Undressing Clinton Kelly

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(Photo by ABC/Craig Sjodin)

The Long Island native dishes about his new book, TV shows and styling America’s women

When Clinton Kelly returns home to Long Island this month to promote his latest book, I Hate Everyone, Except You, he’s hoping for a warmer reception than the last time he stopped by.

“For years, I traveled around the country to do style seminars for Macy’s. I had a whole presentation and people would jump out of their seats and applaud and laugh their faces off,” he said. “They sent me to Roosevelt Field Mall, and I was doing my bit, giving my best jokes and all my energy. I look at the audience and these people weren’t even smiling. My mother was there, she wasn’t even smiling.”

When he sat down to sign books, he was enthusiastically greeted by the same fans who a few minutes prior, hadn’t given him the slightest sense they knew who he was.

“I’m curious to see if people seem happy that I’m there, unlike at the mall,” joked Kelly about his Jan. 9 stop at the Book Revue. “It’s wonderful to go back to Long Island. I’ll do a little reading, a Q-and-A, and talk to everyone as much as possible.”

Although he lives in Connecticut now, the style icon and co-host of The Chew has fond memories of Long Island and growing up in Port Jefferson Station.

“The people of Long Island are unlike the people in the rest of the country, they’re a breed all their own,” Kelly said. “They have a tough exterior, but they’re mushes on the inside. And they love their family more than anything.”

Though now a well-known figure in the world of fashion and TV, Kelly’s latest book points back to his original career aspirations of becoming a writer. With a master’s degree in journalism and several years spent working as a magazine editor and freelance writer, Kelly says I Hate Everyone, Except You is the book he’s always wanted to write.

“I’ve had a relationship with my fans for a long time, but they only know a small part of who I am,” Kelly said. “This is my way of saying I’ve had the same life experiences you’ve had and wanting to share who I am.”

As a cohost on The Chew, Clinton Kelly aims to have fun and keep things light. Here he is pictured with fellow cohosts Daphne Oz and Carla Hall. (Photo by Jeff Neira)

The book would be incomplete without mentioning What Not To Wear, the show that completely changed the course of Kelly’s life. For 10 seasons, Kelly, along with cohost Stacy London, helped women undergo complete style transformations, offering them $5,000 for a makeover if they agreed to throw out their current wardrobe and start afresh.

What Not To Wear was one of the most important things that ever happened to me,” said Kelly. “In the beginning, I really thought I would make some snarky remarks about tops that were too low cut and skirts that were too tight and I would get the check and everyone would go on with their lives. That’s not what it turned out to be.”

Kelly continued, “I realized it was so much deeper. Women, in particular, carry around so much baggage when it comes to their appearance and self-perception, it started to weigh on me and became deeper than I was ready for. I wanted to help them so bad.”

Kelly said he would hear story after story of women who said they felt ugly or fat, many times because they had internalized a comment someone had made about them. After being on the show, women would often email or text Kelly saying how their time on the show changed their perspective and how their updated wardrobe had helped them get new careers, or relationships or achieve their goals. It was knowing he was making a difference that kept Kelly on as cohost.

“The only reason I was able to do that show for 10 years is because I knew I was helping women,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t just about the clothes; I felt I could continue empowering through this.”

Clinton Kelly with Michael Symon on The Chew. (Photo by ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua)

During his time at What Not To Wear, Kelly helped dress more than 345 women, an experience that has served him well for his Kelly by Clinton Kelly fashion line for QVC. The collection includes pants, jackets, blouses and more for women of all sizes.

“I know the frustrations women have when it comes to getting dressed,” Clinton said. “It’s so frustrating when a women is about a size 14, but they’re too big for a misses and too small for plus sizes. Why on earth should a woman who is a size 16 or 18, not have every option every other woman has? That felt really wrong to me.”

In addition to fashion, Kelly has expertise in home decorating, entertaining and cooking. Every weekday, fans can find him as a cohost on the Emmy award-winning talk show The Chew. The live show centers mostly on food, with fun cooking segments with celebrity guests. For Kelly and his co-hosts, Michael Symon, Mario Batali, Carla Hall and Daphne Oz, the show is about keeping things fun.

There’s a lot of TV that can put you in a bad mood. We’re determined to put you in a good mood,” Kelly said. “Everyday we say ‘let’s have fun today.’ That’s a great feeling that people are tuning in because they enjoy hanging out and we’re inspiring them to create things.”


To read a review of Kelly’s new book, see Clinton Kelly Hates Everyone, Except You.

Clinton Kelly Hates Everyone, Except You

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