National Commentary

Johnny’s World: Popular

New York Fashion Week is an event quite unlike any other. First and foremost, you have hard-working, genius artists and designers all converging in the same city at the same time. Following the collections of these artists are the world’s press, major editors and shop buyers who all want a piece of the action and to be the first to select what they want for their magazines and boutique windows.

In New York, fashion week is kind of a holiday. For the gentlemen, there are hundreds of six-foot-something, waifish, Bambi-esque models scooting around the city, sometimes in packs. For the rest of us, you’ve got the unmistakable male model and, if that’s not your thing, the art of what’s coming down the runways, flying into town cars and the unforgettable people watching.

The city all but shimmies and lifts her bosom for the fashion set to descend upon her.

At the most recent fashion week, my senses were bombarded by hordes of random people all trying to have their photo made on red carpets, sipping champagne cocktails and maybe seeing a collection or two. If you’ve seen the films “Studio 54” or “The Hunger Games,” you’ll have some idea as to how competitive people were, simply to enter a show and mingle with the “beautiful people.”

Dropping the name of a complete stranger who’s popular in NYC fashion, pretending to be a young designer working under the designer who’s currently showing, we saw it all. In addition to all that, popular and famous people from all walks run around freely, attending the shows, having their photo made and all obviously “supporting the designers.”

Fashion week has become more of a club scene than the showplace for artists, and it made me wonder about my own place in fashion week and how it must look to everyone who’s not me. Despite appearances, I love going to fashion week to see the clothes, the true stars of the week. I go to support people who have supported me and I go to get a first look at what we’ll all be wearing so I can be ready. I can say, though, that has not always been the case.

At the beginning, there was a major part of me that wanted to “be seen” in the fashion world, to be thought of as a fashionable person and simply to wear cool outfits and sit in the front row. My first full-throttle fashion week wasn’t so long ago, and I think between walking, designing and attending I maxed myself out at about 13 shows. How I had the inventory in my closet to create new looks each time, or the time to get my hair and makeup done every other hour, boggles my mind. I was at fashion week because I was thrilled to have been invited, but also to be seen in a certain way by the public.

Growing up skinny, socially awkward and with a weird craft, I always wanted to be cool. I always wanted to be popular and I dreamt constantly of being like Justin, Joey, Lance, Chris and J.C. from *NSYNC, of being a star. I wasn’t prepared however, for the flip-side of popularity. I wasn’t prepared that everything you say will have a 50/50 response, that complete strangers hate you for no reason aside from the fact that you didn’t believe the same things they did. I wasn’t prepared.

Watching the huddled masses all trying to climb on someone else during fashion week reminded me of the struggle and the years of sacrifice it takes to be worthy of being climbed upon. It also reminded me that every shooting star has a fleeting moment when everyone can see it, before its luminescence is burned up. I now know what it’s like to be loved and hated on an international scale.

We all grow a little every day, and my own personal hope is that I continue to grow in a way that helps me understand the mistakes of my life and learn from them, more so than wallow in what might have been or what was. I wanted to be known and appreciated and I earned it on my own, with a little help my friends. With notoriety comes major responsibility, and while you make mistakes along the way, you should be proud of how you get there while understanding that it is all fleeting.