Carson Kressley: The Naked Truth
This fall on Bravo marks a sad television occasion, after four seasons on the air, countless makeovers and useful advice given to gay and straight audiences alike, “Queer Eye” will bid adieu with its final season on Tuesday, October 2nd at 10PM. The season premiere episode will feature the incomparable Susan Lucci (Erica Kane on “All My Children”) hosting a “Straight Guy Pageant.”
But, let’s face it – you couldn’t have a straight guy in need if there wasn’t a chance for a queer one to bust him out of his own self imposed non fabulous prison cell. On the surface, that seems to be the lesson we should be taking away from “Queer Eye’s” successful run.
But, there is truly more than meets the eye here; as we found out when I spoke with one integral cog in the “Queer Eye” machinery, fashionista Carson Kressley, about the end of the show that made him a household name and what the future holds for this queer guy with an eye for looking good.
“We are done taping it, we taped 100 episodes – so, it’s been on the air longer than ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ I can’t believe it,” he said. “And we’ve all moved on to our own individual projects.”
And Kressley’s bond with the other guys will extend well beyond the end credits of the show’s last airing.
“I miss the guys like crazy, and we talk all the time, and we’re all hanging out – because we are certainly all friends,” Kressley explained about the still prevalent camaraderie among his TV brethren. “But, what I miss is that we all had the greatest job in the world and when you move on to other projects, you miss the five of us hanging out together everyday.”
When we spoke with Kressley, he was driving to El Monte and with the end of “Queer Eye” looming large in his rear view mirror, and he gave us his thoughts on the show’s long lasting impression.
“That pleats are the Devil’s playground,” he said jokingly with his signature quick wit that made him an audience favorite. “Honestly, when we started doing the show we just thought, ‘Hey, maybe we’ll make some guys look better, feel better about themselves – help them get a job or a girlfriend.’ And that was it.
“But then as the show gained popularity, I think the most important thing -and the coolest thing, is that some 16-year-old kid would come up to us in the mall and say, ‘Hey, I’m a gay kid and I didn’t know how to broach the subject with my family, and your show helped us talk about it. And now my family’s totally cool with it,’” he recanted. “So, I think that helping gay youth feel that it’s ok to talk about it, that it’s ok to be gay, maybe making it easier for someone to come out. As crazy as that sounds, we were just fixing people’s hair, but maybe we did actually make it easier for some kids. We were just building bridges one manicure at a time.”
Another area where Kressley has excelled with this take for an even younger demographic was by penning a children’s book, You’re Different And That’s Super. The inspiration for the children’s tome about a one-of-a-kind pony with a horn on his head and sass to spare has its roots based in reality.
“Growing up gay, I certainly felt different,” he recalled. “Kids have such a limited perspective, and you can feel different and uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. I think it’s really important to say to kids, ‘there’s lots of people just like you, and sometimes you feel like the only one, but there are a lot of people who are different and made their diversity a strength.’”
Kressley’s field of expertise makes him the perfect choice as a guest on the talk show circuit, and his time on the pantheon of all couches, Oprah’s, has it pros and cons.
“The best parts are the hugs from Oprah after the show,” he said with quick deliberation. “And, the most daunting part, I guess, is realizing you are live in front of one hundred billion people – it’s basically the same amount that McDonald’s has served. That’s the same number that watches ‘Oprah.’ I just focus on the five hundred people in the audience, and not the billions watching at home. I just imagine that I’m naked…I mean that they’re naked!”
Kressley has certainly exhibited a Renaissance man type of approach to his career. There’s the aforementioned writing – he also authored the 2004 style guide Off The Cuff and co-authored Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab Five’s Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better, and Living Better.
In 2006, he created a clothing line, “Perfect” for both men and women for QVC. Kressley even took up acting in The Perfect Man opposite Heather Locklear and Hilary Duff, and played an elf in The Year Without A Santa Claus.
With all this wealth of experience under his Prada belt, Kressley has weighed out his next project, and will be returning to television in not one, but two vehicles!
“I did just finish eight episodes of a new show for the CW called, “Crowned,” Kressley said. “It is a new mother/daughter beauty pageant that is really about not only outer beauty (duh!) but inner beauty and the relationships between mother and daughter. Of course pageants always equal drama! There was a lot of screaming, hair pulling and name calling – but that was really just between us judges!”
“Crowned” is being termed as “the mother of all beauty pageants” and is set to air in January.
Presley’s two-fold return to the tube bears a striking resemblance to the show that put him on the pop culture map, but with a twist.
“How To Look Good Naked,” which will also air in January on Lifetime and is based on a successful British reality show, will explore a different kind of makeover – one that involves no diet, exercise or plastic surgery to make a woman’s perception about her appearance shift dramatically, as Kressley explained.
“On ‘Queer Eye’ I was used to just layering on the clothes – the more the better, usually. ‘Here put on a sweater! How ‘bout that shirt? Add a hat! A necklace?! Some boots. No, don’t forget the boa! How ‘bout a pocket square?’” He said, rattling off the list of accessories in seconds flat. “And this has been really educational for me of learning the lesson that looking great in clothes, starts with feeling great about yourself with nothing on. It’s been a real eye opener for me and it’s a great concept and there’s a real message.”
When pressed further to give his definition of inner beauty, Kressley slipped comfortably back into his smartcastic self.
“Mariah Carey,” he quipped before revealing his true feelings on the subject. “Why I love doing it is I am working with women now, I’m ‘doing’ women now – which is new and interesting. So much more difficult than men – they always say girls are harder than boys, which I never believed, but it’s true. The real message of it (the show) is that you don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I think loving yourself and being happy with it and confident is my definition of inner beauty. Oh, and having a great sense of tonsils!”
And, if Kressley had his druthers about what he could be reincarnated as, it would be this.
“I’d probably be an amazing pair of shoes, because I think they are the foundation for all things that are good in the world.”
This interview was first published in May 2007.