INTERVIEW: Keith Simpson Porter - Energy, Agility and Mercurial Charm

Gus Franklyn-Bute Editor-in-Chief

Activate the Dream (#AtD) is a series of inspiring articles and commentaries from and about individuals, groups and communities around globe who are actively pursuing their dreams and ambitions.  Their stories challenge and inspire to us break down walls and barriers, remove the roof and fly.  Activate the Dream (#AtD) is about making hushed voices that are never heard audible, and shining a spotlight on people like you and me whose stories, actions or convictions challenge others to activate their own dreams.

Keith Simpson Porter is a London born and based model and actor and ACU|BIEN ambassador.  I recently caught up with Keith when ACU|BIEN collaborated with Caribbean photographer, Adrian Richards during his visit to London Fashion Week SS/15.  Adrian’s photoshoot captured the strikingly energy and agile former athlete in East London’s trendy, Shoreditch district, not far from where Keith grew up.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

Adrian Richards said of Keith Simpson Porter:

“I first met Keith at an Islands of the World Fashion Showcase in the Bahamas a few years ago, and was immediately impressed by his easy going, nice guy personality. He is a natural athlete and clearly enjoys honing his body into the best shape possible. Pressed for time, before catching my Eurostar train to Paris, I was instantly inspired by Keith’s commitment to the process. I enjoyed shooting him and would gladly do so again in the near future.”

Keith Simpson Porter‘s continuing rise to success is a catelogued by national television, print and fashion campaigns in Britain, music videos, and appearances at fashion weeks.  Keith’s mercurial, down to earth charisma reveals traces of his Jamaican and St Lucian heritage, characteristics which are brilliantly captured by Adrian.  As you get to know Keith, the man, it is fair to add ‘comic’ to his skills set – he has been writing comedy material from an early age.  No surprise then that our conversation is peppered with his infectious wit and joie de vive.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

Q. Define success for you?

A| So, we’re going in straight for the deep and meaningful… like a “so tell me about your mother”, and I take a deep, shuddering sigh and get all blurry of eyed? [KSP laughs – he does that a lot, you will come to realise that]  Okay, let me put my feet up and lay back on the proverbial leather sofa.

Success for me is simply being able – from the moment I wake up and from that morning shower to when I crash back into the sofa at the end of the day – to honestly take pride in what I’m doing.  I am an extremely goal orientated, so when I’m not achieving, improving and gaining, I get majorly down on myself.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

Q. Keith, you have chosen a tough profession to be an actor and model – an industry with a talent pool ranging from deluded to the gifted where most people fail.  How do you rate yourself along this gradient?

A| Right now I consider myself a successful commercial model. I have been really fortunate with the opportunities that have come my way. This year though, I have been veering towards more acting jobs – plugging away, grafting and putting myself out on those mean streets, like a hooker with nothing to lose and a ton of bills to pay.

Q. What drives you to keep going?

A| That really depends on the how it’s going that month. As crap as it sounds, for anyone out there wanting to get in on the ‘biz’, it can be both a tremendous boost and drain. I’ve had periods where the going is good. Great jobs literally thrown at me; landing every casting and you can’t help but feel like the man of the hour. Food tastes better! Bounce in your step… you feel like sexual Tyrannosaurus – a being of mythic talent and good fortune [more laughter from KSP].

Then you get those droughts.  No casting directors like you.  You hear, “that was great audition, we’ll be in touch”.  Then the phone rings. It’s your agent letting you know they went with the other guy.

But, I keep going because fundamentally, I really enjoy what I’m doing.  Just like Childish Gambino says “I keep my career going at full throttle, even though the pain will follow”.  It’s the career I’ve chosen to put my all into, and until I want to pursue other things I’m going to take the downs with arms open, just as wide as I do with the successes.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

Q. And what has been your greatest challenge so far along your path to success?

A| That’s an awkward question, because I am still on that path. There are times I feel like I’m packing my survival kit for this epic journey. This year alone I’ve had to take a few steps back on myself… to re-access, regain my focus. But I’m totally fine with that, because that is what it is all about. 101 ‘NOs’ and 1 Great ‘YES’ make it all worthwhile.

I can be my own worst enemy at times, tearing myself down more than anyone ever could. In 2014, I have adopted or stolen a mantra that is constantly being hammered home at the theatre company I’m training with currently – it is to simply learn to ‘Get out of your own way’. Most often, it tends to be ourselves that stop us from achieving our dreams.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

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Q. This is a very intriguing insight. In what way has this mantra helped or is helping you?

A| DEFINITLEY!!  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve dragged my feet or second guessed myself over opportunities or situations that could have been supremely beneficial. Prime example: about a year ago I had auditioned for a role for a TV series, completely out of the blue. After the audition, I thought nothing of it.  At the time, things weren’t all that great personally. Auditions don’t pay bills. Landing them do, and I had been struggling.

My confidence was hanging by a thread and on top of that I couldn’t even find a 9 – 5 to tide me over. I’m the kind of person that will go into self-destructive at times like these.  So I cut myself off. Stopped checking my emails, switched my phone off and literally pulled the curtains on the world outside.

About 2 weeks later, when I switch on my phone there were voicemails from my agency asking me to get back to them urgently. Long story short, I had landed the role I auditioned for, and they they had been frantically trying reach me. If I had just kept the positivity going, even just gone through the motions, who knows where it would have taken me. “Get out of your own way“.  Don’t be your own worst enemy!

Q. So have you had to do anything in those leans days for pay or a job that you now regret?

Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

A| [KSP throws his head back, busts of laugher! Is KSP going to kiss and tell?]

No regrets! No! No! No! [More laughter!] Every opportunity, good or bad, I’ve learned from… even those assignments the for pay-for-view premium Channel XXX [KSP roars with laugher!] I joke! I joke!  Seriously, I can only recall one time I’ve actually thought what the hell have I gone and signed up for. It involved going completely starkers [naked] in a bloody cold room, so my confidence wasn’t firing on all cylinders.  But, it actually became one of my most memorable shoots.  Completely out of my comfort zone, but I ended up loving it!

Q. Was this the cover shoot for the big relaunch of Norwegian magazine VG Helg, with Air Behn, the famous author and artist who is married to Princess Märtha of Norway? Tell us more about that?

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

A| Yeah! Can you believe it? I constantly had to stop myself from laughing out loud.

Let me set the scene.  I have to reiterate this was a classy, tasteful applied nudity shoot [smothered giggles fill the air].

I turn up at this abandoned tavern in East London – completely unassuming from the outside. I am greeted by this gorgeous lady… complete stunner, “You must be Keith“. I think I nodded dumbly and muttered some inaudible response.  She radios the crew that the “precious cargo” had arrived.

Suddenly, I am in this huge grotto… as I step in timidly, smoke [dry ice] curling around my ankles. I feel am in a Prince video.  I am introduced to this excellent editorial and commercial photographer, Kerre Lien based in Oslo, Norway. I meet the other models and as I am getting my bearings, in walks Mr Air Behn.  Maybe it’s the smoke machine messing with my mind, but I am pretty sure he floated in the room.

Behn starts poppin’ bottles… handing out champagne. [I am temptation to burst in to an impression of Bubbles DeVere, “Champagne, champagne for everyone”.] Here was an entire cast and crew of Norwegians and me, in a dimly lit, smokey grotto, sipping champagne at 9.00 a.m. It was completely bizarre.

Once  Behn had described the concept, the other models and I stripped naked.  I had my own ‘oiler’, and I was trying to be as professional as possible.  Don’t stare! Look at the floor, and all that!

Then, Behn says “Hmmmm… I have an idea!” He looks at me, “I see you as an exotic creature, your glowing skin and lean physique…  How would you mind if I wore you like an animal fur?”  Behn uttered this all through a straight, deadly serious face. At this point, I had completely put aside all inhibition.  This grotto was my reality, so why not?  I’ll be your animal fur mate, no worries! [KSP laughs, and laughs]

SEE: Photographer Kerre Lien ‘Behind the senes’ on VG Helg cover shoot
Images and video


It was a really cool experience. Out there, but enjoyable all the same” After, we high5’d. I put my kit. Had lunch with 2 gorgeous Norwegian ladies, and the husband of Norwegain Princess’… not bad for a day’s work.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

Q. Fearless, professional or irresponsible? Some may consider it controversial that you have been represented as a beautiful creature of exotic origins, being ‘worn’ by a member of Norway’s elite royal family.  How do you response?

A| Irresponsible!? Come on! Have you seen Nicki Minaj’sAnaconda‘ music video?  It was a judgement call on my part, totally. Was it a statement for him? I really doubt it.  I think it was merely an idea, and we ran with it. It’s a strong picture! If I felt it was going to end up coming off as an exploitative image I would have said no.

I can honestly say that the picture is tasteful. This is an image with full frontal nudity, and yes a black male draped round a white “high profile” male. But seriously, it is a great piece of photograph. Plus, it’s good to stir the pot and piss people off occasionally. It makes for good conversation.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

Q. What would you tell young people who see very little positivity in the world?

A| Ah that’s easy! It’s true! “There is no positivity! There is not hope! Run while you can! Remember me… and tell my story to your children and your children’s children too.” [KSP is in ever comedic mode].

When you are young, learn from as many people, opportunities and avenues as possibly. Don’t confine yourself to a specific group. Do not bracket yourself.  Positivity can be as simple as having a positive state of mind – easier said than done, I know.  For at times, I am the King of Doom and Gloom, but just hang in there.

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography

Q. What is next for you?

A| Well, I’ve just finished filming some scenes on a nice little gig on the set of the new Tarzan movie at the Warner Bros studio in England. I play one of the warriors, so I will be there on the silver screen in my loin cloth, oiled up (again) and in 3D. So, sorry folks if I poke anyone’s eye out. Again, a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow. I was able to see Samuel L Jackson and Alexander Skarsgard at work, and it has further fuelled my desire to fulfil my dreams.  Ahhhh, don’t get me going man, or we will be here for hours.

At this instant, I remain on the grind. as I said earlier, I’m training with an amazing theatre company in London at the moment, so I am continuously honing my craft. I will be ready when the big wigs call… And, if all that goes to blazes, I’ll have to put Plan B into action – ‘Date-a-Kardashian… Yes, if all else, there’s always a Kardashian.’

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Keith Simpson Porter: Photo by Adrian Richards Photography