Dominic Bowden has built a career and business around his talent for hosting shows and performing in front of cameras. He shares the story and strategy behind a strong personal brand.
Even as a kid Dominic Bowden was no stranger to cameras; he starred in a number of local TV commercials. He fell in love with the process of television from an early age, he says.
Dominic graduated with a Bachelor of Communication, majoring in television. Part of the course involved putting together live studio shows. This was where he was first exposed to live TV and working with production crews.
“I liked the idea that each person has a job; we’re all one cog in a big wheel and the show will only ever be as good as the sum of its parts.”
After finishing his degree, Dominic landed his first job working on the Xena and Hercules television series. “I was a production runner, copying scripts, picking up actors from set and I absolutely loved it!”
Then came an opportunity to front the animated kids’ show Squirt. Dominic spent two years in Dunedin working alongside one of his great mentors – Ian Taylor from Taylormade Media.
“I learnt so much from Ian; about how to carry yourself and the importance of teamwork,” he recalls. “I was spoilt to have him as my first boss.”
A live music show called Space followed soon after. Then Dominic crossed the ditch to try his luck in Australia. He quickly discovered that his achievements and experience back home didn’t count for much there. If he was to start over, he’d rather give it a go in LA.
“I’d always had a pull to America and my next career opportunity; hosting New Zealand Idol helped get me there,” he says.
Through New Zealand Idol Dominic travelled to Los Angeles and met and interviewed American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. “To see Ryan’s work ethic and how he managed to turn the exact role I had into a business, set off a lightbulb for me.”
Dominic signed with William Morris Endeavour Entertainment, the world’s biggest talent agency, moved to LA in 2007 and became the first Kiwi to host live primetime network show American Band on Fox.
Today he works for the E! Channel, and ABC as a backstage host on Dancing with the Stars USA. He’s living the dream.
Career defining advice
The biggest shift in Dominic’s career thinking came through his US agents.
“They said ‘your career will be defined by what you say no to,’ and this has proven to be true. I’ve learnt to trust my judgment as this has always served me well.
“I’ve also tried to put myself in environments that scare me so I’m constantly up-skilling, getting better and trying new things.”
He says while it can be a challenge splitting his time between two countries, the secret is to determine how to bring key learnings from America and make them work in New Zealand. “The two markets may be different, but the television and media industries in both countries have many common threads.
“The one thing I’ve learnt is that opportunities come from the relationships you build based purely on trust. You have to earn that trust and then slowly those people will reciprocate with opportunity.
“This especially rings true in markets like America where initially I was virtually unknown. I had to start again and that was daunting. But it did allow me to correct past mistakes and approach things with a more mature mindset.
“They say luck is where opportunity meets preparation. I truly feel in that sense my luck in America came at just the right time.”
Personal branding must be well managed and Dominic’s happy to share advice.
“The most important thing for me is authenticity,” he says, “especially when dealing with live television, as it’s impossible to be something you’re not.
“When I first landed in the States there was a lot of pressure to lose my accent and be American. I did courses and speech training but in the end it never felt like the real me.
“As soon as I went back to just being me, the work started coming.”
When faced with an opportunity, Dominic says he generally asks himself three questions: Will I be challenged? Will I get better through the experience? Does it feel like a stretch?
“I believe there’s always a lot more to learn and experience in my work life; that’s always my advice to others.”
Dominic advises a lot of young Kiwis that go to LA. “I encourage them to experience the culture, enjoy the process and the ride – because if they just chase jobs, clicks or followers, it’s hard to ever feel fulfilled.”
Dominic’s ride has certainly had its struggles. He’s knows what it’s like to miss out on a big opportunity at the final hurdle.
“The lesson, like anything, is to ask yourself: ‘If today was my last day, am I doing what I love?’ Rather than just making the destination the goal.
“I always remember a quote from Ryan Seacrest: ‘See everything you do as a course in the class of what to do next’.” It’s about leveraging the business potential in everything, he says.
Looking ahead, Dominic would love the US to remain a big part of his life, although he admits he misses his friends and family back home.
He knows he’s lucky to be working with E! in LA and is grateful for the support he’s had from Mediaworks and Woman’s Day in New Zealand.
“The most important thing has been to show that I’m not just a host but also a creator of entertainment content for the different partners I work for. The changing media landscape has given me a lot more opportunity to play with in this space. I love telling stories; working on live events and working with everyday people both here and back home.
“I’ve been through a few struggles to get to where I am now, but it’s been well worth it now that I’m here.”