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NEW YORK — When smart, sexy girls talk to guys in their own language, that’s compelling TV. Take ABC’s “Monday Night Football” sideline reporter Melissa Stark, for example, or CNN’s business anchor Claire Leka.
San Francisco-based cable network Tech TV has given the formula a techy twist with 24-year-old Morgan Webb, cohost of “X-Play,” a show about video games launched this spring. Not only is Webb a major brain — she majored in rhetoric at UC Berkeley and builds computers for fun — she’s a bombshell who boasts an uncannily appropriate surname. And she loves playing Unreal Tournament 2K3 and Golden Sun: The Lost Age.
Still, for Webb, who joined the station’s staff as a researcher in 2001, the move on-air presented a challenge. She worried that the channel’s young — and 75 percent male — viewers might not take her seriously. So she decided to tone down her funky off-screen style when making appearances on “The Screen Savers,” another tech program on the same channel.
“I’m a young woman in a field that’s completely dominated by men, and I think people had their doubts about whether I actually knew anything about computers at all,” she sighs, noting that her fan mail confirms admirers don’t always have digital matters on their minds while watching Webb.
The result of Webb’s initial conservatism, however, was a real bore. She wore dark colors to mute her impact and shied away from tight-fitting clothes — until, mercifully, Los Angeles-based image consultant Mary Kay Harrison intervened, just in time for the launch of “X-Play.”
“Mary Kay saved me from myself,” Webb giggles. The pair shopped in Los Angeles and San Francisco to create the new look. They picked up jeans by Seven and Diesel, and brightly colored Juicy Couture and Marc Jacobs pieces. Webb’s favorite wardrobe additions are futuristic and asymmetric, evoking an anime feeling.
While Webb’s new style is rooted in “Matrix”-inspired fashion, it’s meant to be a gentler, more inviting version of the Hollywood prototype. Sometimes, of course, Webb’s look is a little too inviting — her digital diva routine inspiring precisely the kind of attention she was trying to avoid. In April, an anonymous hacker broke into Madonna.com and inserted his own message on the home page: “Morgan Webb, will you marry me?”