There’s something so very chic about watching CNN’s Style With Elsa Klensch on Saturday mornings. There’s you: in sweatpants, chewing a piece of toast, making a list of weekend errands — Get new tube socks. Buy Drano. And there’s Elsa (everyone knows her as Elsa): impeccable in a Sonia Rykiel jacket, thick gold necklaces, and glossy black bobbed hair. Perhaps she’s interviewing 28-year-old ”superstar model” Kristen McMenamy. Perhaps Elsa’s asking the superstar why she deleted her eyebrows from her face. ”I plucked them out because I wanted to. It was really the start of that whole no-eyebrow thing,” says McMenamy, who makes thousands of dollars an hour looking like a Deep Space Nine crew member.
”You’re determined to be a success?” prompts Elsa, 50ish, the clipped, fashion-magaziney inflections of her Australian accent softened by more than a quarter century in New York.
”Determined. Yeah,” reveals McMenamy, the rough, rust-belt edges of her Allentown, Pa., accent untouched by the few years spent scrambling for modeling jobs in Paris.
You have learned something about eyebrows! You have learned about today’s superstar models! And you are still in your sweatpants.
ELSA IS INDEFATIGABLE!
Elsa travels the world, covering the seasonal collections in Milan, Paris, London. She prowls the homes of the rich and tasteful, covering collections of fountains and couches. She interviews cosmetics magnates and decorators. She grills designers on their passion for silk jersey. Her air is refined. Her bearing is international. She sometimes sounds grand, as you (a shlub in sweatpants with a TV) imagine a fashion editor would sound. Her message: Design is important. Design is fabulous. And you don’t have to be rich or well-designed yourself to appreciate it. ”People tell me their children watch,” says Elsa, relaxing in her spare, pale gray Manhattan garment-district office filled with beautifully framed photographs of Elsa and Ted Turner, Elsa and Calvin Klein. ”Retired Air Force colonels watch. A lot of entertainment-industry people watch. There’s a very wide range of people who are interested in what is happening in fashion.” In America alone, 2.5 million households tune her in each week, making it CNN’s highest-rated weekend feature-news program.
But why should so many people care about a designer’s passion for silk jersey? ”I think fashion designers became the movie stars in the ’80s,” says Elsa. ”Even in China they recognize designers.” Even in China they recognize Elsa, thanks to CNN, which broadcasts Style in 142 countries. CNN was itself brand-new when Elsa signed on in June 1980. She had worked as a journalist in Sydney (her hometown), London, and Hong Kong. She had written about fashion for Vogue, W, Women’s Wear Daily, and Harper’s Bazaar and done some TV fashion reporting in New York. Married to Cincinnati-born businessman Charles Klensch (he’s now retired), she was living a comfortable freelance life when CNN approached her, looking for something to appeal to women between the sports reports and Pentagon headlines (though 45 percent of her viewers have proved to be men). In addition to the half-hour Style, Elsa now presides over Monday’s fashion-oriented edition of Living in the 90’s.