Fashion guru Carson Kressley loves to vacation in Fort Lauderdale and next week, he has two reasons to head for the city’s sunny beaches.
On Thursday, Feb. 21, he will co-host Pride Fort Lauderdale’s first Pride Runway Fashion Show at the Hard Rock Event Center. The show, the opening event of the four-day festival, will feature collections from “Project Runway” alumni designers modeled on male, female, transgender and drag models.
“I’m very excited,” he said in a telephone interview. “I love Fort Lauderdale, I get to work on my tan. I’ve always been a fan of ‘Project Runway’ and they are some of my favorite designers.”
The flamboyant and funny Kressley burst onto the fashion scene as a member of the original “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” cast in 2003 and has since hosted or guest starred in a long list of talk, reality and fashion television shows. He’s a regular guest judge on the Emmy-winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and just reunited with “Queer Eye”co-star Thom Filichia on Bravo’s interior design series, “Get a Room with Carson & Thom.”
“It’s a very dynamic industry, especially right now,” he said. “[Fashion is] a mirror of what’s going on in society. It’s a relatively turbulent time and the industry is responding. Fashion is a statement. In a more positive light—now more than ever—fashion is anything you want it to be. It’s a great way to reflect who you are and we’re not limited to the rules and the norms anymore. It’s about being comfortable.”
Speaking about “Queer Eye,” which was recently rebooted by Netflix, Kressley reflected, “I think it’s wonderful that the brand we helped to build is so strong and relevant. It has an impact on gay kids everywhere, seeing five gay men being successful and having a positive impact on TV. It shows gay youth they can come out and be happy.”
On Friday evening, Kressley will make a special presentation at the Stonewall National Museum and Archives gala at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Kressley will be on hand to honor author, educator and diversity champion Brian McNaught with the 2019 Paul Fasana Legacy Award.
Kressley’s relationship with McNaught goes back more than 20 years. Kressley was a student questioning his sexual orientation at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania when McNaught delivered a guest lecture there.
“Brian was such a positive influence on my life,” Kressley recalled. “It was such a profound experience for me, this gay man who was out and so brave. I wondered if I could be that brave one day, confident on stage, poised and successful. It was a touchstone for me…I’m excited to present him with that award because he’s been such an inspiration.”
While the gala offers an opportunity to reflect on the past, Kressley emphasized that these types of events also sow seeds for the future generation of LGBTQ leaders.
For tickets and more information about the Pride Fashion Runway Show on Thursday, Feb. 21 at the Hard Rock Event Center, go to PrideFortLauderdale.org. For tickets and more information about the Stonewall National Museum and Archives gala on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, go to Stonewall-Museum.org.
In addition to SFGN arts and entertainment editor, J.W. Arnold is co-executive director of Pride Fort Lauderdale.