As the Fab Five’s fashion expert, Carson Kressley helped turn a hot mess into hotness every week on Bravo’s groundbreaking series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. He went on to give women with less-than-Hollywood-perfect-bodies a serious self-esteem boost on Lifetime’s How to Look Good Naked. And, most recently, he teamed up with Oprah for some very necessary make-unders (be gone, bottle-blondes and acid-wash jeans!). For that alone, we owe Carson a debt of gratitude. But he’s not done yet. This summer, the fab fashionista lends his queer eye—and quick wit—to Season 2 of ABC’s True Beauty, where he will join the judges’ panel (à la Ellen) for the enviable task of judging five hot guys and five hot girls on their looks and—unbeknownst to them—their inner beauty. But, before Carson’s up to his neckerchief in hot people behaving badly—and that’s just at Pride!—we thought we’d get our former cover guy (and one of 2004’s Leading Men) to give us all inner beauty makeovers for Pride season. So, listen up: You don’t want to show up at Pride looking so last season. How tragic!
I think that true beauty probably looks like Cher in concert. I’m kidding! I think true beauty is not easy to describe, but we all have experienced it: It’s a radiance; a light, a goodness that you can just feel. I think if we all focused on true beauty—the concept, not the TV show (but, of course, I do want you to watch all summer on Monday nights at 10 p.m. on ABC right after The Bachelorette)—we would be a happier bunch.
For some reason, gay culture seems to be addicted to sex, and it drives so much of the advertising geared to our community. It took me a long time to realize that the hot, airbrushed, young guys with amazing abs are an ideal that is virtually impossible to live up to (unless, of course, you are an 18-year-old Lithuanian who just got a gig with Bel Ami). But for the rest of us, I think as you get older you begin to become more realistic and realize that there is a lot more to life than great abs or a perfect smile.
The pursuit of beauty is just like anything else when you get carried away with it and it becomes extreme—I personally think it’s not a good look. It could be too much eyebrow tweezing, too much tanning, too many designer labels worn at once or too many muscles. Just dial it back a notch, Mary! Be cool with being you. Just try to be the best you that you can be! Now I’m starting to sound like Oprah or the Army. Let’s move on.
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I think now, more than ever, being “out” and being proud of who you are is the most important responsibility we
have as gay men. Though being gay is just one part of who we are, it is crucial to be out and proud so that everyone (young, old, gay, straight … even Republican!) knows that you can be loved, respected and successful in so many ways as a gay person.
There are so many people who have inspired me along my life’s path. My parents and grandparents inspire me with their hard work and commitment to their family. Greg Louganis inspires me for coming out and being a role model to me when I was a very impressionable 20-something. Ralph Lauren, my ultimate style icon and one-time boss, inspires me. And, of course, people who work or volunteer for our youth—groups like the Trevor Project, the Point Foundation and others—always inspire and impress me.
This Pride season, I think I’m most proud of living in a country where we have the freedom to publicly express our gay pride. There are still a lot of places in the world, and even in this country, where it’s hard to be openly proud, and that’s sad. We have to work on that, which brings me to another point, especially during Pride season: Not only do we have to pay a debt of honor to the generations who went before us and who made our pride a reality, we also have to be aware and keep working to advance equal rights for gay people everywhere. That could mean banding together to insist on marriage equality, being out in our communities and acting as role models, or simply spreading the word about violence against our GLBT brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. We all need to do our part. Complacency
As far as what we learn from watching my new show True Beauty, I think it would be the same for everyone—gay or straight. And the point is that beauty is only skin deep, and it’s the total package—inside and out—that makes someone truly beautiful.
Catch Carson on True Beauty, Monday nights at 10 p.m. on ABC this summer.