Tim describes Ali as "seriously fashion disabled." Can you describe your experience working with Ali?
Working with Ali was challenging - very challenging. It was really the best of what we do because though it was challenging, the rewards were great. She was one of those people who started off as closed as anyone I've ever met, which surprised us, because she's the one who asked for help. She was in a severe style rut, and completely blind to it. In part, she came off very insecure - trying to prove to herself that she hadn't really lost her sense of style. And the outcome was very different from what she expected. Her expectations were completely out of alignment and the story unfolds in a very interesting way.
When Ali refused to take advice from you or Tim, how did you respond?
I consider myself as someone with a long fuse, I'm very sensitive to people, and that's always helped me along in my career. But I have to tell you - Ali pushed me over the edge. It wasn't any rebuttal or attitude she gave me, the problem I had was that she was unwilling to be flexible or have any fun. It was one of the things she wouldn't allow herself or us. The biggest reason she pushed me over the edge was her initial disregard for Tim. I just couldn't stand it. I just blew my top. I've never had that happen. I've given women tough love before, I've had to say, "Wait a minute, let's take a step back and reset the situation," but with Ali, I felt there was no other way to go but to confront her. I was hoping that she wasn't aware of how much she had lost herself, which turned out to be true. Later she broke down and admitted she didn't realize how she was acting, and that's why we had empathy for her. But in the beginning, it just kept intensifying, her distance and her sharpness and her rudeness and her disregard and disrespect...it got to a point where it could not move forward.
You were able to handle the situation with Ali very well.
There was a lot of tape you didn't see, but we tried. In the end, she took it like a champ. She was tough, but she showed what she was made of, and she really did show true commitment to her initial request to meet with us. She really did want to change, and she really did want to be impacted by this experience. She finally showed that she really was 100% invested. We had to confront her, but that's what helped turn the situation around. Afterwards, she was part of the game again.
Were you satisfied with Ali's transformation?
I was more than happy and that was the reward of this challenge. She completely transformed, in a much deeper way than simply making over her outward appearance. I believe her when she says that a lot of old hang-ups have been permanently left behind. I think that she really fell in love with her new self, which will make her kinder, softer, and happier with every part of herself and her life. I think she has really embraced her beautiful body and has dumped all her prior cynical issues. In Ali's case, I believe that the show has impacted her life in many different aspects. She was at the point where she had developed a real hardened edge that wasn't allowing her beauty to shine through. We had to dissolve that edge. I saw her look fresh, and brilliant and optimistic and open and just really saw her say, "A-ha! I can really put a new look together now and I don't want to go back to that arrogant sense of style I had before."
When it comes to clothes, do you think people generally equate high prices with high quality?
With couture and ready-to-wear designers, many times the craftsmanship and the textiles, or the workmanship and the design level, is one that simply demands a high price point. but I think for a lot of people like Ali, people who are not informed, they buy labels as a cop out or escape. Ali was able to spend a lot of money on clothes and felt that the labels were really going to save her style. This episode proves that labels can't save style. I think that's a great lesson. Style and true quality is not necessarily related or even saved by a high price label. Ali was really at a disconnect that allowed her to take a shortcut or the easy way out. She would take a look at something and think, "Oh, that's gotta work and I gotta feel good in it, because I believe that this label and this price tag will meet my expectations." If you're not shopping and selecting garments with a critical eye, then you will fall into that trap. The worst part is that you will be paying far more than what anyone should be paying and not extracting any style value from the look.