The Gift of Fab

updated 08/11/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/11/2003 01:00AM

TED ALLEN
FOOD & WINE
Top Tip: Use a kitchen blowtorch for browning food: "Fun for the whole family!"

THOM FILICIA
INTERIOR DESIGN
Top Tip: Silver-tipped light-bulbs. "Bad lighting in America is an epidemic."

CARSON KRESSLEY
FASHION
Top Tip: "See what's at Gucci so you can find something similar at the mall."

JAI RODRIGUEZ
CULTURE
Top Tip: Check the Web for places to go. "It's not just for porn anymore."

KYAN DOUGLAS
GROOMING
Top Tip: Exfoliate once a week. "And definitely use moisturizer."

FROM GEEK TO CHIC

TED (IN 1983)
At 11, Allen first took over his family's kitchen in Carmel, Ind., to make pizza. "It's a precocious time to be playing with knives and flames," says the former food critic, 38, who lives in Chicago with his partner of 10 years. But he didn't get his recipes from Mom: "Half the things he mentions or writes about," she says, "I never heard of."

CARSON (IN 1983)
Though his mom says he "wore what other kids wore" growing up near Allentown, Pa., he did help his sister buy a prom dress at age 10. "All the gowns were like mint-green bridesmaid dresses," says the single fashionista, 33, a competitive equestrian and freelance stylist. "I said, 'Let's go for something different.' She wore a white tunic and ended up prom queen."

THOM (IN 1993)
When he was 7, the Manhattan-based interior designer, now 34, redecorated his bedroom with his mother's permission—-and his own unique taste ca. 1976: "I had orange shag carpet, a lime-green bedspread, a big plastic peace symbol my brother made in shop class from bubbled Lucite, and orange mesh curtains," says the datable Filicia ("I'm a total swingle"), who grew up outside Syracuse. "It was really cool."

JAI (IN 1997)
As a theater-crazed boy on Long Island, "my big fear was that I'd stay there," says the actor and culture maven, who's 24 and single. By 19, he got to Broadway in Rent. Backstage heartache: buying a purple suit for an opening-night party and realizing too late it was meant for a woman. "When I look at the pictures, I'm nauseated."

KYAN (IN 1988)
"When I give advice, I'm not nasty," says the grooming guru, 33, a former stylist at Manhattan's Arrojo Studio. "Because I've made mistakes too." As a teen (then known as Eddie) in Tallahassee, "I grew my hair and ended up with something close to a mullet. Then I used Sun-In. So I had an orange mullet." Single, he says that love, not style, "is the most important thing."

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