How Betsey Johnson Skipped and Cartwheeled into my heart at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

While shooting behind the scenes for Venexiana one of my favorite models, Elena Kurnosova, asked me if I was going to shoot Betsey Johnson as well because it would be so much fun! She was sooooo right!

After filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, Betsey wasn’t going to show at Fashion Week this time around. But late January, she did an about face, and THANK GOODNESS, decided to show after all. And what a show it was. Backstage it was every bit the party that I had heard it would be. Baked by Melissa provided delish “Betsey Pink” mini-cupcakes. These little treats were on a platter as well as in little containers that held 3 cupcakes and would make for PERFECT wedding favors. Backstage was full of candy, red licorice, pink balloons, and DJ Xavier, which kept the atmosphere fun and light instead of the typical crazy-stressful feel backstage. All the models were smiling instead of pouting, looking like they were having the time of their lives.

The nail look was created by Morgan Taylor Nails. The name of the show was BJ kicks A which stood for Betsey Johnson Kicks Ass, so the nails said B – J – K – A. The girls had so much fun giving me poses showing off the awesome look. During the rehearsal we got a glimpse of the party that craziness that was to come during the real show. There I found yoga mats with the BJ kicks A logo and a production assistant doing girl pushups on the floor. Part of the line was active wear so Betsey decided to have them show off how very active the girls could be in the clothes with a work out routine.

Then I noticed Nigel Barker, from America’s Next Top Model, sitting in the front row. Nigel and Project Runway were my two biggest inspirations for getting into fashion photography. All the girls in the pit were swooning and we tried to get a shot of him, but it was just so dark. So what did I do? I walked right up and introduced myself and told him what an impact he has had on my career.  He was so incredibly nice and polite and even let me take a few shots of him. And that accent!!! OH SO GREAT!!!!  Then Betsey came running out and struck a total rocker pose for the photographer’s pit. It was the very first time I’d seen her in person, and wow, she was every bit the spunky personality you’d expect. How at 70 years old she rocks as much as she does, I have NO IDEA!

As the girls came out each one of them had an iPhone in hand and they acted like they were using it to talk, text, or take shots of the crowd.  It felt very youthful and now.  Seeing the models so bubbly  was sooooo refreshing. In many other shows it looks like they are miserable.  But this show was FULL of joy!  The clothes were irreverent, fresh, and fun, just like Betsey.  They skipped down the runway to Macklemore’s Thrift Shop song, with the chorus that goes “This is F-ing Awesome”.  All I could think was, this IS F-ing awesome!!!!  She then led all the girls through an array of exercises, doing every exercise herself as well.  After the workout she skipped down the runway right at me.  In that instant I felt like she was going to grab me to get up on the runway to dance with her!  She was just leading the charge though for all the girls coming down the runway to do their final walks.  Each of the girls had their own fun poses.  Some of the girls jumped.  My favorite was the one doing a full on leg extension.

After the girls walked off, it was the moment everyone was waiting for.  Betsey’s trademark cartwheel into a split.  She executed it perfectly with a smile a mile wide.  It was spectacular.  Her granddaughters looked on from the front row with glee.  Can you imagine what it must be like to have Betsey Johnson as your GRANDMA?????!!!!  Then Betsey brought out the girls along with her daughter, Lulu.  It was a perfect moment.  Then Betsey skipped back just like a 5-year-old would.  Every person who left the show that day had a huge smile on their face.  You can’t say that for any other show during Fashion Week.  God bless the sponsors who helped make it possible for her to show this season.  In the dictionary next to the entry for joie de vivre there should be a great big picture of Betsey Johnson.   Her spirit is spectacular and Fashion Week in New York just wouldn’t be the same without her.  I can’t wait for her BJ kicks A line to become available so I can support her as a designer and can rock it proudly!  Thank you for lighting up the world!  Betsey, you will always have a special place in my heart!

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