Betsey Johnson is a 79-year-old in a 20-year-old’s body. She’s bubbly, she’s bright, she knows how to spark up conversation and she loves a good party. “You’re having a lunch while I’m having champaign darling,” she says, reporting live from London, where she’s on the hunt for a new apartment. “I come here to get my hair extensions done—my hair guy has lived in London for 35 years—so I’m always flying back and forth. I’m finally looking for a place here and starting my life all over again at the young age of 79.” But, apartment hunting is not the only thing on the designer’s to-do list. She’s also busy managing her fashion line and launching the second collection for her makeup line called LUV Betsey—the first collection launched in November 2020—which debuts in Walmart stores today.
After she answers the doorbell for room service in her hotel, where she’s been living for two months, Johnson tells me everything from her favorite product in the five-piece line to how she’s adjusted her makeup routine as she’s gotten older. Read on for all the details.
What was the inspiration behind your line?
“I’m very led by the nose ring around by my two granddaughters. Between the two of them, I know the full spectrum of what they like to play around with. They gave me a whole new perspective on getting funky with makeup—it’s a creative outlet and this makeup, particularly, is accessible and affordable. Everything in the line is under $15. It makes you want to play around with it because it doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket! I also want to add that expensive products aren’t always the best products—it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good and it doesn’t have to be cheap to be awful. Maybe in the old days, people got brainwashed into thinking that if products cost more, then they’re better, but I’ve tried this stuff and it’s great. With that, I wanted young girls to be able to access these products so they can give it a shot and play around with it. Makeup is a wonderful indulgence and a great form of self care.”
Has affordability always been a major pillar for your brand?
“I never wanted to make anything more expensive than a roundtrip ticket or a three-night stay in Mexico. I thought, ‘How could anyone want to spend more on a dress than going on a three-day vacation?’ I didn’t grow up from money—most of the neighborhood women in my little country town in Connecticut would sew their own clothes. So, I always wanted things to be affordable because the designers that can make expensive things have it easy as they can use any cloth or material. On the other hand, designers that focus on affordability have a harder job because they have to keep an eye on everything to have their clothing end up at $99. This whole idea goes back to my goal of keeping things fun. When things are affordable, you can have fun in it without worrying too much about re-purchasing it or damaging it.”
What made you want to launch a beauty line after so many years in fashion?
“I had a shot at perfume in my own retail stores, which I still wear, and I had a quick shot at makeup last year. But, oh my god am I going to jump for joy when I walk into Walmart this year and see a full spread of my makeup displayed. I consider my clients as girlfriends, and I have girlfriends as old as I am, so I hope this collection appeals to everyone, whether it’s young girls that don’t want to take life too seriously or older women that want to have some fun. Just like in the fashion world, I believe you have to feel good to look good, and the same thing goes for my makeup. I just wanted this to be a little creative toy box of colors and stuff to try out and the nice thing is that it really looks great. Also, offering makeup makes me more complete as a designer.”
What’s your favorite product in the line?
“Out of all the products—there’s everything from a 56 Piece Color Collection ($15) to a Eyeshadow Palette ($10)—I would choose the hot hot pink lipstick in the Lip Gloss Shimmer Trio ($10). I’m always into red lipstick, but I want to branch out and use the pink more! I’m excited to use that because I’ve just been stuck in my red world. I want to be glossy and shiny but I’m a little stuck in my ways. I will say, though, that I’m very happy with my lips although I’ve had a little tweak here and there for sure. I’m a firm believer in anything that makes you feel better. Anyway, it’s not my first time around with the company that makes the products, so I know they do it right.”
What does your skin-care routine consist of?
“Anything in the drugstore! At night, I start by holding a hot towel on my face for a few minutes. Then, I use exfoliating wipes and wait a few minutes before cleansing. Then, I put a moisturizer on—any old kind! I’ve always been a user of Olay because it reminds me of growing up. My mother used it and I’m just a big fan of the brand. I also love Nivea. If I have to spend more than 10 minutes on skin care, I won’t do it.
In the morning, I figure my face is pretty clean so I use my hot towel, a moisturizer and any old foundation. My daughter always recommends the La Mer Soft Fluid Long Wear Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 20 ($135) but I’m also a sucker for Maybelline. I only put my makeup on in upwards strokes, I never rub downwards. I’m also all about shading and contouring—I like to re-create my face. I switched from using liquid eyeliners to powders, because I have too many wrinkles. I buy a lot of MAC Cosmetics eyeshadows and It’s so much easier and looks much better. This is the only time during the day that I actually relax. Because I know what I’m doing; applying makeup is not scary. It’s a fun thing to do instead of a worry. However, I will say I’m so happy with the way I look, which is odd because I’m older.”