Iconic designer Betsey Johnson is 'frightened' about turning 75

You bet Betsey gets it.

Fun-loving, cartwheeling, iconic designer Betsey Johnson turns 75 on Thursday and she’s well aware that’s a milestone.

Despite popular opinion, Johnson tells us that she doesn’t feel ageless.

“That’s the only thing to tell yourself because what are you gonna’ do?” she said at the Accessories Council Excellence Awards in Midtown.

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Betsey Johnson in her Manhattan studio in 1966.

Betsey Johnson in her Manhattan studio in 1966.

(Susan Wood/Getty Images/Getty Images)

“I’m not celebrating birthdays too much anymore,” she said. “I’ll celebrate something else … 70 was okay, 71 … but 75 is frightening.”

The Wethersfield, Conn., native is as well-known for her kooky, colorful designs as she is for the cartwheels she does after each fashion show — still Johnson also ends that tumble by doing the splits.

She was recognized at the ACE Awards as a “style icon.”

“Crazy,” she said of that honor. “It means that it only took me 55 years. And I never wanted to be a style icon because my style was a little off center. But the idea that they are giving me that title is really very far out and evolved.”

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According to Johnson, the purpose of her topsy turvy life thus far hasn’t been geared toward achieving iconic status. In 2011 she had 65 stores worldwide. A year later, she filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but rose again by designing a sensible clothing line that was picked up by department stores including Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. She’s also a proud breast cancer survivor.

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Chantal Bacon and Betsey Johnson in Johnson’s atelier in 1987.

(Rose Hartman/Getty Images)

“I did not live that (conventional fashion business) life in my career — that’s why we had to do our own little pink stores,” she said. “What I was doing worked, but only to my pink ladies, to my girlfriends, to my true fans. So this is hysterical. It’s a sign of progress.”

Johnson certainly doesn’t dress the part of a “fashion icon” when she’s not at events like this one on Monday. “I’m living in Malibu now, so it’s usually the same T-shirt,” she said. “I am such a comfortable slob. I never dress fashion. I never wear anything but flip flops, a big T-shirt — usually Bowie or rock ‘n’ roll and my lipstick. I don’t even wear all that makeup s–t anymore. Just fake eyelashes.”

With Maggie Parker, Brian Niemietz

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betsey johnson
celebrity birthdays
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