Clinton Kelly, Authenticity, and Discipleship

by Natalie Yuhas


When my brother got me Clinton Kelly’s book, Freakin’ Fabulous: How to Dress, Speak, Behave, Eat, Drink, Entertain, Decorate, and Generally be Better than Everybody Else, for my birthday one year, I was so excited that I accidentally ripped the book jacket in half in my aggressive attempt to take the wrapping paper off. It was so uncouth of me. I knew Clinton Kelly would disapprove. But I just couldn’t help it because I love, love, love Clinton Kelly. I just love him. There were entire Saturdays throughout middle school and high school that I devoted to watching him and Stacy London help women untap their potential through fashion and self confidence in What Not To Wear marathons.


My freshman year roommate and I jokingly promised each other during our first year that we would literally do whatever it took to meet Clinton, our favorite BC alum, sometime before we graduated. So, obviously, there was a lot of screaming and maybe some crying when she sent me the link to a Career Center event featuring Clinton Kelly as the speaker.  Quite frankly, I expected Clinton Kelly to be kind of a jerk in real life, solely based on his funny, yet sometimes harsh and pretentious persona on What Not to Wear that has made him enormously successful. I was happily proved wrong, though, when he completely filled the room with what I can only describe as good vibes.  His talk was a completely genuine and inspiring display of love for what he does and the life he lives.


One of the points that Clinton Kelly emphasized is the need for passion and authenticity to drive not just your career, but also your life. To fully be able to do that, you need to surround yourself with people who only bring out the best in you. Genuine connections, “and I’m not talking about networking,” he told us, are incredibly important. To truly be happy and successful,you have to reach out for help and avoid those that don’t make you your best self.


The importance of the influences of friendships, although something my mom lectured me about countless times throughout my life, was not something I particularly payed much attention to until I got to Boston College.  I spent my freshman year desperately clinging onto the person I had always been in high school and the aspects of myself that people from home knew to be true of me. Most of my BC experience has been spent trying to negotiate two spheres: discovering the person I want to be and performing the role of the person I was. I tried to contort myself into a box that was continuously shrinking as the years drew on and I had more experiences away from home. With these new experiences and all the other challenges life brought with it, I did, and still often do, find it easier to distance myself from my friends. I don’t want to bother anyone. I don’t want to be vulnerable or annoying. I’ll figure it out and feel better once I spend some alone time and recharge.


“I could so easily just spend the rest of my life as a total recluse,” I would often joke to my mom. “Buy a few cats, well, actually, dogs, and a lot of books and just never have to deal with people ever again.”


“Don’t say that,” my mom would reply. “That’s no way to be happy.”


And, as usual, she’s right. It wasn’t until, finally, my junior year, with one foot firmly in the past, and one foot dragging me towards the future, I found myself so beyond miserable in a state of  messy indecision, uncertainty, and fear, that I knew I had to reevaluate where, and who, I was drawing my strength from. I had lost the feeling of being authentic and having control over my own life.


The power of who we surround ourself with isn’t a new one. In fact, community and friendship are central to what it means to be Catholic. 


Jesus came to preach the importance of fulfilling your life through others; the Gospel focuses on loving and caring for each other instead of tearing one another down. Through Jesus, we see the ultimate example of serving others and of sacrifice. We also see the value of humility and vulnerability related to the need of others. Jesus relied on another to help him get up and carry his cross on the walk to Calvary, just as sometimes we need people to help us shoulder our own crosses. 


Beyond the content of the message, Jesus needed others, also, in order to spread and maintain this message. He needed disciples- the friends He chose - to build the church after He was gone.  Even today, His mission relies on community when we look at the role that Mass plays. We gather together, pray together, and try to understand ourselves, lives, and faith together. It strengthens our bonds. We need this space and the people we share it with in order to grow.


“You have to wake up and ask yourself: Am I living the life I want to live? Am I happy? Am I being my authentic self? I know it’s cliche, but you have to check in with yourself from time to time,” Clinton advised the audience. As I check in with myself right now, I’m in a place that was unimaginable to my freshman year self. For one thing, I still often  get stressed and upset and angry, but I’m learning that I can’t deal with that all on my own and that I need others who inspire me to do better everyday. For another thing, I did meet Clinton Kelly before my graduation, and to the absolute horror of my reserved, freshman-year self, we talked about, ahem, embracing community and friendship in the Mods.

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