Milieu Exclusive: Interview With Fashion and Entertainment Guru Clinton Kelly

1 Posted by - November 21, 2012 - In The Magazine
Clinton Kelly

Port Jefferson native Clinton Kelly, star of TLC’s What Not to Wear, ABC-TV’s The Chew, author, Macy’s spokesperson and social media maven. (Photo Courtesy of ABC)

You might think Long Island’s own Clinton Kelly would be too busy to cultivate a Facebook presence while starring in not just one but two hit television shows, TLC’s What Not to Wear and ABC daytime’s The Chew, designing a line of women’s clothes for QVC, Kelly by Clinton Kelly, touring the country as a Macy’s spokesperson, and working on his newest book being released in September 2013, Freakin’ Fabulous on a Budget..

But Clinton finds the time to dedicate at least an hour each day to interact with his fans on Facebook, giving advice on fashion, entertaining and life.

“I realize that these people who are posting on my page have feelings and want to be heard. It sounds a little cliche, but quite frankly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without these fans,” he told me.

I “friended” Clinton when a friend of mine shared his status in reference to a Facebook post Clinton made after the Aurora movie theater shooting in Colorado. His comment said that he wished this country would “do more to keep guns out of the hands of the criminally insane.” Immediately after his comment was posted, he lost 200 “likes,” but he gained one “like,” mine.

“I get it,” Clinton says of his controversial posting. “We have a Second Amendment that gives us the right to bear arms. I made a comment that set off a big gun discussion where people got really nasty with me. And it’s interesting, right? Because some people, they get mad at you if you have an opinion. They’re like, ‘Just stick to fashion,’ or ‘Just do your TV show and don’t tell me how to run my life.’ And I’m like, ‘What? I’m a person. I’m interacting on my Facebook page as human being to human being. And now you’re telling me that I can’t have an opinion?’”

Like most of us, Clinton has plenty of opinions, and I was curious about his take on how Long Island women dress.

“They have colorful personalities and a lot of guts when it comes to fashion,” he said, “But from what I’ve noticed, they tend to fall back on black.”

Growing up in Port Jefferson Station with two younger sisters, Clinton had plenty of time to notice Long Island fashion.

“[It runs] the gamut,” he told me, “From very fashion forward to very casual.”

If he had any advice for us, it would be to lose one accessory. Simple chic never goes out of style. He also suggests that this winter our wardrobes should include a chic trench coat, dark wash jeans that fit like a glove, some great riding boots, and a cashmere sweater, with perhaps a printed blouse beneath. “It’s not about spending a ton of money on logos,” he said. “An elegant style is all about fit.”

His loyalty to Macy’s led almost naturally to his stint as their spokesperson.

“Macy’s as a brand gets what I’m about,” Clinton says. “Style is for every woman, no matter her size, her age, or how much money she has to spend. I’m not about dressing a size 2 woman because that’s a really small percentage of who’s out there. I’m about helping a size 12 woman find the right pair of jeans so that her butt looks great. And Macy’s really gets that.”

On The Chew, ABC’s daytime talk show with a foodie theme, Clinton is part of an ensemble cast featuring Carla Hall, Daphne Oz, Michael Symon and celeb-chef Mario Batali. Clinton has met scores of celebrities and shared his ultimate top three: Olivia Newton-John, whom he’s revered since childhood; JoBeth Williams, whom he half fell in love with watching Poltergeist; and Jewel, whom he says is as sweet and beautiful as he imagined when he played her 1995 album Pieces of You on repeat, ad infinitum. One of the most strikingly beautiful—and nicest—celebrities that he’s gotten to meet is Vanessa Williams.

“I couldn’t stop staring at her! And she has the prettiest hands, not a wrinkle on them, just long and elegant,” he says. “She could have been a hand model, you know, if the acting thing didn’t work out.”

You would think that rubbing elbows with stars everyday would be thrilling, but Clinton keeps his priorities straight.

“I’m not impressed by celebrity,” he says. “I work with them and have become friends with some of them, but it’s non-famous women who I really love.”

Growing up on Long Island, Clinton’s first job was as a busboy at Danford’s Hotel & Marina in Port Jefferson. After cashing his paycheck, he remembers heading to the Smithhaven Mall in nearby Lake Grove.

“Back then, they had Macy’s, A&S, and Sears,” he said. “I would spend my whole paycheck on clothes at Macy’s or in downtown Port Jefferson.

“Remember Alexander Julian shirts?” he laughed.

“Now when I come back to visit and go down to Port (what the locals call Port Jefferson Village), I just love what a quaint town it is,” he says.

Clinton is very close with his family.

“They ran a tight ship, albeit a caring and supportive one,” he says. “We’re all still super close as a family because it was a group effort. That’s what family is, it’s a group of people working toward a common goal: a loving family.

“And they were the most amazingly supportive parents. They were always there. And they let us know that what we were doing was important to them.”

Ironically, it was in an ode to family support that led to our friendship on social media. Clinton’s Facebook status updates, lighthearted quips urging the populace to “wear something cute and don’t take any crap,” candid pictures, and self-effacing comments, would appear in my feed. But there was one personal revelation that touched me so deeply that I felt that I had to let him know. His post:

Back from Anguilla. I took my mom and dad on a vacation as a thank you for being totally awesome. I don’t have kids, but I still think I can speak with authority on what it takes to be a great parent: Be supportive. Your kid says, “I want to play the tuba!” You say, “That’s a great idea. Let’s get you a tuba.” Your kid says, “I want to be a dancer!” You say, “Fabulous. Let’s figure out how to get you some dance lessons.” Your kid says, “I want to be a writer!” You say, “I will get you all the pens and paper you could ever want.” Then, you sit through every concert, attend every dance recital and read every short story. And in 43 years you will be taken on a vacation to Anguilla. 🙂 Happy Monday!

As I was “liking” his thoughtful post (along with more than 16,000 others), my son approached me with an unusual request: Could he wear a tuxedo for his first day of second grade? My first instinct was to say, “Don’t be silly.”

But Clinton’s words stopped me. So I bought my son a tuxedo and I sent Clinton a message telling him about it. When the first day of school came, I sent a picture of my kid in that tux.

And in Clinton’s words, “He rocked it.”

That tuxedo will get my son through the holiday season, but what about me? There is no one better to ask than Clinton, who offered me (and you) a wardrobe guide for the upcoming holiday season.

For Thanksgiving: “You want to be comfy and fab. You’re most likely in someone’s house, so you don’t have to get overdressed. Maybe some tailored pants with a cashmere sweater.”

For a company office party, he advises keeping it tasteful. “Too many women go to these parties looking like sluts. This is not the time to wear a strapless minidress! You can show a little bit of cleavage, but then make sure you cover your legs.”

New Year’s Eve, however, is your time to let it all out: “New Year’s is all about the sparkle, whether you wear a sequin dress or top with some fabulous tuxedo pants. You need to have some kind of shine. It could be in the fabric you choose, like a satin, or some statement jewelry.”

This is where Clinton himself sparkles: helping me, a regular Long Island soccer mom, who has never been a size 2, figure out what to wear. Clinton might be the fashion guru and entertainment expert of our time, but he’ll always be a Long Island guy talking to his girlfriends: wry, funny, and absolutely real.

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