Derek Blasberg doesn't mind climbing into bed with Jessica Alba. For him it's just part of the job.
The writer and best-selling author has tackled some tough commissions as Vanity Fair's 'Man on the Street', senior staff member at the Gagosian Gallery and former editor-at-large of Harper's Bazaar. Next up? Hosting CNN Style's new monthly TV show.
From April 9, Blasberg will bring viewers the latest from the worlds of art, luxury, fashion, autos, architecture and design, hopping from biennales to expos, festivals to fashion weeks.
But before he begins interviewing the great and good of the style world, we had a few questions of our own. Beyond the after parties and the jet set lifestyle, who is our new host?
We talk guilty pleasures, going Gaga and the perils of the awkward question.
What does 'style' mean to you?
Tough opening question! Oftentimes, the word 'style' has to do with fashion, or merely getting dressed. But I think what's great about CNN Style is that it approaches the topic in a much broader, more complex way. The fashion designer Coco Chanel, who was an undisputed visionary, once said something -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- that style is in the sky, in the street, that it has to do with the ideas and the way we live and what's happening in the world. That's the definition of style I have in mind when we think about this show.
Tell us the style tip that's never failed you
I live by this dictum: "When in doubt, wear a navy blue suit." Ha! What I mean by that is that I'm a fan of classic Americana style. Men in navy blue suits, women in little black dresses. I know that may sound boring, but like Ivana Trump says, "It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed." And, yes, I know I'm probably the only person who will be quoting Ivana Trump today. Lest you think I'm sartorially boring though, allow me to add that I'm a big fan of a theme party, too. At Christmas, I dressed as a Drummer Boy
, and I went to Carnevale in Venice just for an excuse to wear tights and feathers
If you could commission anyone to design your home?
Dead: Frank Lloyd Wright, who combined modernist American architecture and environmental harmony. And living: Bjarke Ingels. He's bonkers!
Who's your style idol?
Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, hands down.
Humphrey Bogart: one of the slickest in all the bars, anywhere. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
You got any unusual collections going on?
Actually, yes. I collect needlepoint pillows with amusing sayings. Like, "I'm not bossy, I just have better ideas." And another one with a Marlene Dietrich quote that says: "It's the friends that you call at 4 am that matter."
Who's your guilty pleasure follow on Instagram?
Instagram has saved me about a million emails from my mother asking, 'Where are you?'. Now, she just follows me on Instagram. But my guilty pleasure is @girlwithnojob
Tells us who's the person you've been both most excited and terrified to interview?
The first person who comes to mind is Lady Gaga
, who I interviewed for the cover of Bazaar when she launched her 'Born This Way' record and debuted a new look with horns on her forehead and cheekbones. I asked her if she was worried if these new facial features would encourage her devoted fans to self-harm, which I don't think she expected to hear.
Lady Gaga (without new facial features). Credit: Doug Hyun/FX
Another meaty interview was Jessica Alba
, who I profiled last year for Vanity Fair, where I now work as an on-staff writer. That story was interesting because it wasn't just a celebrity profile. Her company Honest had just been valued at $2 billion, so I wanted to explore how this teen actress had become an unexpected tech world unicorn.
Is there something that people find surprising about you?
Not especially. Sometimes people think I'm short and I'm actually over six feet. But I'm often in the company of super tall women, so I'm not surprised by this.
Paint us a picture of your ideal night out.
The honest answer here -- and I'm not sure if this is what you'll want to hear -- is that when I have some time off the last thing I want to do is go out. The best night out for me is a night in watching John Oliver's Last Week Tonight on HBO, followed by RuPaul's Drag Race and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
What do you Google the most?
Addresses. I travel a lot and the best way to get to a know a new place is get around on foot. Maybe I should have said this when you asked me if there was something that gives me an advantage: As a boy, I'm always in comfortable shoes and I prefer to walk to as many appointments as possible. So a good sense of direction is an edge, too.
What book do you have on your bedside table?
I'm in a book club with a few friends and we're currently reading The Emperor of All Maladies
, which is a biography of cancer. This one wasn't my pick, and to be honest when I bought it I thought it was too long and too boring. But once I got going it was fascinating! The early days of cancer research -- to steal a colloquial term -- were ratchet!
You've already been to Hong Kong with the show. Is there anywhere you're hoping to go with CNN Style?
Yes, I've always wanted to do a story on St Louis, Missouri, which is where I grew up. The 1904 World's Fair was there and gave the city one of the country's top notch art museums. The St. Louis Arch was designed by Eero Saarinen and is still a marvellous example of 20th century feats of architecture. And, if you want to know what's delicious, Google this: 'toasted ravioli.' Hint: they're not toasted, they're fried.