The Importance of Being Holly

Meet Holly Kylberg, the boldest of Denver's boldfaced names.

 Holly Kylberg needs no introduction, but a friend offers one anyway: "This is Holly. Isn't she fabulous?"

Fabulous is right. Just don't tell her that unless you want to make her blush, because Holly may be a bold name, but she's also shy, even humble. The 38-year-old balks at the term "socialite" and shrugs off the suggestion that she's the reigning queen of Denver society. But she is both of those things -- and more.

Holly is as complex as Lily Bart, the protagonist from her favorite novel, The House of Mirth. Like Edith Wharton's classic heroine, Holly battles the jealousy and judgment that come with upper-class life. As glamorous as it may seem to be featured in the society pages almost every day, there are shadows in the spotlight. Holly's every action is scrutinized, her every innocent flirtation noted. And, of course, people tend to assume that a blond, buxom beauty like Holly doesn't have brains.

John Johnston
Holly go lightly: Holly and her husband, Rich 
Holly go lightly: Holly and her husband, Rich Kylberg.

But Holly isn't just a lady who lunches; she works countless hours planning charity events. Her daily schedule is an exhausting mix of meetings, phone calls, primping and cocktail parties. And when she's not chairing a benefit, she's supporting friends who are, by donating time, money or the use of the D&F Tower, which she and her husband, Rich Kylberg, partly own.

This 21st-century Lily Bart is also full of contradictions. Although Holly goes out five or six nights a week -- often without Rich, which raises the eyebrows of gossips -- she is intensely private. She's insecure about her looks, despite being constantly complimented on her clothes, her hair, her overall charm. And though she hobnobs with the social elite, Holly is no snob; she frequently hangs out with her stylist and personal trainer, and she is just as comfortable at Don's Club Tavern as she is at Mao.

In other words, she's not your mama's socialite. She's a socialite of the people.

It's 2:25 p.m. on March 23, and Holly is getting ready for the kickoff to one of the most visible charity events in Denver. More than a hundred A-listers, including Judi and Marvin Wolf, David Alexander and Edie Marks, will gather at Mao to sip martinis, shmooze and paint masks for auction at the every-other-year Mask Project gala benefiting the Hospice of Metro Denver. In the weeks leading up to the May 1 event, masks painted by local notables and national celebrities (or their assistants) will go on display at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, a partner in the big to-do. Holly is co-chairing the gala for the first time this year, along with sportscaster Les Shapiro and Joshua Hanfling, CEO of Qube Visual, a sign and graphics company. But before she can toast the hard work that's already been done, she must get a blowout.

Holly comes to Planet Laboratories in Cherry Creek North two to three times a week to get her long blond mane styled by Matthew Morris. It's an extravagance, but a necessary one in Holly's world, where image means everything. Holly has the routine down to a science, and she jokes that "it takes a village" to keep her looking so good. After Morris rinses deep conditioner through her hair, blows it dry and curls it until she looks supermodel hot, Holly hops into her pale-green Jaguar XJS for the two-block drive over to Salon Posh, where Gina Comminello does her makeup. Holly also gets a French manicure once a month at Vito Pini Salone, which nicely sets off her 4.5-carat diamond wedding ring; has her hair highlighted at Salon Posh; works out with her personal trainer, Kevin Hodgson, twice a week; does tae bo three times a week; and has custom gowns made by local designer Gabriel Conroy. And her sexy, just-off-the-beach glow requires regular applications of tanning lotion.

With hair and makeup perfectly in place, Holly zips back to her stately brick home in the Country Club neighborhood, where she changes out of her day outfit of a white lace bustier, pink suede jacket, tight jeans and stilettos and into a stunning pink Roberto Cavalli dress. She grabs her matching quilted Chanel bag and heads off to Mao for the Mask Project kickoff party.

As soon as Holly arrives, Mele Telitz, public-relations manager for Hospice of Metro Denver, asks her to go on television to promote the event, but the thought of doing so makes Holly anxious. She is so shy that she usually has to have a glass of wine as soon as she arrives just to psych herself up. Holly is relieved when Judi Wolf agrees to go on camera in her place. About thirty minutes into the party, emcee Kelly Ford of KYGO announces the event co-chairs, and Holly waves from the back of the crowd. She's glad she doesn't have to speak in front of everyone.

"Planning a charity event is far more than wearing a pretty dress and having your picture taken," Holly says. "It's a year or more of planning and organizing an event, often by volunteers who are underwriting large portions of the program themselves because of their support of the charitable organization. I think sometimes people have an image of women sitting around sipping tea trying to decide which color ink to use on an invitation. Nothing would get planned that way."

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