| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES May 10 Mother-daughter therapy,
nightly branzino dinners and pulls from a mimosa-filled water
bottle at the gym.
Welcome to just some of the life of Betsey Johnson, the
eccentric and frenetic fashion designer whose personality goes
on display in a reality television series beginning on Sunday on
U.S. cable network Style.
"XOX Betsey Johnson" casts an eye on Johnson, 70, best known
for her bright, girly punk dresses, and her daughter Lulu as the
inseparable duo look to relaunch their fashion careers after
professional and personal setbacks.
The eight-episode series is as much a psychological trip
through the pair's emotional high-wire act as it is about the
nuts and bolts of the fashion industry.
"I think we were always content in our lives, so the joke is
'Why not do a reality TV show when our lives were completely
falling apart?'" Lulu, 38, told Reuters in a joint interview
with her mother.
For the mother and daughter, who live a few doors apart in
the same apartment building on New York's Upper East Side, their
lives were ripping at the inseams.
Johnson, who still ends her fashion shows with a trademark
cartwheel and split, was forced to shutter her company's 65
retail stores and file for bankruptcy last year while selling
off her brand to footwear giant Steve Madden.
"I felt I had lost what I had built and didn't know if I
could continue and get it back," said Johnson, who is now the
creative director behind her brand.
Meanwhile, Lulu, a divorced mother, is in the midst of
launching her own fashion line.
In the first episode, viewers get a taste of a day in the
life of the fun-seeking Johnson, whose exercise routine is more
flirting with her personal trainer and sipping from her
mimosa-filled water bottle than sit-ups and squats.
The designer also never misses her favorite meal: a daily
dinner of branzino and a half bottle of white wine.
But Johnson's twitchy anxiety about her new gig takes center
stage ahead of a big launch party for her Steve Madden brand.
'LIKE A REALLY BIG THERAPY SESSION'
"I've never had to answer to anyone else," Johnson admits
before the party. "I never was controlled. What I'm most afraid
of in terms of having people boss me is my pace; I'm very fast."
Never mind that Johnson is a hit at the party in a billowy,
embellished gold lamé gown because the series saves its drama
for moments away from the boardroom and catwalk, when Johnson
and Lulu butt heads as mother and daughter.
"I felt that I really unzipped my soul and kind of squeezed
out every bit of who I am, and it was rather painful," Lulu said
of the series. "It was like a really big therapy session."
And therapy sessions are what Johnson dislikes the most.
"It's like taking a shovel to cement to try and get this
girl to talk about anything emotionally," Lulu said about her
mother, even after a steady schedule of couples therapy.
"I don't like to talk about my feelings," Johnson said after
one session on the show. "Sometimes Lulu is short with me and it
hurts me ... Lulu really loves therapy, I just like to keep
going like a race car. Vroom!"
Despite an appearance as playful and Pollyannaish as her
designs, the show offers a peek into the dogged work ethic of a
successful fashion designer who does not know how to stop.
"My work has driven my life," Johnson said. "I've gone
through husbands and boyfriends and I can go through anything as
long as I have my work."
In the end, Johnson said she found her therapy in an
unexpected place: shooting the series over several months
beginning last August.
"The filming was such a great, wonderful support system for
me when I had kind of failed at the business," Johnson said. "I
think I would have been really miserable if I didn't have the
show because it kept me going and it kept me in the spotlight."
Style is part of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Vicki