Reporter models for Web fashionista

I've taken many risks for the sake of a story, but going before Web style maven William Sledd for a personal fashion critique was among the scariest.

reporter's notebook I've done a lot of risky things as a reporter over the years. I've knocked on doors in the sketchiest of crime-ridden neighborhoods, done midair flips with an acclaimed stunt pilot, and even let Lorena Bobbitt--famous for cutting off her husband's penis with a kitchen knife--give me a manicure using sharp instruments.

But no assignment scared me as much as asking Web fashionista William Sledd to critique the way I dress.

I'd been working on a profile about Sledd, 23, the former Gap manager from Paducah, Ky., who has become an online celebrity through his funny and frank fashion advice video series Ask a Gay Man on YouTube. One of my fellow editors--ever striving for ways to make stories more colorful--suggested I send Sledd photos of my own outfits to see what he had to say. "Yeah, right," was my first reaction. Sure, Sledd starts every video with a friendly, "Hey bitches," but he can be harsh. Here are a few of my favorite zingers:

best outfit
This is the outfit William Sledd liked best of the five he evaluated. I look 'adorable in that outfit,' he said. Corinne Schulze/

"Mom jeans are the devil...No Uggs, they're done...The jean we hate more than anything are carpenter jeans for men." (Ask a Gay Man: Denim Edition)

"For real, why wear a toe ring? Why? Your toe does not need jewelry...I don't even understand why people wear toe rings, and they wear them like with flip-flops and there's just like a mess of clutter." (Ask a Gay Man: Summer Rant)

I eventually gave in to the fashion critique idea, in journalistic martyrdom, for the sake of the story. One of our CNET photographers took a daily snapshot of me at work for a week and I sent the photos off to Sledd and nervously awaited judgment day.

What was I so afraid of? I'm a confident, individual thinker who knows beauty is more than fabric deep. And I knew my fashion sense couldn't be too off. But I couldn't help but think of the old ladies with stiff blue hair who probably also feel they are perfectly en vogue.

Sledd, thankfully, gave me his equivalent of a fashion stamp of approval. Now, if this were anyone else, I might chalk his kindness up to the fact that I was about to write a story on him. But if Sledd is one thing, as evidenced above, it's brutally honest.

"If you were a train wreck, I would have let you know...I don't hold back at all," he said, adding that he expected much worse from a mom. "I was hoping for some overalls or a Winnie the Pooh T-shirt...You are so well put together, it's ridiculous. There's nothing bad I can say."

Sledd was a bit "apprehensive" about my peasant shirt, an item he is "not a huge fan of."

Still, I was encouraged by his overall positive feedback, so much so that when he said, "I don't know how old you are," I confidently offered, "I just turned 38." Then came Sledd's unintentional doozie:

"Yeah, I mean, my mom looks a lot worse than this sometimes," he said. (Translation: You're 38? That's so old, you could almost be my mother.)

Ouch. Maybe I should go back to crime reporting.

Tech Culture
About the author

Michelle Meyers, associate editor, has been writing and editing CNET News stories since 2005. But she's still working to shed some of her old newspaper ways, first honed when copy was actually cut and pasted. When she's not fixing typos and tightening sentences, she's working with reporters on story ideas, tracking media happenings, or freshening up CNET News' home page.


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