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July 30th, 2003 Elizabeth Dye | Fashion
 

Small Screen, Big Dream

Local cool-hunter anchors early-morning spot.

     
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To look at her, you'd never guess that Nia Gray is a sleep-deprived former high-tech trainer who, two years ago, got kicked to the curb by yet another failed dot-com.

The bubbly 28-year-old in the polka-dot Marc Jacobs pumps is now a producer, director, writer, ad exec, model scout and all-around megalomaniac for Portland Style.

Neither a zine nor an indie boutique, Portland Style ventures into a territory few cool-hunters have trod before. Airing twice monthly on the local UPN affiliate, KPDX Channel 49 (beginning Thursday, Sept. 4, at the wee hour of 7:30 am), PS is a new half-hour television program featuring fashion trend coverage, retail rundowns and assorted lifestyle segments.

It is Gray's obsession, and it seems to be gaining speed.

"I want to put people on TV--and people want to be on TV," says Gray, with the sunny determination you might expect from a television news reporter (did I mention she also hosts the show?).

Gray first thrust her camera into Portland's more stylish communities on a frosty day in January for a handful of segments called "Portland Style Minute."

"I submitted some of the first ones for an award," says Gray of the shows, which ran on cable access before making the jump to UPN. "I didn't win, but the judges paid me kind of a compliment by telling me that what I was doing was too commercial for cable."

And what is she doing, exactly?

"I want to produce a show that helps bring together the city's creative energy...and promote it," she explains. "My demographic is the 18-to-34 age group, the one with the energy to take Portland to the next level. We have so much talent here, and collaboration is essential."

Gray has done a lot of hand-shaking lately, teaming up with other style-related collectives in town (it's no surprise she's a big fan of the much-buzzed-about Portland Fashion Incubator) to shine a light on local trends and talent. Watch for regular segments on how to improvise a polished look without spending too much ("Look for Less"), and for spotlights on local boutiques with unique merchandise ("Wear to Shop"). But don't expect those tired-and-true fashion spots you see on such programs as AM Northwest and The View.

"Style isn't just about clothes," Gray says of her more holistic approach. "It's about self-care, where you live, the music you listen to, how you spend your leisure time. Style is lifestyle."

So how does she do this all by herself? Well, let's just say it's in her jeans. Gray produces the show under the aegis of Grassroot News NW, an independent production company and news syndication service owned by her family, where she honed her broadcasting chops making nonprofit videos before entering the well-paying high-tech field. When she lost her last job, though, PS became her baby. Gray supervises all the nuts and bolts of production while busily seeking financial support for the project from local businesses such as Stephanos (which, by
the way, will be featured in a Portland Style segment on dining).

Producing editorial coverage of your advertisers--isn't that a little, at the very least, inappropriate?

"It's a give-and-take," shrugs Gray. "I just want to keep the show going. It's hard in a recession, but the most important thing is to last so that we'll be here when things pick up again."

Meanwhile, Gray is dedicated to raising the tone of the local style scene--even if she has to go without a new pair of Marc Jacobs shoes for a while.

"Sometimes you have to work hard to be stylish in Portland," she says. "The show is here to make it easy and fun."


Portland Style
Meet the Portland Style team, experience nightlife and be in on the taping. Come "dressed to impress."

Stephanos, 1135 SW Washington St., 243-2181. 8 pm Friday, Aug. 9.

 
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