smart spending

Carson Kressley: Splurges when it counts

Carson Kressley came to public attention with the Bravo hit "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," and since that show went off the air in 2007, he has done a great job of parlaying his "Queer Eye" fame into a successful personal brand. Kressley hosts "Carson Nation" on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a "make better" show where he travels the country in an Airstream trailer helping people improve their lives. He was also a contestant on season 13 of "Dancing with the Stars," and April 26 he launched a new clothing collection called Love, Carson, which is available on ShopNBC.

"Sometimes, especially for women, there's not a lot of affordable options out there in a full-size range," he says. "So I wanted to create affordable, accessible and fun clothing for women of all sizes. You can make the greatest clothes in the world, but if people can't afford to buy them and enjoy them, then it kind of defeats the purpose."

 
Carson Kressley
Carson KressleyPhoto by PR Photos
When you were struggling in the days before 'Queer Eye,' what were some of the things you did to make a living?

One of my first jobs was working for Ralph Lauren. I started out basically being his brother's assistant -- fetching sardine sandwiches and doing lots of entry-level work. But I got to work my way up through the ranks, and I got a great education in the fashion business working there, so I didn't have to do a lot of side jobs. I didn't have to wait tables and stuff. I certainly wasn't making lots of money -- I definitely remember saving all my dimes to buy lo mein between paychecks -- but I was lucky that I always had a pretty great job.

Carson KressleyPhoto by PR Photos
Once things really hit for you, what's the biggest thing you splurged on?

I've always loved showing horses. I grew up on a horse farm in Pennsylvania. So I bought myself a really nice horse -- one that I competed with. I compete all over the U.S. That horse was named Lola, although her real registered name was Enchanting Memories. We were amateur (gentleman's) five-gaited world champions in 2009. That horse died, unfortunately, but I still have about 12 horses and a couple of mares that I breed. It's a really fun, relaxing hobby. It's kind of ironic that when you're trying not to get killed, it's very relaxing.

Carson KressleyPhoto by PR Photos
Horses aside, do you splurge on a lot of things for yourself or keep things more frugal?

I know what it's like living paycheck to paycheck and not really having extra money, so I was always good at skimping on necessities to afford the luxuries. There's a great quote by Frank Lloyd Wright, who said (something similar to) "I would gladly forgo some of life's necessities to afford the luxuries." I kind of adopted that mantra. I'll be very frugal when it comes to taking cabs -- I'll take the subway instead -- and then I feel it's OK to buy an expensive pair of shoes or something, because I made the sacrifice somewhere else. That's my mindset.

 
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