Today’s interviewee is most widely-known as half of the host and style experts on the delightful makeover show What Not To Wear on TLC. More recently, she is the author of the beautifully-designed book The Truth About Style, which, in the mode of WNTW, helps women adjust their exterior to reflect what’s so good about their interior. But in this case, she blends the case studies with her own stories about growing up and struggling with skin disease and eating disorder. (Unrelated, one of my favorite things about her is the cool gray streak in her hair, which is protected in her contract as a spokesperson for Pantene.) You can learn a lot more about her by following her on Twitter.
You dedicated the book, in part, to your haters, but you don’t seem like a particularly divisive public figure to me--what do you tend to get hated on for (according to the haters?)
I think people love to criticize someone who’s perceived as a critic, especially one who is in the public eye doing it. Being a critic is part and parcel of being a style “coach” on WNTW.
But what I truly meant in that dedication was that I’ve learned the most from people who have liked me the least: people who don’t like you ALWAYS have something to teach you, and in that sense, "haters” are something I am grateful for.
Your story about your experience with psoriasis is painful and horrifying. I’m curious to know why you don’t speak about it much on WNTW: it seems like it would be a good way to talk down guests on it with their own self-esteem and physical issues.
I have spoken about my experience on a few episodes but WNTW is a format show. That doesn't always leave room for Clinton [Kelly] and I as hosts to talk personally. The show is really geared and focused on each contributor so in some sense, the book has been a way to dimensionalize myself, and tell my story without worrying it would wind up on the edit room floor.
You discuss your past eating issues in the book. If you could go on a binge today and eat as much as you wanted without any physical or mental fallout, what would you eat?
Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake truffles. Hands down… And maybe some grilled cheese sammies.
In real life, how do you suggest to someone that perhaps he or she could use a makeover, not necessarily because their style is odious but because they seem like an external tune-up would make them happy? (Or does this only work on TV, with professional stylists?)
Well, it's always helpful to have a professional lend their expertise in these situations (It’s why I co-founded styleforhire.com) and why I think more people should reach out and hire a stylist to help them. But the best way I know for anyone to convince someone of a “style tuneup” is to give them alternative suggestions rather than simply criticize what doesn’t work. What makes criticism constructive is a focus on alternatives and effective solutions.
One thing I noticed both in the book and on WNTW is that you have an effortless way of getting physically close with people you haven’t known for that long. Is that something you picked up as a stylist or has that always been part of your personality?
No, I’m just touchy feely.
What would you advise an authoress on the optimal (practical) way to dress while on a book tour?
Ten steamer trunks and a staff of people to dress you (wink wink).
Microfiber jersey dresses are the best in bright colors and prints. They don't wrinkle, are seasonless, and tend to retain smell which is good when you wear nice perfume and bad if you forget deodorant.
What are some of your least-favorite trends right now, either in street or high fashion?
I just recently tweeted this: “Everything suddenly being all about a dropped waist makes me vaguely uneasy.”
Who do you most often get mistaken for when you’re out and about?
I don't get mistaken for other people, but I do get “You look a lot like that girl from What Not To Wear.”
How does it feel to be the 331st person interviewed for Zulkey.com/WBEZ?
Honored. Excited. And in numerology certain numbers mean certain things.…. If you add 3 + 3+ 1, you get 7. So that means I’m feeling pretty lucky. [Editor's Note: Due to the timing of publication, London was actually Interview no. 333, which must be a lucky number somehow.]