New York Post
June 23, 2011 ι Jarett Wieselman
Makeover shows are dime a dozen these days (hell, entire channels are dedicated to them!), so it’s easy to forget that Carson Kressley kicked started this wave in 2003 along with his “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” cohorts.
Now, four years after the last breeder was buffed up, he is returning to the genre with a new show, OWN’s “Carson Nation.” But in addition to going at it solo this time, Carson says the big distinction between this and those other shows is his approach. This is all about the “make better” not the “makeover.”
A concept he explained to me when we caught up in NYC yesterday — also up for discussion, what it’s like having Oprah Winfrey’s number on speed dial.
PopWrap: Explain to be the idea behind the “Make Better.”
Carson Kressley: First of all, your show needs to be entertaining, second of all, it needs to be different and there are so many makeover shows that are truly superficial. It’s “we’ve changed your clothes, hair and make-up, so go conquer the world.” In this show, we’re really taking time to get to know people and hear their stories. You have to get to know someone to learn what’s going to work for them and what they can maintain. What I always try to do is do a version of the person, that is them – only better!
PW: Ok, but how do you do that?
Carson: It boils down to me caring – I want to hear their story, I want to hear how I can make it better. That’s something Oprah has professed many times: people need someone in their life who cares. Who listens. Even though a makeover is an inherently superficial process, making sure they believe they are worth investing in through that process is an important message. By the time we’re done, not only do they look cuter, but they also feel better about themselves. I can literally hold that mirror up to them and say, “look at your potential! You didn’t think you could look like this, so there’s probably a lot of other things you can conquer that are way more important than having cute shoes.” Although cute shoes are very important [laughs].
PW: Earlier this year you also hosted “Your OWN Show” — for you, how does this experience differ?
Carson: This is my wheelhouse. Hosting is fine, but walking out to give someone their challenge and then adjudicating to send them home is really hard for me. Which is why I made Nancy O’Dell kick everyone off [laughs]. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve been doing makeovers on TV for years and years and years. It’s something I really know how to do. I also know personally what it’s like to not feel good about yourself. I wasn’t always this confident. Growing up as the awkward gay kid in a small town in Pennsylvania, you’re constantly told “don’t be yourself, don’t be proud of who you are.”
PW: When did that change for you?
Carson: Moving to New York and being more of my authentic self was a big part of it, but certainly after the tremendous success of “Queer Eye,” there was a lot of validation. You learn that it’s ok to celebrate who you are. I love having a medium where I can instill that same celebration of people being themselves.
PW: Like most people, I was a huge “Queer Eye” fan — and it’s crazy to think about now, but without that show, there might be no Bravo network.
Carson: I know! What would we do without the “Housewives of Orange County?!?” Where would we be as a society?!?! Can I ask you, why aren’t the “Housewives of Orange County” actually orange? I just don’t get it.
PW: Um … aren’t they?
Carson: Yea that’s true – they could also use smaller hair and bigger clothes while we’re at it. One day at a time.
PW: What is the number one question fans ask you?
Carson: When was the last time the five of us were together? Always. And for the record, I think the last time was probably very close to when we were filming “Queer Eye.” I see the guys all the time, but we’re scattered all around. Whenever I’m in their cities, we get together – people also ask if we were really friends. There’s no way we couldn’t be friends because that experience bonded us. Reality TV was just starting, none of us knew what would happen. We all quit our jobs and took this risk. We ended up on this crazy successful ride of a million highs and lows – but we went through it together, and that has bonded us forever.
PW: Obviously they were good teammates, but it doesn’t get much better than having Oprah on speeddial, does it?
Carson: No. if you’re gonna have someone in your corner, you want it to be Oprah. She just stands for all things that are good in this world, so I’m happy to be on her team.
PW: Well, I am a huge “Season 25: Oprah Behind The Scenes” fan.
Carson: Oh my god, isn’t it the best!
PW: The best. I’m honestly more upset about that ending than I am about her actual talk show.
Carson: I know! And it’s so eye-opening to see how it all really works. When you see the Oprah Winfrey show, it’s so polished and smooth – you have no idea that Liza Minnelli was just smoking in the ladies room [laughs]. It’s a great look into why the show was so successful and who helped to make it that way. But the good news is there is an Oprah Behind The Scenes Marathon all Saturday afternoon leading up to the premiere of “Carson Nation,” so you can’t ask for anything better than that!
“Carson Nation” premieres June 25th at 10pm on OWN