Why you need to watch out for Elisa Johnson -- the next big thing in fashion
You may have heard of Magic Johnson, the famed basketball star, or his son EJ Johnson, reality show star from Rich Kids of Beverly Hills. But the latest Johnson to hit the big screen is none other than EJ's little sister Elisa.
Elisa made her debut on the first season of EJNYC this year with her older brother, where we learned about everything from her family to her relationships and more.
Well, Elisa is on her way to bigger things, striving for a career in fashion design, and maybe her own sunglass line.
Check out our full interview with Elisa below!
#OnOurRadar is a feature that showcases creative minds and up-and-coming talents. To see more of past interviews, click here.
What what the moment where you first fell in love with fashion?
Honestly, growing up I was more of tom boy. I was playing basketball, and I wasn't into fashion at all. But, my mom and I have always been super close, and she was always getting dressed -- you know, she had the elaborate bathroom and the elaborate closet so I was always in there with her watching her get ready, do her makeup. So, me being that little girl watching my mom. You know, my mom was really the first person I saw, wearing the outfits and how to dress and how to look good.
When did that change happen for you? Your transition from tomboy to fashion-focused?
I remember, it was ninth grade. I was going to Campbell Hall which is a private school, and they required a uniform -- a collared shirt and khaki pants -- and at the same time I was still playing basketball, which was also a uniform. So really, I just came to hate uniforms. I had to look like everybody else. I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear. So, I was always getting uniform slips because I was always trying to make the uniforms look different in someway, and I couldn't do it. It made me realize that I want to have my own outfits, and I want to do my own thing.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue fashion full time, instead of as more of a hobby?
Honestly, I really didn't want to go to a traditional college. When EJ went to NYU, I was like no, I want to do something different. I wanted to study fashion. I was going to do design, but then I realized it came with a lot of other stuff that was too complicated for me. So, I decided to do merchandising and learn the business-side of it. I think it's important to be a business woman and know how to manage your money, so I thought that was the first step. I do eventually want to get involved with design, but that's later down the road.
You've dabbled with many facets of the fashion industry -- you've modeled, you've learned the business-side of things, so what speciality are you most drawn to?
I think I think I'm drawn to your outfits can express who you are. And I think I have a big personality. Every day is fun for me to put on that outfit and look good. I just really love clothes and look my best. My body is like a canvas.
How did EJ NYC come about for you?
EJ was on Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, and I think a lot of people were watching it because of EJ. He is that amazing, loud character on the show. Then, he got this spinoff opportunity. They came to him and wanted to do his own show. He told me about it, and I thought it was awesome. Then he asked if I wanted to do it with him, and of course I said yes! We've had so much fun together, we've learned a lot about each other. It's been fun.
What is the hardest part about having cameras follow you around while you're working on the show?
It was hard to work the long hours of doing a scene over and over again -- when the team felt like they didn't have what they wanted -- that part was annoying. I'm not very patient, haha. I hate waiting. There was a lot of waiting and long hours, but honestly the hardest part for me was juggling filming and school, but I ended up with good grades, so it worked out.
What has it been like working alongside your brother?
Honestly, my brother and I butted heads when we were growing up, because I wanted to play with him and he didn't want to play with me. He's older -- you know! I was always going into his room and bothering him and breaking his toys. But, he and I became really close during this journey. We've become closer as brother and sister. He did this before, on Rich Kids, and I had questions for him, so he helped me. He was open and honest, but it was great. We became much closer than we were.
What's the biggest thing you learned about yourself while filming?
I'm so, open, and genuine. So, to be vulnerable is silly. That's what EJ needs to do more, be vulnerable. I'm just there, being me. I am already so open anyway. I think actually, it's best to have patience. I'm not patient at all so it was a learning experience to wait and relax.
What can fans expect from the series when they're watching it?
Next week is the finale, but I hope there's a season 2. I feel like my character is a boy crazy girl. I was just having fun, and enjoying myself. But I think people need to wait for my brother because he's going to be showing a different side to himself, and I think people want to know more about EJ. This season, he didn't show all of himself, so next season he would be more vulnerable.
How do view diversity in the fashion industry?
I feel like you don't see a lot of brown skin people 'doing themselves'. I feel like we're being caged a little bit, not really being able to express ourselves. For me, that's another reason I wanted to enter the fashion industry. I feel like, though, I can relate to multiple sides, it's not like I only relate to young, brown-skinned girls, but I feel like it's inspirational and it's something that people can look up to. I hope young people can look up to me. There's not enough of us doing, and we have just as much talent as anyone else. It's great that there's more people trying to make a difference, and integration of the music industry, like Kanye. I think that's awesome.
There's also more visibility now with shows like Rich Kids, and EJ NYC. Our show is one of the ones where you can actually see the diversity. There's so many different characters on the show, different demographics and backgrounds, and that what the show is about.
Where do you see your career going in the next few years? What projects do you hope to be working on?
I really want to get into some brand collaborations -- whether with beauty or something else. But I really want to do my sunglasses. That's my #1 goal, because I lot of people who know me, know me for my sunglasses. I want to do that really soon, it's just a matter of time.
Who are the fashion icons you look up to personally?
Right now, I'm really into LaQuan Smith, and Demna Gvasalia. That's what I'm looking forward to at fashion week -- Demna is doing Balenciaga.
How do you go about choosing your outfits?
I think about it the day before, normally. I know pretty much everything that's in my closet, in my mind. And I will never leave without my sunglasses, ever. But overall, I just visualize it, and put it together. I dress my friends too!
Can you speak to how you'd define your personal style?
I just wanted to say that for my fashion, what I like to wear. I like to give a different perspective of luxury. So, like mixing up and downtown, and mixing men's and women's wear. For example, mixing a blazer with a pair of shorts. I think it's important that I'm not as girly -- the only thing I do really girly is my makeup. I like to mix and match styles.
How has social media changed the way you look at fashion, or how you operate in your career?
My friends make fun of me for this, but I WON'T post certain photos. The photo has to look good next to the next one, and next to the next one -- it has to look cute together as one unit. I see my Instagram as a place where I can show everyone what I'm wearing and what my style is. So, there has to be an element of fashion there, if there's not, I won't post it. I use my Instagram as a way to express myself fully and I take pride in it because I really care about what it all looks like. I'll delete a photo if I don't think it matches well next to everything else.
What's your relationship like with your followers on Instagram?
I respond to them in the comments, and I even respond to some of the DMs [direct messages]. Because people will thank me, and say that I inspire them. I get a lot of DMs after the show because I opened up about my adoption. I treat my followers on Instagram like I would treat anyone else, like a friend. They are the people that lift you up, they're the ones who are going to support you the most. It's best to treat them as you'd treat anyone else.
What's been your most memorable fan interaction?
After I opened up about my adoption on the show, I got a DM from a girl who was adopted and didn't know her biological mother, but wants to. And I think my story touched her, so I made sure I reached out to her and let her know that there's nothing to be afraid of. There are a lot of people who are scared to reach out to their birth families because they don't know if they will reciprocate feelings. But I think it's good to take that step, because it's something that could complete your life. I wanted her to know I saw her message, and that it meant a lot that she reached out to me.
What's the one piece of advice you wish you'd received before you started fashion, or before you started filming EJ NYC?
I think that with EJ NYC, I think that it can be hard sometimes with fans, because people can be so cruel. I can be super sensitive, and take a lot of things to heart right away. I've gotten some messages -- the worst messages I've ever seen in my life, and EJ looks at me and says 'don't read those, don't read into it, don't let it affect you. If they're writing about you then you must be doing something.' But, I've had to learn not to take those negative messages to heart. It can really mess with your head. I wish I had learned that before, because it's hard to transition into that mindset. I try not to be wrapped into it. Do you, and don't let people tear you down.
Can you talk a bit about being thrust into the spotlight?
Yeah, it's great. But, we have the best parents, and my dad have always been so kind to everyone that looks up to him. I think EJ and I both see that, we've both seen it our whole lives. Growing up, my dad would take a picture with every single person who wanted to take a photo with him, anywhere! Unless we're eating or something. But our dad is amazing in how he treats people, and we grew up around that. That's what I would like to embody as I get more into the spotlight.
What's the one motto you feel like you live your life by?
My motto -- probably pretty common -- but I would say, be yourself. Be who you are. On the show though, I think I want to let girls know that they don't need a man. You can be yourself, and you don't need a guy. I think it's so important to make sure you just have yourself. You don't need a man to help you along the way.
What is the best piece of advice you have received from EJ?
It's very similar to my answer before, but I think EJ had to grow up quicker than me. You know, he came out, the TMZ thing happened, and I don't think he knew that was going to blow up the way it did. He has people who don't agree with what he's doing or who he is as a person. I think EJ is one of those people that you can watch and think, wow he really loves himself and is keeps himself first, and I admire that so much. He can walk into a room and can be confident as ever, and doesn't care what anyone says about him. That's why I love my brother to pieces, because he is being who is truly is, and isn't letting anyone tell him that he can't. I can sit down and tell him about any of my problems, and he always tell me 'you do you girl.' That's EJ's best advice.
You're originally from the West Coast, but do you see yourself living in New York forever?
Not forever. I definitely don't see myself raising a family here. But I need both in my life. LA is more of a relaxing environment. Here in New York, it's the hustle and bustle. But I'm still a Cali girl at heart.
Learn more about Elisa by watching the video below:
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