This photo is from the trailer for “Stylish with Jenna Lyons,” produced by HBO.

Jenna Lyons is undoubtedly one of the most influential artists of a generation. Dubbed the “woman who dressed America” by the New York Times, she’s played a role in dressing some of the most famous people in modern history. Now that she’s fully independent, she’s dipping her toes in other kinds of media, namely television and interior design. “Stylish with Jenna Lyons” is a natural marriage between fashion, art and reality TV, but when it comes to making art accessible to the average viewer, the show is more of a mixed bag.

It doesn’t take an artist to enjoy “Stylish.” In other shows, much of the focus is on high-level, esoteric concepts only people immersed in the lifestyle would immediately understand. On the other hand, “Stylish” speaks to the average viewer interested in learning more about what makes certain art appealing, and what makes art unappealing. In each episode, Lyons lays out the fundamentals of whatever project she is working on. Whether it’s a mural or a living room, she articulately lays out the criteria she needs to meet and then spends each episode trying to meet those criteria. For the uninitiated viewer, “Stylish” is a surprisingly exquisite educational show. But while the more obvious text of the show is more accessible to the average viewer, the subtext and environment of the show make understanding the show downright impossible.

The world of “Stylish” is completely alien compared to the one most Americans are used to. The characters dress in exorbitant, expressive designs while they run from one designer store to another. It’s a world of high-rise studio apartments with beautiful, wide-open rooms and massive windows. The vibe of the show is very SOHO, very LA, very elite. It also doesn’t help that many of the characters that flow in and out of the show are wealthy, confident influencers, who seem very busy doing nothing. The show itself feels like a giant commercial, not particularly for a product, but rather for a lifestyle. In one scene in the show, Lyons states how important it is for everyone to have a mural in their home to open up the room more. It’s difficult to stay engaged with a show knowing that, in the same city, lines for local food pantries stretch miles. 

Lyons is the quintessential influencer. She is more than just a human being. She represents the brand of Jenna Lyons, and “Stylish” is her sell to the audience. In the show, Lyons truly cares about art and making sure people appreciate it as much as she does, and she does so with some success. But “Stylish” is the right show at the wrong time. Right now more than ever, the world of boujee coffee shops and designer rug stores seems more and more unreachable. Another show would have engaged with what art and decor look like from a less robust budget. While Lyons is a talented artist, her show and her lifestyle seem like a fantasy rather than reality television.

Daily Arts Writer Joshua Thomas can be reached at