Have you ever passed someone in the street and thought ‘Holy Batman, what is that person wearing?’ Former celebrity stylist Jeannie Mai mouths words like these on a daily basis, as the host of Style Network reality
show How Do I Look?. It’s her job to scout out fashion disasters of an astronomic proportion and confront the wearer (this usually involves shaming them about their full-net bodysuit as the item of clothing is sucked up a Willy Wonka-style pipe) before guiding them on the road to fashion recovery. Read on as 31-year-old LA-based Jeannie Mai took some time out from her schedule to give us the lowdown on life as a style guru.
You were a celebrity stylist to begin with, so how did you make the transition to TV?
It became apparent to me how necessary it was to provide women with the same kind of treatment that celebrities are getting. I began telling one after another woman how to get these different tricks of the trade, but I realised I was repeating myself over and over again, so I started to hold groups or classes. Then a show in San Francisco picked me up, so it just took off from there.
Did you have any previous TV experience?
I didn’t have any training, which is why I’m so perfect for a reality TV show. What you see is what you get on How Do I Look?.
It’s hard to believe that some people you have on the show are actually serious. Is it all real?
It is one thousand per cent real. And the thing is, I’m very protective about the guests on our show. They do look a little like, ‘what the heck is going on here?’. And you judge them and think they’re crazy. But these women have the same issues that every one of us women experience, which is lack of self worth.
Have there been any awkward moments in the show where the guest has broken down and you’ve had to stop filming?
Absolutely. I can get very tough with my guests, especially because I come from a family that’s very straightforward. And I figure it also has to do with the Asian household. You’ve heard the saying that ‘the Asian F is a B minus’, right? When you’re not doing perfect, you’re not doing good enough. I never pound that idea into my guests, but I try to do it in the tough love way. But most of all, what’s most important for me is that the guest knows I’m there for them.
Who do you think is the best-dressed character on TV?
I’d have to say Vanessa Williams’ character in Ugly Betty. When they need the very stern, intimidating character they hit bold dark colours with very sharp silhouettes, and when they need somebody fun and inviting and bubbly like Betty, everything is kind of round and fluffy, ruffled and bouncy.
Do have any plans to visit Dubai in the future?
Oh my gosh! I would love to visit Dubai. Please tell all my Dubai fans out there – those that tweet and Facebook and everything – that I hear you, I see you and I would love to come out there!
Finally, what three words come to mind when you think of fashion in Dubai?
What three words… oh my gosh! In Dubai I’d say adventurous, sophisticated and eager for more.
How Do I Look? airs every night on Style Network at 11.55pm, with repeats daily at 4.45pm and 8.25pm.