oor Kahi Lee. She's talking to us from a car filled with makeup, clothes and other periphernelia used by females to assemble themselves each morning. This mobile vanity is the only place she can get any privacy. At home she and hubby are reduced to sharing a single room jammed shoulder-high with belongings.
For the past four months Lee has been in survival mode while a crew performs a two-month renovation. The ordeal seems to have taken a toll on Lee's self-image.
“I'm pretty ordinary looking,” she avers in a voice that cracks a bit, like she hasn't been sleeping well or is coming down with a November flu. “I don't go to the gym. I don't eat well. If you saw me now you'd think I'm just average looking. No, really! You wouldn't look twice at me.”
But fortunately she has skills? I suggest, hoping to encourage her to abandon the little-ole-me tone. But no. “I can't cook, I can't sew...” she insists. Yeah, and no doubt she doesn't do windows either.
Our mistake. We had her confused with the other Kahi Lee, the 27-year-old host who spices up Renovate My Family (Fox) and The Ultimate Gamer (Spike TV) in delightfully tiny shorts and tight skirts. You know, the UCLA English grad who writes glossy magazine celebrity profiles of Bijou Phillips and other members of Hollywood's advance guard? The budding lifestyle guru who styled the cribs of Kelly Hu and Natalia Livingston and is working on a total redesign of the Beverly Hills mansion that Japanese rock star Kyosuke Himuro just picked up from NBA center Shaquille O'Neal?
Determined to get straight answers from the real Kahi Lee, we resorted to that most no-nonsense form of communication: email.
PHOTO BY JO LIU
Goldsea: Interior designer, lifestyle guru, writer, TV personality... What DON'T you do?
Kahi Lee: I want to do it all. That's sort of my problem. I get bored easily so I am always looking to entertain myself with interesting work.
GS: What made you become a jill-of-all-pop culures?
KL: Honestly, I couldn't decide if I wanted to be a writer, a designer or something else (I still haven't decided) so I made the vow to always pursue everything that interested me even if it meant sacrificing a few luxuries like sleep and a social life. Life is short and I want to experience as much as I can.
GS: Is this what you want to do for the rest of your career or is it a transit point to another kind of career?
KL: I love what I'm doing right now but who knows what I'll be into five years from now. I think that every point in my career is transitional. Maybe I'll write a book or have my own show or open a restaurant, maybe design a hotel or be a production designer or art director on films, or open a boutique, maybe design purses and shoes, teach art classes, try my hand at travel writing, run an art gallery... These are all things I would love to do one day. I will always be in transition.
GS: Say you were retained to turn around the life of a culturally out-of-it client. What sorts of things can you do for her?
KL: Hmmm... That's a tough question. I guess I've been fortunate not to have to deal with a client like that.
Well, first of all I would tell her to immediately move out of Iowa or Arkansas or wherever the style-deprived poor dear has been living (sorry no offense to Iowans and Arkansites). I would get her a subscription to Vogue, Elle Decor and Vanity Fair. She will have to watch every episode of Sex and the City and Absolutely Fabulous, memorize every Bloc Party lyric and live with a drag queen for a month. Then and only then would I take her on as a design client. Haha.
GS: Who's the toughest client you've ever worked with?
KL: Hands down I am my toughest client. I am renovating my house in Venice, CA right now and I can't make a decision on anything. I have changed my mind a million times on everything from colors to fixtures and flooring. I avoid clients like me. I'm the worst.