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When I did Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, it was an empowering moment where gay guys were telling straight guys it was OK to care about how they looked and groomed.
It would help you get the girl or the job or the look that maybe you always wanted.“I remember being a teenager walking through the mall, and it would be like (mean voice), ‘Ugh, there’s that queer dude.’ After Queer Eye, it was like (welcoming voice), ‘Oh my god, there’s that queer dude.’ It’s amazing: the power of TV, progress, and time, and hopefully we are still moving in that direction of equality and acceptance.”Kressley’s ambitions growing up were derived from drinking in hours of ’70s television.
He was on his own a lot (his brother and sister were a lot older than him), and so his first ambition had been to be an architect, “because of [Mike Brady in] ,” and a window dresser “because of Rhoda.” When the family built their house, the young Kressley sketched its floor plans.
“When the teachers in elementary school came to take away my doodling, they’d say, ‘Wait, a French Normandy chateau… ’”Kressley knew strongly that “I didn’t want to be what my family did.” His father was a car dealer, his mother a homemaker and part-time local politician.
He recalled being dragged to township meetings and auto auctions as achingly dull.“One time, we were being followed by a police car while cruising to see what the other car dealers had for inventory, and I was in the back going ‘Help me, help me.’ We were pulled over by the police, and I thought I’d be in huge trouble for pretending to be kidnapped.
I always loved drama and attention.”When I first asked how coming out was for Kressley, he said he had been 7 years old and sat his parents down, told them he was gay, his mother bristling and his dad shaking his head.
There I am, a ’70s recipe for ‘fabulosity’ or disaster, however you want to look at it. A lot of stylish people do.”His parents were “not not fine” about their son’s love of sartorial experimentation.
Everyone was very PC, saying we ‘needed to bridge straight and gay worlds.’“When they came to me I said, ‘What’s the problem? I’d always been famous in my head, I loved entertaining people.“We had no idea it would be a success. They told us we were going to make eight episodes, and I would get ,000 per episode.
“Let’s see how second grade goes,” his mother advised.“That wasn’t the case at all,” Kressley added hurriedly: He was joking.
“In that era it wasn’t a time where I could come out.
I thought, ‘Here I might actually meet a guy, and it will be OK to be boyfriends with them.’ Being out in New York was so easy. I had a fantastic education but no area of expertise.” For two years he worked for a nonprofit, “until I realized I wanted to buy some shoes.”He made a list of places—Calvin Klein, MGM, Ralph Lauren among them—whose corporate culture he liked. Next you have to tell your father.’ I was like, ‘Uh oh,’ and I did and it was totally fine.
I felt like I was starting a new life, literally in the witness relocation program. One day at the gym, attired in Ralph Lauren sweatpants and carrying a teddy bear and basketball, a female headhunter asked Kressley who he was. I want to work at Ralph Lauren.”Two days later Kressley, then 25, had an interview lined up there, and was quickly seduced by the mahogany walls, plaid carpeting, and china bowls embossed with polo ponies and filled with M&Ms. I had agonized and tortured myself for so long and it really could have been avoided.