…I think people respond to them because I’m authentically me. I’m a terrible actor. I’ve done some movies and they’re not good. Because I know that’s not where my skills lie. Being myself has always been the best avenue for me and that plays really well on reality TV. I’ve just been very lucky that I’ve been able to have these platforms to just really be my authentic self in every different way. No matter what kind of project I’m doing, I bring “me” to it. I think the secret sauce to success is being yourself.
I recently had the pleasure to sit with Carson Kressley. Carson Kressley is an award-winning television personality and designer born on November 11, 1969 in Pennsylvania. He made his debut in television in 2003 with his participation as an expert on clothing in the series Queer Eye. Then he was the host of the makeover show How to Look Good Naked followed by other TV appearances such as a contestant for the entertainment show Dancing with the Stars. Carson has launched his own fashion collection and has tried himself in the film industry.
Savio P. Clemente: Thank you so much for doing this with us Carson. So what’s your backstory?
Carson Kressley. I grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania in the suburbs and I always loved clothes and style. I have a very stylish mom who inspired me. After school, I was like, I need to move to New York City and work for Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren or somebody like that. I worked for Ralph Lauren for a long time and eventually wound up styling a lot of their ad campaigns and runway shows and working with Ralph; it was a great career. Then one day somebody told me about a TV show called Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and they said, you should be on it. I said, well, let’s try out. We made the pilot in 2002. So it was, like 20 years ago-ish and I’ve been doing TV ever since.
Savio P. Clemente: Excellent. So tell me the most interesting projects you’ve worked on.
Carson Kressley. Oh, well certainly Queer Eye For The Straight Guy was a global phenomenon and kind of something we didn’t expect and that was certainly the most fun. But I’ve continued to work in television, which is, you know, shocking to me. Now kind of the flip side, the great bookend to Queer Eye For The Straight Guy is RuPaul’s Drag Race, which I’ve been on for seven seasons. We just won a bunch of Emmys for best reality show and best host. It’s a fantastic show because really it celebrates people living their best life. You know, the art of drag was always cloistered in clubs and not really accessible to a lot of people and now RuPaul has given that artform a real platform. People all over the world, especially kids can see people being celebrated, very diverse people, sometimes marginalized people being celebrated by living with authenticity.
Savio P. Clemente: None of us are able to achieve success without help along the way. Is there a particular person who has inspired you?
Carson Kressley. Oh, I have so many, I mean, I think my family first and foremost, my grandparents were very hard-working farmer types that created a beautiful life for themselves and were able to help me achieve some of my dreams. Then of course professionally Ralph Lauren, RuPaul, Oprah Winfrey. I was lucky enough to work with all of them and they’re just first and foremost spectacular people who have incredible vision but also worked incredibly hard to bring that vision to life. I try to do the same thing on a smaller scale, I guess.
Savio P. Clemente: You’ve done so many projects. Why do you think people have really resonated with your work?
Carson Kressley: I think people respond to them because I’m authentically me. I’m a terrible actor. I’ve done some movies and they’re not good. Because I know that’s not where my skills lie. Being myself has always been the best avenue for me and that plays really well on reality TV. I’ve just been very lucky that I’ve been able to have these platforms to just really be my authentic self in every different way. No matter what kind of project I’m doing, I bring “me” to it. I think the secret sauce to success is being yourself.
Savio P. Clemente: Let’s transition to travel. So has travel been an important part of your life?
Carson Kressley. I love travel and I didn’t really know that I was a travel lover, a fashionado, influencer or whatever until nitty Instagram came along and I was constantly posting pictures of my vacations and just even local travels around my different neighborhoods in New York or around my country neighborhoods where I come from. Then people said, wow, you’re a real travel buff and I said, yeah, I kind of love traveling and I just find that it’s very inspiring. It doesn’t have to be glamorous destinations. It could be a local farmer’s market or it could be an island in Spain. I was just there this Summer. I get to travel to great places for work like here at Ascend 2021, which is a big travel convention, you get to meet a lot of resort operators and travel professionals and advisors. So I just try to be open-minded and have an open eye for inspiration when I’m traveling, wherever it is.
Savio P. Clemente: When it comes to luxury destinations, which one is one of your favorites and why?
Carson Kressley. I love a good luxury destination whether it’s Neiman Marcus, I’ll just go there for lunch sometimes, or a beautiful resort. Some of the best I’ve been to that are really memorable would be the resorts in Hamilton island in Australia. It’s so beautiful yet so casual and whatever you’re thinking of wanting it somehow magically appears before you even tell somebody that you’re wanting it. So that’s a great one.
I’m dying to go to Lake Como. There’s a couple of fantastic, like old school, European hotels. I just stayed at a great place in Majorca called Hotel Cappuccino and it’s so stylish and it’s kind of an urban chic hotel on an island, which you don’t expect and then you have all of, you know, Majorca to explore. So that was a great one.
As far as American luxury destinations the Montages are always great and I’ve been to Montage in Cabo, Montage in Laguna, Montage in Los Angeles. So those are always super beautiful and again, like a very gracious, deluxe luxury.
Savio P. Clemente: And why do you suppose travel is so meaningful for you?
Carson Kressley. You know, I think when you’re a busy person and you don’t have a lot of free time, you want your vacation experience to be very saturated, if that’s the right word. So you want every experience to be really wonderful. I think all those places I described deliver that, and I don’t usually have a long period of time. I have a short period of time, so I want them to be really, really good. I think luxury is not necessarily about being fancy, but it’s about being well taken care of.
Savio P. Clemente: Do you have a favorite book that has had an impact on your life?
Carson Kressley. A favorite book, it’s not one in general, but I love biographies and that’s all I really read because I think people’s life stories are more interesting than fiction. So I’m currently reading the one about the Vanderbilts.
I read a lot about celebrity bios. I just read The Real Housewives’ Dorinda Medley bio and I thought it was really good and I was inspired by that. So there’s a whole gamut of biographies that I love.
Savio P. Clemente: What are your “five things I wish someone told me when I first started my career”.
- Oh, don’t wear parachute pants. That’s a big one.
- Say yes, as often as you can. Even if an opportunity doesn’t seem like it’s the right one, it may lead you to the right one.
- I think relationships are the number one thing. It’s not really about money, but like building these relationships because again they can take you so many places.
- Three things I learned from Ralph Lauren actually; details matter.
- A sense of urgency is really important. It’s all about, you know, getting things done expeditiously, especially now in this day and age.
- I think just a sense of graciousness always, and being nice. I know people say, be kind, I say, be nice, we’re all in this together.
Savio P. Clemente: So how do you use your success to bring goodness to the world?
Carson Kressley. Well, I mean, I’ve gotten rid of pleated khakis and mullets. So I think my work here is done.
But I do try to work with a lot of LGBTQ youth charities because I know how difficult it is being a gay kid myself. You feel like you can’t even tell your family about your air quote, “problem”.
So I work with The Trevor Project. I work with True Colors Fund to eliminate youth homelessness, especially amongst LGBTQ kids, because they’re 40% more likely to experience youth homelessness.
So those are things I try to give back to young people because I know they’re the future. They’re also the most vulnerable and sometimes the ones that need the most help.
Savio P. Clemente: Some of the biggest names in VC funding, sports, entertainment, read this column, is there a person in the world who you would love to have a private breakfast with, and if he or she saw this, what would you like to do?
Carson Kressley. Oh. Yeah, could it be Tom Ford? You know, maybe we could have breakfast and then go shopping and then cuddle.