TV personality Clinton Kelly has come a long way from his days as a busboy on Long Island to being a well-known arbiter of taste and fashion—first on the popular TLC show What Not to Wear and now on ABC’s daytime cooking show The Chew, which he calls “the best job in television.”
The 47-year-old Port Jefferson Station native knows how lucky he is to do what he loves in the public eye, as he explains in his new book I Hate Everyone Except You. He says it’s a departure from anything he’s put out there thus far—and that’s the point.
“This is a way for me to connect with the people who’ve been watching me on TV for the last 15 years,” he told the Press recently. “Sharing things I wouldn’t have been comfortable sharing before. But this is me—take it or leave me!”
Kelly believes there are sides to him that he’s never revealed before. His audience might know his television persona and what he shows via social media, but he believes that perhaps for the first time, he is letting his real personality, flaws and all, shine through.
“This is a sort of love letter to the people in my life,” said Kelly. “I didn’t want this to be a tell-all. These stories are mine, from my perspective.”
Does this mean those who have wronged him will be spared? Um, no.
“There are some people I let have it because they deserved it based on their behavior,” he said.
Told in his take-no-prisoners, sassy style that his fans have come to adore, I Hate Everyone Except You is a collection of Kelly’s personal essays recounting his childhood, parts of his career, and pinnacle moments of his life, written as if he is confiding in his best friend, an approach he hints at in the title. It isn’t a typical memoir or a celebrity tell-all, but rather a way for him to exercise a muscle he’d long desired to flex.
“I wanted to be a writer when I was younger in my 20s, but I chickened out,” Kelly confided. “I needed to make a living, so I became a magazine editor. Then these TV jobs fell into my lap, and before I knew it, I was on a course very different from where I started.”
That path began with the behemoth that became What Not to Wear, TLC’s longest running primetime-reality series.
“It was incredibly popular,” Kelly said, “and I don’t think I was ready for that.”
The premise was simple: Kelly and co-host Stacy London would give women a much-needed make-over that would empower them with a new sense of style and enable them to transform their lives by looking—and feeling—better. The hard part was convincing the show’s participants that their usual appearance had stopped working for them long ago. It was time for them to finally throw out some of their worn-out but dearly beloved clothing and start fresh. Although you’d never know it from watching the program, this negativity weighed on Kelly. He looked like he was having a blast, but viewers might be surprised to discover that it didn’t always sit right with him. In fact, some weeks were no fun at all.
“There were weeks that really sucked,” Kelly said. “I didn’t want to convince people that they looked like crap. They weren’t on the show because they thought they looked like crap.”
But in the end Kelly believes the series served a purpose—and that made it worthwhile.
“There is power in style,” he said. “Having a style is a great way to get what you want from your life. When your style is aligned with who you are, you feel empowered.”
What Not to Wear established Kelly as a television star and led directly to his current gig on ABC on The Chew, where he is enjoying the process immensely.
In writing I Hate Everyone Except You, Kelly pieced together the pivotal moments in his life to portray the trajectory that led this kid from Port Jefferson Station who once worked as a busboy at Danford’s on the Water to become a successful television personality and author.
“I’ve always been attuned to see signs from the universe,” he laughed. “But I think as you get older, it becomes easier to recognize when something profound is happening in your life.”
Besides his latest book, Kelly is the author of advice guides like Freakin’ Fabulous, Freakin’ Fabulous on a Budget, Dress Your Best, and Oh No, She Didn’t. He has partnered with Macy’s to sell his mix-and-match tabletop line, Effortless Table, and is spokesman for the retailer’s wedding and gift registry as “Macy’s Best Man.” His fashion label, which is intended for all shapes and sizes, showcases his impeccable taste and discerning eye.
So what’s next for Clinton Kelly?
“I’m only going to pursue projects that are intellectually stimulating,” Kelly said. “I’ll never take a job for the money, and I’ll never surround myself with assholes.”
Certainly his former classmates at Comeswogue High School would heartily approve.
Clinton Kelly will be signing his new book I Hate Everyone Except You at the Book Revue in Huntington at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9.