There are some people in the world who just seem to be incredibly gifted at whatever they turn their hand to; it is rare to come across someone who has excelled in the fierce world of Investment Banking, then in the equally competitive worlds of modelling and acting, and yet manages to be a passionate campaigner in what little spare time they have left. A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to be contacted by the person we have just described, Richie Kul, so you can imagine we felt we had to seize the opportunity to speak to him in more detail. Richie had come across our Animals swim short collection on Instagram and was immediately drawn to our connection with animals, so here’s our conversation in our popular 10 questions in 10 minutes format and a few pictures of the man himself modelling his favourite Bowler & Beach swim shorts.
[Bowler & Beach] You’ve had an interesting and varied career. How would you summarise it to date for those who don’t know you?
[Richie] After graduating from Stanford many moons ago with degrees in economics and organisational behaviour, I was single-mindedly focused on a career in finance, convinced that it was the next, most sensible step. Through stints in investment banking and city government, I quickly realised that a life poring over spreadsheets and financials wasn’t for me, and as I reflected back on times I’d been approached in shopping malls and on vacation about modelling, I figured now was as optimal a time as any to give it a serious go. Ten years, twenty countries and countless memories and friendships later, I’m really grateful I took that leap. Highlights include working with brands and publications such as Mercedes Benz, GQ, Swatch, Chevrolet, Men’s Health and Ballantine’s, and recurring forays into television and film, but what I’m proudest of by far is my work in support of international charitable organisations such as Change For Animals Foundation, Animals Asia and Towards A Compassionate Nation. Through these inspiring collaborations, I’ve been emboldened to write for various online publications on the topics of animal rights and the benefits of compassionate living, most recently as a contributor for The Huffington Post.
What exciting things have you been up to this week?
A good eclectic mix of things actually – two shoots, some castings, an event for Cartier, and tried out two new vegan restaurants that just opened up. Oh, and went on some nice hikes with my little Lily, who’s quite the activist and model in her own right.
You’re passionate about animal rights and committed to being a vegan. What led to this?
I think many of us profess to love animals and value compassion and peace, but too few of us genuinely reflect on what that well and truly means. Meat and other animal products come from an inarguably violent and unkind place, and no animal voluntarily relinquishes his or her life for our consumption. When I made that connection between this grave injustice and my own complicity in such widespread suffering, I made it a point to begin walking the proverbial talk and using my platform to do what I could to help the most vulnerable beings on this planet. We treat some of the most unconscionable criminal offenders far better than innocent animals that have done no wrong, all merely to sate a pleasure that is as fleeting as it is destructive to our planet and our health. I firmly believe that most people are inherently good, and when they know better, many will do better, so I try to do my part in helping awaken hearts and minds to the innumerable health, environmental and ethical benefits of cruelty free living.
Tell us something about you that not many people know…
I’m a big ol’ mama’s boy. Always have been, and we speak/text/video chat nearly every day. She’s quite techno savvy thankfully!
Where did you do your most enjoyable photoshoot?
I recently shot an advert for the new Mercedes Benz E class in Los Angeles and Shanghai. The spot necessitated training in archery, wing chun and Argentine tango, so it was neat picking up some spiffy new skills in the process. You can catch a glimpse of it here.
What are your favourite Bowler & Beach swim shorts and what do you love about them?
I’m a big fan of the Swallows – I love the fit and quality of the shorts and design details like the branded metal caps on the drawstring and ‘share the sun’ back pocket button. Blue is my favourite colour and I’m quite partial to birds. They’re sadly some of the most abused animals on the planet, but seeing them here soaring free, wings outstretched, makes me happy and hopeful.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
That’s an easy one – end the suffering and exploitation of all living beings, be them two-legged, four-legged or flippered and finned.
You live in Hong Kong, what would you recommend doing for someone who had just one weekend there?
Hike up to Victoria Peak, visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, do an evening harbour crossing via public ferry to Kowloon (costs 20p for a one way trip!) and check out some of the amazing vegan restaurants that have popped up here in recent years.
Where is your ultimate holiday destination?
Having travelled quite a bit for work, I’m actually happiest when I’m plopped on the couch with Lily, watching a movie with a good cup of tea in hand.
And finally, if you were to give advice to someone who was considering becoming vegan, what would you say?
My advice is to really reflect on whether our day-to-day practices are consistent with our values. If they’re not, best to take decisive action. Diets and fads come and go, but if we sincerely want to make this a lasting and sustained change in our lives, our motivations ought to be rooted in ethics in some shape or form, and when we establish that connection between the food on our plates and the animals who were stripped of their breath and being for it, the perceived sacrifices begin to feel very small as we shift our focus to the victims, rather than on ourselves, and realise that their lives were never ours to take. At the end of the day, it’s about making that connection on a personal level and no longer compartmentalising and selectively dispensing our compassion. To truly inspire meaningful change, it’s important for us to extend beyond our traditional patterns of thinking. Imagine the impact we can collectively make when we endeavour to live our values and actively spread peace and kindness!
Photos by K. Lau @ Eye Open Photography | BRIGHT Production Limited