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On Friday nights, Bill Maher hosts his Emmy-nominated late-night show, Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO, where he suits up to talk politics. Thanks, in part, to his longtime stylist, Kelly Smith, the political commentator maintains a polished look while offering his opinions on Republicans or the nation’s most pressing issues.
Smith, a Texas native who previously worked at the Neiman Marcus headquarters for about five years, didn’t get her first styling experience until she landed her gig with the late-night talk-show host when she moved to L.A. in 2010 and a few acquaintances introduced her to the producers at Real Time.
“They just so happened to be in transition between stylists, and they were looking to shake things up,” Smith tells Pret-a-Reporter of how the opportunity to work with Maher opened up. “I’m just extremely fortunate that they gave me my first chance at styling.”
Since styling Maher (both on- and off-set) for the past five years, in which she describes the gig as “the best job I’ve ever had,” it’s allowed her to expand her styling portfolio, working with young Hollywood clients, including Awkward actress Jillian Rose Reed, Teen Beach Movie 2 star Mollee Gray, and Disney’s A.N.T. Farm actor Jake Short.
But on Friday evenings, Smith is devoted to working with the stand-up comedian. When dressing Maher, the stylist says she’s given free rein to pick out his TV wardrobe. “He trusts me 100 percent. I pull everything out, usually mornings before the show, and set it up in the dressing room. He hasn’t questioned me — yet,” she says, chuckling. “I appreciate the amount of trust he puts in me.”
Though Smith first styled him in designer pieces, including Dolce & Gabbana, Ted Baker, Paul Smith and Prada, she quickly learned that it took more time to schedule fittings than it did to have custom pieces designed for him, so she started working with bespoke suitmakers Royal Park & Ball. Since working with the Costa Mesa-based brand for the last three years, it’s helped Smith focus on other details of Maher’s outfits.
“I realized the custom process is so much easier for television, at least for this role, because I don’t have to get on his schedule to do fittings so much anymore,” she explains. “The tailor comes and takes his measurements. We do a couple of fittings each season, but for the most part, I’ve just been picking out the colors and patterns, spending more time on the creative side.”
So what does Smith consider a successful styling sesh with the stand-up comedian and political satirist? “If I can mix three different patterns in one night between his shirt, tie and pocket square, then I’m a super happy girl,” she says.
Catch the return of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher (and Maher’s custom suits) on Sept. 12 at 9 p.m. PT/ET.
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