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Makeover maestro Clinton Kelly '91

Kelly in <em>WNTW</em>'s TriBeCa studio, New York City. Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert

Kelly in WNTW's Tribeca studio, New York City. Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert

The premise of Clinton Kelly's popular TLC cable reality series What Not to Wear is as follows. An unsuspecting man or woman is nominated by friends or family for a complete makeover; hidden cameras record the individual's crimes of fashion; Kelly and partner Stacy London stage an ambush and propose a $5,000 New York City spending spree, with one string attached: In words they intone near the beginning of each episode, "Hand yourself over to us, body, mind, and wardrobe."

The congenial Kelly, a Long Island native, "fell into fashion" by a circuitous route, he says. "I changed majors at BC almost every semester," before graduating in communication, "one hydrology class away" from a second major in environmental geosciences. He earned a master's degree in journalism at Northwestern University, then took aim at the competitive job market of New York City's publishing industry, half expecting to be "eating cat food out of a tin" for awhile.

Kelly found work first with a now-defunct sports apparel publication, followed by editorial posts at Mademoiselle and Marie Claire. From 1994 to 1996, he moonlighted as a home-shopping host on Q2 (part of the QVC network). In 2001, he was named executive editor of DNR, a weekly news magazine in the Fairchild Group covering men's fashion and retail. While at DNR, Kelly was invited by a casting director to audition as a replacement for London's original partner. His elegant and wry demeanor complemented London's high-energy persona, and he was hired. That was two years ago.

Most television series average 22 episodes a season, but Kelly and London taped 50 episodes of What Not to Wear this past year. The show's affable tone also sets it apart from much unscripted television: When Kelly and London stand their subject before a 360-degree mirror to discuss the work ahead of them, they are honest but not mean-spirited.

"I still keep in touch with about 75 percent of our participants," says Kelly. "We like to keep things in perspective. We're big on celebrating the body you've got. If we were all Barbie and Ken dolls, it wouldn't be much fun."

Christine N. Ziemba '92

Christine N. Ziemba is a writer based in Los Angeles.


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