Whether you're an avid viewer of Fox News or have only a passing acquaintance with the network, it's been nearly impossible not to notice anchorwoman and "America Live" host Megyn Kelly. Particularly during the GOP primary round of debates and Super Tuesday coverage, Kelly's position in the lead anchor chair along with co-anchor Bret Baier has put the 41-year-old blond front and center at Fox News as the network's fresh face and opinionated voice of this election season.
Kelly, a former lawyer and subject of a rather racy 2010 GQ photo shoot (for which she makes no apologies), is known for direct, no-nonsense reporting, which has drawn commentary from fans, critics and comedians alike. She's been famously ridiculed, for instance, for calling pepper spray "a food product, essentially" and lauded for defending Chaz Bono's turn on "Dancing With the Stars." Her in-studio interview Wednesday with presidential contender Mitt Romney drew commentary from across the political spectrum.
For Kelly, it's all in a day's work.
The confidence she displays on air isn't just reserved for the camera. It translates into her TV and real-life wardrobes, which she describes as "tailored, classic and never frilly."
It's this sharp look and strong sense of on-air style that set her apart sartorially from the rest of the pack of reporters and commentators. Though she says, "I still don't consider myself a fashion girl," her fans and viewers might think otherwise, taking notice of her reworked traditional suits, the peep-toe or T-strap stilettos that sometimes peek out from under the news desk, the length of her hair and even the shade of her lip gloss.
The morning we meet in her Midtown Manhattan office, she's in her off-camera "uniform": dark skinny jeans (Citizens of Humanity and Joe's "Honeycut" style are favorites), a long-sleeved white cotton top and black Prada boots topped off with a plush faux fur vest from Elizabeth and James. Her chin-length blond hair is pulled back into a low ponytail and her face is makeup-free.
"Before I got into TV, I wasn't fashionable at all," says Kelly, who practiced law for nine years before making a career change at age 32 and going to work in Washington, D.C., at ABC News affiliate WJLA-TV as a general assignment reporter. There, she covered state and presidential elections before joining Fox in 2004 and eventually taking on a more visible role in the national spotlight.
As a lawyer, "I was more about getting into my legal clothes — navy, brown or black suits; that was it," she says. "Though I did make the executive decision to not wear sneakers with those suits while on my way to and from work. I didn't think about it that much. I was overworked and overwhelmed."
These days she still sticks to a conservative color palette during her down time. Navy, black and ivory basics are her go-tos and define a style she calls "New York casual."
"I'm not big on the hot pinks, bright reds," she says. "I just don't have a lot of that in my wardrobe. I like black, white and navy. I think navy looks good with blond hair and dark blue eyes."
Accessories, especially statement necklaces, are something she shuns both on and off camera. On TV, accessories can be distracting. Off the air, Kelly factors in the impracticality jewelry can pose while raising young kids — she and her husband, Douglas Brunt, have two, a 3-year-old son and an 11-month-old daughter. "I'm still getting spat up on," she says. "And my son is whipping things across the room."
Her approach to career dressing has changed significantly since she practiced law. She pays more attention to the role her clothes play in her overall image. A wall of dark wood closets lines one side of her office, housing brightly colored shift dresses, blazers and knee-length skirts from DVF, Elie Tahari and Chiara Boni. Color is a style hallmark of Fox News anchors.
Fashion stylist Gwen Marder, who has been dressing the on-air talent for 12 years, favors pops of solid, bright color, and there's no shortage of it in Kelly's wall of closets, despite her propensity for sticking to neutrals in her private life.
"I really like our anchors to wear color because people react in such a visceral way to color," Marder says. "It's stimulating and pretty to look at on television."
Wooden shoe racks propping up about 20 pairs of heels from designers including Giuseppe Zanotti, YSL, Jimmy Choo and Alexandre Birman sit directly across from Kelly's desk. Her footwear isn't always visible on camera, but she contends that wearing a pair of heels makes a difference in her attitude and confidence, regardless of whether anyone can see them.
On the day we meet, she checks her pedicure before deciding on a pair of black T-strap Gucci heels. She wears them with a pinstripe, wool Gucci bustier, black knit bolero, black Max Mara pencil skirt and a skinny metallic belt to break up the dark color.
Her hair and makeup team does a 45-minute drill, rimming her eyes in dark liner, swiping a concoction of several shades of red and fuchsia gloss on her lips and adding voluminous curls to her short hair. Kelly emerges from under a blow dryer — and from listening to a conference call that her producers hold each morning to iron out last-minute details about the impending show — to say, "Hair and makeup sets a mood. I can't leave this room in a bad mood. It can be a therapy session." She goes right back to the call. The noise of the blow dryer and distraction of the mascara wand and false eyelashes hitting her eyelids never seem to faze her.
Once she reaches the set of her midday show, she is aggressive with her questioning during interviews, assertive with her guests, sometimes overlapping their answers with more questions. When her attention isn't fixed on the camera, she shifts focus to her laptop, where she continues to research the day's topics and stay updated on breaking news. Kelly's show averages about six to eight guests a day and includes a segment in which the host debates a hot topic along with several guest voices.
The demands of Kelly's schedule require an early start each morning at 6:30 a.m. in her Upper West Side apartment, where she begins to devour the information packets her assistant puts together each day to prepare her for the guests who will appear at 1 p.m. on "America Live." She also checks headlines from several sources, all of which she reads electronically. It helps that her wardrobe has been streamlined with Marder's help.
The stylist has what Kelly calls a "trunk show" twice a year, bringing Fox News anchors a selection of clothing she has approved. Talent, including Kelly, can pick what they want to wear for the season from the approved selection, mixing and matching pieces to create new looks. During this busy election year, Kelly chose two of her favorite blazer shapes and Marder had them remade in several different colors to make packing and getting dressed a no-brainer, especially while Kelly travels to various cities on the campaign trail.
Kelly knows her favorites, often repeating clothes before traveling to different states to do live election coverage. "It's not taboo to wear the same thing twice in one season," she says. "We don't have enough of a wardrobe budget not to. We try and mix it up with different shoes and jackets."
She also takes into account the venue and how buttoned-up or casual she needs to be. "When we went to Iowa and New Hampshire, I could be a little less formal in the evenings," Kelly says. "During the day I was more covered up but wore open-toe shoes some days. I didn't check all fashion at the door."
"Suits look much more professional and important during election time," Marder adds. "It's a long election season, so we vary it up. But Megyn looks really wonderful in everything and she's in great shape, well-proportioned and looks good in all colors. I've been dressing her for well over eight years."
It's a different look for Kelly, who doesn't wear suits on her daytime program. "On the election nights I'm more prone to wearing a suit," she says. "Those are big nights and you want to look more professional." Still, she wore a black Michael Kors dress during the South Carolina primary, adding that though dresses can be appropriate, she's conscious not to wear anything too flashy.
"If you're wearing a pair of shoes that's a little flashy, then it's important not to be flashy up top and vice versa," she says about her on-air outfit choices.
And as for any working woman expected to show up in a skirt or dress, foundation garments are not to be overlooked. "Don't get me wrong, there's a pair of Spanx under there," Kelly says with a laugh. "I'm not a barbarian."