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Long Island's Clinton Kelly says goodbye to 'What Not to Wear'

It's a wrap for Clinton Kelly's TLC makeover

It's a wrap for Clinton Kelly's TLC makeover show, "What Not To Wear," after 10 years on the air. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

It's a wrap. After 10 years TLC's "What Not To Wear" -- among the first and arguably the best fashion makeover reality series -- came to a close with a final episode on Oct. 18.

And so exits Clinton Kelly, 44, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station and attended Comsewogue High School, and whose brand of tough, hilarious fashion love on "WNTW" made him famous.

Many are sad about the demise of the show, where, over the years, some 325 "contributors," (those would be atrociously dressed folks nominated by friends and family for a wardrobe overhaul) underwent fashion ambushes led by Kelly and co-host Stacy London.

He definitely is not.

"I don't know that I could have made over one more frumpy mom," says Kelly. (For the record, he's not being mean, he pegs all fashion offenders in one of three ways: Frumps, sluts and freaks.) "It was a great 10 years -- we made some good TV and some bad TV, and we helped some people. The show lived a nice long life. I don't feel bad."

This may be in part because since September 2011, Kelly has been doing double TV duty with another gig on ABC's foodie show, "The Chew," (1 p.m. EST) where he serves as the moderator and a panelist. Executive producer Mark Schneider calls him "a huge, huge talent. He's very funny, very smart, and the showman and the person are the same man." But fashion plays no part. "It's hard to talk about making lasagna and how to make your butt look smaller at the same time," says Kelly, who admits he's been struggling with a 15-pound weight gain from all the eating on the show. "My entire wardrobe of custom-made suits doesn't fit, and I refuse to throw them out."

There's also a new book, "Freakin' Fabulous on a Budget," (Gallery Books, $26) that hit stores last week. And although he's not on such a budget these days, Kelly who has penned three other books, says, "I was flat broke for many years -- I mean really broke -- and I always felt fabulous because I would pay attention to trying my best to have nice things, dress well, eat well. It's not about taking the easy way out. I really do believe fabulousness is a state of mind."

Credit goes to his family for his style chops, says Kelly. "We got dressed up to go to the dentist!" His grandmother, who worked at the now defunct Saks Fifth Avenue in Garden City, spoiled him with fashionable outfits. "She had wonderful manners and was very elegant . . . it registered," he says.

Fashion isn't out of the picture for Kelly. He continues to travel for Macy's doing style seminars across the country, but another fashion TV show is not on his radar. "Never say never, but I'm not champing at the bit," he says. "I believe 'WNTW' was the best makeover show that ever existed. The problem with it is that we spent a full week with the contributor, and during that time you can actually have an effect on someone. No one takes a week to make a one-hour show for TV anymore."

And Kelly's take-away from the show is not all funny stuff. "American women are really tough on themselves -- it makes me sad," he says. "The society we live in is a rough one, especially when you're not perfect. Parents, be careful what you say to your daughters about how they look. It stays with them for life," he advises. As for parting words, Kelly says, "Ten years of 'WNTW' boils down to this: Realize you are a fabulous creature no matter how imperfect. And that fabulous creature deserves a little attention. And who better to give it to yourself than you?"


Long before and well after Michael Kors was killing it with riotously funny one-liners on "Project Runway," Clinton Kelly had perfected the zinger on "What Not To Wear." Here are a few:

"If you're wearing it to da club, you shouldn't be wearing it to da office."

To a woman with too many striped sweaters, "I don't think Bert and Ernie are looking for a third roommate."

To a lady with several boxy jackets: "Paging Janet Reno. Paging Janet Reno."

"No kid wants to say, 'That's my mom . . . in the camo mini.' "

"A hooker from Trenton called and she wants her boots back."

A major don't

Clinton Kelly literally trashed a lot of wardrobes during his years as the co-host of "What Not To Wear," but as for the worst offending item, he did not hesitate. "Elastic waist pants. I say this with all seriousness. If you're spending more than two days a week in elastic waist pants then you're in trouble. When you wear those comfy pants you can gain 20 pounds and not know it. Why? Because they still fit." In other words, make a conscious effort to slip out of those easy-to-wear expandables and into your jeans or trousers.


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