Clinton Kelly: The Man in the Mirror

The man has a sixth sense for fashion, a master’s in fabulousness and knows exactly what not to wear. He is style guru Clinton Kelly, and in his quest to “make over America one city at a time” he made Raleigh his last (and most fabulous) stop on the tour, sponsored by Macy’s.

The local women who submitted their stories and were chosen for the makeovers were from all walks of life. There was a graduate student, a single working mother, a recent college graduate, a homemaker and a woman with an inspiring weight loss story, among others. They were as different as any group of 12 could be, but they all had one thing in common: They desperately needed to reconnect with the fashion world.

Sarah Ruiz, of Cary, was the youngest contestant of the group and recently graduated from college. Her main style challenge came as no surprise to Kelly. According to him, it is what has made America “look like a nation of zombies walking around who can barely get out of bed in the morning” — dressing too casual.

In Ruiz’s defense, making it out of bed each morning on time is a small feat for most college students.

“I’ve been in school for years and years so I never put much effort into how I look every day,” said Ruiz.

Ultimately she was looking for clothes that fit her current lifestyle. She realized the need as a young woman searching for a job to look professional at all times. What she did not expect, however, was that Kelly would be the one to solve her fashion woes.

“I didn’t think I had a chance, but I was bored so I figured I might as well submit something,” said Ruiz of her decision to apply for “Make Over America.” “I submitted two pictures and answered all of the questions and then sent it off and forgot about it entirely.”

That is until she received a voicemail from a Macy’s representative months later. At first she thought they were trying to sell her something, but when she learned that wasn’t the case, she was speechless.

“I kind of just sat there in shock for a few minutes while (the Macy’s representative) explained things to me,” said Ruiz. “I immediately called my best friend. … She screamed and got really excited. It was awesome.”

After the shock wore off Ruiz was thrust into the madness of being transformed. At first, she said it was hard to let go and trust the experts. She admitted to being the stereotypical contestant on What Not to Wear who refused to accept Kelly and Stacy London’s advice.

“There were a few times that I said, ‘Oh I don’t wear certain colors or do certain things,’” said Ruiz.

As any fan of the TLC hit show knows, Kelly doesn’t tolerate this kind of attitude and isn’t afraid to let the world know.

“He told me, ‘You obviously don’t know what looks good on you,’” said Ruiz. “He put me in my place a couple of times.”

An open mind and willingness to trust Kelly’s advice went a long way in achieving her desired look. Ruiz debuted a new, more professional style on the runway in a white cropped jacket over a confetti print shirt, a fitted pencil skirt and red patent leather heels and black purse, all available at Macy’s. Her makeup was done by Estee Lauder and her hair was cut and styled at Samuel Cole Salon in Raleigh.

Though the entire experience, from working with Kelly to walking down a runway in front of hundreds, was exhilarating and at times nerve-racking, what she learned about herself and her personal style is ultimately what she will carry into the future.

“I learned that I am very low maintenance and I don’t like to do a whole lot in terms of makeup and hair,” said Ruiz.

Low maintenance — a term that once meant throwing on a T-shirt and shorts without thinking twice — now takes on a new meaning for her. She still will not spend hours upon hours on her hair and makeup in the morning — that is just not who she is. She will, however, make sure her clothes fit her properly because as she has learned, fit makes all the difference.

“Fit is incredibly important. Not even just making sure your pants fit, but making sure your pants are the right length for the shoes that you’re wearing,” said Ruiz. “When people look at you, they will perceive you in a much more positive way if your clothes fit you correctly.”

For Ruiz this makeover may mean landing an interview or even a job, but ultimately it was about feeling good about herself. She was lucky enough to have this opportunity, but you do not need a consultation with Kelly to solve your fashion dilemmas.

All you need, in the words of Kelly, is to “take pride in yourself. You’re worth it.”

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