I guess you can’t change how people see you. That’s that’s for them to decide. Everyone has a different version of you in their heads. And I guess that’s ok.
So, yes the Bachelorette was an interesting chapter in my life and I am really glad to have taken that opportunity. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me some valuable lessons. However, it is (in my humble opinion), far from the most interesting thing I’ve done and my desire to talk about it fades pretty quick.
What drove you to pursue a creative career in modeling and acting?
Well, I was always interested in movies and stories and I love good photography. It was something that fascinated me, but I never had the guts to do it. I grew up in an area where it was more common to work with your hands and the movie industry just wasn’t on the radar. Then when I was 26, I was visiting an old college friend in Vancouver who worked in the film industry and I guess I must have been asking him a lot of questions about his work because eventually he said, “I could probably help you get an entry level job, as a PA. It’s shit pay, long hours and hard work but you’ll be on set.” As much as I wanted to say yes, I had no experience and had never really taken big chances like that before. So initially said no, but during the 12 hour drive back to Edmonton from Vancouver, something switched in my brain. When would I ever get another chance like this? Why wouldn’t I do it? So by the time I got to Edmonton, I knew I had to take the chance. And so the next day I quit my restaurant management job where I had been working to become a general manager of this restaurant. I was pretty close to that goal so it stung to leave what I had worked so hard to get. It meant giving up a lot and it was terrifying as I had no clue what I was getting into. But, I quit the job anyways, packed up my life in a U-haul and moved to Vancouver to try and get a job in film.
Sounds cool right? Well unfortunately, the job fell through when I got there and I very quickly realized how hard it is to make it in Vancouver. I immediately started applying to be a Production Assistant by faxing my resume to all the different productions shooting in Vancouver. I would go to Staples (because who has a fax machine?) once a week. They knew me by name. Meanwhile, I had to get a job to pay the bills but couldn’t find anything so finally I tucked tail and I had to ask my old boss to put in a good word for me and help me get a lowly serving job and another restaurant in the same chain. Talk about humbling. Not a high point. He must have thought I was crazy.
But I hustled and for six months I searched and applied for a chance to get on set while also angrily waiting tables. Then one day I got a call from a show called Smallville. There had been a huge snow storm (rare for Van) and one of their sets was covered in snow. “Can you be here right now to shovel it out?” he said as I was just doing up my tie to go to my nightly work of serving tables. “Yes. Absolutely. I’ll be right there.”
So that was how I started. Shoveling snow on the set of Smallville. Eventually, they hired me on to work in a more regular capacity as a Locations PA.
If you’ve ever walked by a film set and there was a guy there in a neon vest with a walkie-talkie asking you not to walk through set; THAT’S a PA. PA’s “lock down” anything film related. They do everything and anything and to be honest; it is a pretty demoralizing job that comes with long long hours and awful pay….but that’s where everyone stars.
So that’s what I did, because it was an opportunity to learn the business. It was my film school. Over time I got more and more responsibility and I began to really understand how a movie is made. I would watch complex process of how everything comes together and it was just the coolest thing. I also was so fascinated with how the actors and directors would work together to sculpt a performance. During those years I got to watch some serious big name actors practice their trade.
Eventually, I decided I also wanted to try acting so I took lessons and moved into the exciting world of broke actors. I worked as an extra (background performer) did countless forgettable student films and took every and any opportunity to network and be in front of the camera. After a while, I got an agent and stared going out for commercials. I didn’t book a single commercial that first year. It was rough.
As for modelling, the modelling thing happened when I got an agent. I think she was just wondering what to do with me so she said you could also model. And I so I said sure. I was broke and here was a chance to earn some money. It was exciting. It’s a cool feeling when you step onto a film set or onto a photography set for the first time. My heart would race before I got in front of a camera. It was out of my comfort zone but I used to love that feeling. It felt really good to be doing something different. Years later that crazy excited feeling has since faded and I don’t get terrified when I walk in front of a camera. I’ve done it thousands of times at this point. I enjoy it for different reasons now. Being able to do a job well feels good. But yeah, at first it was scary. It was one of those things that made me feel alive and it ended up opening a lot of doors down the road.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Kevin coming soon.
To find out more about Kevin or get in touch, follow the links below: