We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin E. West and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevin E., what do you attribute your success to?
Core Integrity. Period. Over the course of my lifetime, while none of us are perfect, by the time I was in my early 20’s I fully recognized the value, strength, and energy behind integrity. Just for me – not pushing it on anyone else, just for me. While we, as people, have massive similarities perhaps the most glaring difference is our internal mental wiring. I live my life, and have for a few decades now, by the (4) Agreements. One of those agreements is; ‘Be Impeccable With Your Word’ That, to and for me, is the very definition of, integrity. Sure, we can define that in many ways, but in terms of being successful in business or your career and how your brand is received it is very often related to accountability (NO EXCUSES)! Whether it has been my work on television, being prepared or all of my professional associations and relationships – or simply ‘arriving to meetings’ ON TIME, it’s a form of integrity. This isn’t just an issue in Hollywood or show business it is an issue globally…so for me the most important factor that has both grounded and been the main factor in my success, is integrity. However, the more important part of that, is the brand it creates for you. Why? Because integrity is transcendent. When you provide integrity in your artistic work, your education to others, when you speak to audiences, or author books (all of which I’ve done) what has to come through is that you’re REAL and accountable. This is why I bring up something as simply as punctuality. Traffic is never an excuse, we can all track traffic on our phones so if/when someone has a pattern of not managing to be ‘on time’ THAT becomes their brand, to me. But, of course, there are literally dozens ‘n dozens of examples of how integrity breeds success ‘n brand, that is just one!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art, career, and professional story is both simple and complex. Having grown up without a father, I lived in about 17 places by the time I was 21 (and no, no one was in the military). Ha. I’m commonly called, the Hollywood Redneck, because I’m a walking contradiction. I consider my Piscean artistic nature to be my greatest gift and yet the strong ‘n tough rural Tennessee southern gentleman, my foundation. I had a nickname from my Grandfather and a common nickname throughout my life and today I simply combine two pieces of them; ‘Intense Sunshine’. I’m not a pretty boy, didn’t grow up with any real support within my home, and came to Hollywood knowing no one. So, sure, the journey here has been difficult…BUT, I chose it. No one “makes you choose this” or stay here. I’ve experienced about all of those ‘bad stories’ you hear about, have had great success ‘n joy, and while people may disappoint or offend me commonly – Hollywood never has. Hollywood, pursuing the arts for money, is very clear that we’re for sale and if that is upsetting to you, then you should probably just act, write or whatever…simply for the love of doing it and do not care nor pursue it financially. THAT is what has allowed me to overcome all of my life’s challenges inclusive of those specifically related to Hollywood. If you’re over 20 or 25 then you’ve likely been betrayed and/or have fallen victim to something. However, being the victim of someone or an experience doesn’t mean you have to LIVE as one. I’ve made many poor and terrific decisions in my life ‘n career but what I bring to my art as an actor-speaker-author is the purity of accepting the wonderful gifts I was given at birth, those I have developed and the ability to rise above the fray at all times. That is the through line of my brand, my story, my journey and my art whether it is a television show, doing stand-up, speaking on communication or writing about life-dating and other such subjects.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ahhh, that is a good question. Hmmm, damn, a whole week…ha ha! Obviously some of this would depend on if it were their first visit to L.A., and also their natural hobbies, but overall it might go a little something like this in no particular order: 1) Sitting on Zuma beach @sundown. For whatever reason – it’s just my favorite pure beach in the immediate area 2) The view from Yamashiro restaurant overlooking all of L.A. and Hollywood is just tremendous at night. Always great for a simple nightcap ‘n stroll through their gardens there and Sushi is never a bad call. 3) I’d always want to take someone up to the Getty Museum not just because of the contents but again, the combination of its aesthetics as well. 4) Strolling along The Strand in Hermosa-Redondo-Manhattan beaches is another key item as I appreciate the Venice boardwalk but the vibe, birthplace of two-man volleyball etc., especially near sunset, is just awesome. 5) You gotta take the coastal drive up to Santa Barbara for a little wine tasting in the hills no doubt. 6) Personally, I’ve always felt that while it’s not the most unique thing a slow night drive along Mulholland drive really sums up a lot of what living in L.A is – without question and if someone were up for it – I’d give them a personalized tour of Paramount Studios. 7) There are many great downtown rooftop places to go dance, eat, chill and have a view BUT what I’d throw in that most never do, is a Helicopter ride around the city at night buzzing the tops of those buildings and having an experience not many choose to do in the ‘City of Angels’.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This is going to be a paradoxical ironic answer in many ways. The group, the organization that I give so much credit to within my story, is the organization I founded. Ha, yes, hold tight. On 5/1/1991 I held the first meeting of, The Actors’ Network. Many who may see this article were either members, speakers and/or knew about us as an award-winning membership business-education organization for actors. The physical organization went from 5/1/91-6/30/13. However, that is not the reason for the answer, it is merely the backdrop for the answer. Without even realizing it, over the course of founding, leading and running this organization I wound up having thousands of engagements with my fellow peers from all over the U.S. and approximately 23 countries. I had done a bit of educational dabbling in psychology in college and fell in love with it. And while at the time, I did not recognize what was happening to me, there is absolutely NO question the impact that being the leader of this organization (I founded) had on me. Again, per my previous statement, we’re all so very similar and yet our mental wiring is what makes us beautifully unique. Our reasons, rhymes, purpose, desire, insight, confusion, questions, artistic souls etc. are the CREDIT I have to give today – to all of those who passed through, The Actors’ Network. Many of those have been quite successful in Hollywood, many have become dear friends, and two of them I fell in love with – and they broke my heart. But, in the end, I basically was getting a PhD & Doctorate in ‘how to lead – how to listen – how to motivate – how to manage – how to be the proper amount of gentle ‘n strong.’ For those who were members that read this – THANK YOU. You are the answer to this question.
Greg Crowder Aaron Han