Power Punk: Carson Kressley

Queen of the Queer Eyes; the blond; Bravo!

On July 14, five nattily dressed fellows walked down the steps to the Chelsea Hotel’s subterranean bar, Serena, where they were being fêted for the premiere of their new show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy , on the Bravo cable network. Clad in black suits with brightly colored shirts peeking through, the nascently famous “Fab Five” posed for the cameras of Access Hollywood , cocking their heads this way and that, caressing each other’s shoulders and playfully grabbing each other’s rear end.

One gaze seemed particularly intense, one smile particularly fatuous; one high-pitched twang could be heard above all the others-that of Carson Kressley. The blond. Of course.

The five style savants had no idea how much attention they were going to get, but Mr. Kressley, an effete, slightly leathery 34 who favors aquamarine leather jackets and shiny Chinese-dragon-emblazoned silk shirts, has always seemed a little more hot for attention than the rest.

Magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Gettysburg College, where he majored in finance and fine art, Mr. Kressley stood out while working as a stylist at Ralph Lauren because of his frighteningly fluorescent wardrobe. A co-worker heard about tryouts for the show on the radio in a cab, and Mr. Kressley immediately began working the phones. Less than a year later, his trademark line-“Say what?”-and seemingly permanent let-me-blow-you-right-now expression are hogging all Queer Eye ‘s air time, leaving poor little cultural guru Jai Rodriguez and the others (what are their names, anyway?) with only bit parts to play.

Rumors in the New York Post that Bravo was looking to replace the cast appear to be just that. Each member has increased his weekly salary from $3,000 to around $8,000, raking in at least $320,000 per 40-episode season. They each have a fifth share in a million-dollar book deal and frequent guest-star spots on NBC.

But for reasons we can’t quite fathom, it’s Mr. Kressley who’s standing out among the five like the proverbial sore thumb (or would that be crooked pinkie?). In November, he landed a biweekly column in Us Weekly , where he gets to interview the likes of Cher and Bette Midler, thus replacing People’s Steven Cojocaru as the freakishly coiffed mainstream style arbiter du jour , the lovably limp-wristed furry pet of red-carpet watchers.

And his signature bon mots have become a kind of quickie Bartlett’s for the style-deprived: “Boxers are hot-and by boxers I mean guys who box, not the underwear. So get rid of ’em!” “Comfortable is different than confidence. Confidence breeds sexiness.” Hokey … yet somehow encouraging. Very Stuart Smalley. Not that Mr. Kressley would be caught dead in a cardigan, of course.

– Alexandra Wolfe Power Punk:  Carson Kressley