Tuesday, April 29th, 2014


Dan Masonson:  Good afternoon everybody and welcome to our NBC Sports Kentucky Derby conference call.

We’re all looking forward to the 140th Kentucky Derby this weekend. Coverage begins tomorrow at 5:00 PM Eastern on NBCSN with the Raw Show. And we will have the Kentucky Oaks Friday at 3:00 PM Eastern.

Saturday at Noon Eastern we begin our Derby day coverage on NBCSN and at 4:00 PM Eastern on NBC.

With that I’d like to introduce our two Kentucky Derby Fashion Experts Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski who will make a couple brief opening statements and then we will take your questions.

Tara Lipinski:  Should I go first Johnny?

Johnny Weir:  Yeah Tara take it.

Tara Lipinski:  Okay sounds good. Well first off I’m just very excited to go. I have never been to the Kentucky Derby.

It’s just one of those events that is a once in a lifetime type thing that I’m really privileged and honored to be able to attend and also work at with my close friends. So I’m very excited. I can’t wait until this weekend.

Johnny Weir:  This will be my second time at the Kentucky Derby. I went in 2010 after the Vancouver Olympics. And I wore a really outrageous hat and I’m looking forward to more of the same this year.

Going as a broadcaster and a television personality is so exciting because I, like Tara, have sort of roots in the horse culture of America and equestrian sports.

I’m so infatuated with horses and the culture surrounding them that it’s just such a huge honor to go and be able to report back to America on the culture of the event, the atmosphere of the event and to shed some light on what it’s like to be young and hip like me and Tara attending this very, very elegant affair and to cheer on our favorite horses. It’s just going to be so exciting.

Dan Masonson:  Great. Thanks Johnny. And let’s open it up and get the queue started for questions.

I was wondering how this is going to work exactly if you’re going to be doing fashion commentary during the broadcast on Saturday or if it’s all being saved for after the coverage or if you know how it’s going to appear?

Johnny Weir:  Well I mean as I understand it Tara and I will be providing sort of a cultural look inside the Kentucky Derby.

A lot of what we will be doing is pre-filmed and pre-taped for the actual broadcast, so that we can actually enjoy the race and hang out. But we definitely will be available after the race to film sort of the follow-up things and to be a part of the finale of the show.

As far as placing us in appropriate ways it’s hard with all the commotion during the races. We will pre-film and about a lot of those things and then of course give updates during the show.

Do you think that fashion has kind of been an overlooked part of the Derby up until now just because they do have really amazing hats and everything like that? How do you think kind of sports fans will feel seeing it – seeing that sort of coverage during the race?

Tara Lipinski:  Well I just think it will be fun. I mean obviously the race is the most important part of day and that’s why everyone’s there.

But I think that’s what so great about sports is that nowadays there’s so much else that goes into it and there’s so much more entertainment that’s a part of the event.

And, you know, the race is two minutes. But so many people come and so many people put so much thought into what they’re going to wear.

Like you said, the fashion is so unique for this specific event that it’s a lot of fun to see what everyone shows up in.

Johnny Weir:  There are so few sporting events that are actual cultural events that people rally around the television to watch, the Olympic Games being one of them, the Kentucky Derby is another that has this whole cultural sidestep and sideshow to the actual big race.

I think that’s what is so amazing about the Olympics and the Kentucky Derby as an example that there is drinking and partying and fashion and celebrity and all of these things that go into it.

It’s not just an NHL or NFL or NBA game that happens almost every night and there’s some tall man shooting a ball in a basket almost every night on my television. These are actual cultural events and that’s what makes the fashion side of things so exciting. And of course there’s the hats, the very rich southern charm that comes through the Kentucky Derby which makes it really unique. You don’t really think of Kentucky and fashion together. So it’s their shining moment for the year with fashion.

Obviously I don’t know if you guys could have predicted after the Olympics you guys would be asked to appear on all these things. Are you guys sick of each other yet, are you loving this? What are your thoughts on your pairing?

Tara Lipinski:  Definitely not sick of each other. I mean we had such a great bonding moment in Sochi. We’ve known each other for a long time and the skating world is very small.

But, throw us into ice rink for over a month and we called almost every live skating event.

It was just so much fun. I think the best thing that we took away was like how much fun we have working together and that we hopefully do a good job.

So we were a bit surprised when we came home. The support was incredible and the opportunities have been a lot of fun. I think it’s just been a real wild ride and we’re enjoying it.

Johnny Weir:  The fact that we are able to work together and do things that we love together as friends is such a special thing to have in the entertainment world and especially coming from the figure skating world that we come from which is very small and cutthroat and a bit ‘back stabby’ It’s hard to actually make friends in our sport and in our genre.

The fact that Tara and I both love to entertain, we take our jobs very seriously. It’s hard to find somebody that you can work with that can also be your friend and that you’re all on the same wavelength as far as what’s going.

As far as the two of us we are just having fun. Where we take every beautiful opportunity that we get and we run with it because we love being together and we love working together and sharing our own special bit of moxie and sparkle with the world. It’s definitely been incredible and I personally would never tire of my little blonde munchkin.

Would you both mind giving a little sneak preview of what sort of hats you might be wearing?

Tara Lipinski:  Oh my gosh, I’m sitting in a sea of them right now. We are currently thinking of designs. It’s all very last minute but it’s been so much fun. I had a fitting this morning and it’s a sea of bright colors and dresses and tons of fun hats. So I’ll be bringing many.

Johnny Weir:  I have been working with Kerin Rose Gold of A-Morir, which is an amazing sunglass line. She’s a dear friend and she creates the costuming and shoes and all sorts of fashion items for stars like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry.

She and I have been brainstorming about my hat because I obviously needed a custom hat because I’m me. I can tell you that the theme of my hat for Derby Day is Pegasus.

Johnny I have one other follow-up question for you. Do you expect to receive any nasty emails for suggesting that maybe Kentucky isn’t the hub of high fashion?

Johnny Weir:  I get nasty emails about everything I say so I don’t take anything very seriously. I enjoy my life. I enjoy my position. I enjoy the fact that I can work and do something that I love.

There could be a sea of 10 million emails and I wouldn’t care. As long as I can do my job and do it well that’s all I do care about.

So you aren’t backing off?

Johnny Weir:  No, I mean, this is Kentucky. It’s time to shine and that’s absolutely the truth. It’s their cultural event of the year. It’s their big, big moment where everyone has focused their eyes on Louisville.

I think it’s the same as New York during fashion week. New York is always fashionable but New York fashion week is when they really bring it and they know it. So it’s very much the same it’s just the Kentucky version.

I was just wondering if there are any particular designers that you’ll be working with for the broadcasts?

Tara Lipinski:  Go ahead Johnny.

Johnny Weir:  All right, so as I mentioned already my hat is being designed by Kerin Rose Gold of A-Morir, and the rest of my look I’m actually putting a lot of it together and there is a lot of vintage that I’m pulling just because I feel like there is a very customary way to approach the Kentucky Derby.

While I don’t necessarily believe in dressing for what you’re showing up to – I mean I like to go sockless at the Oscars and I like to wear, you know, craziness at all costs because that’s my personality – I’m definitely going to bring myself to the Kentucky but I wanted a little bit of tradition in what I’m wearing.

So I’m having a custom hat. I’m wearing a bit of vintage. I’m wearing a little bit of Vince and of course Christian Louboutin.

Tara Lipinski:  For me, I am in a fitting as we speak, but there are lots of fabulous designers that I’m picking from. But Oliver Tolentino I’m just dying over right now and Ted Baker and David Meister. So it’s going to be fun.

Is there going to be any sort of fashion police type of approach?

Tara Lipinski:  No. I mean I can speak for Johnny as well. I don’t think so. I feel like we developed our own vibe and way of working and commentating and critiquing, whether it’s skating or golf or fashion.

I don’t know. I think we both enjoy fashion so much and we can appreciate all different styles and everyone’s different opinion. I’m sure we’ll have something distinct and we’ll probably have some very outspoken moments. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s going to be catty.

Johnny Weir: I agree with that. I think that there is a huge audience for bitchy fashion reporting, just through what goes on on the Internet and through television. That’s not really where Tara and I sit. We appreciate the artwork and the dedication and the hours and the money that it costs for these designers to put out their creations every year.

We can appreciate what they were trying to do or what they are doing. If something’s a little bit off, then it’s a little bit off. I mean I have made so many mistakes in my life from what I put on my audit. I am not above critiquing somebody and seeing what I think I would have liked to see better. But also, I’m totally aware that, you know, I look like a loon most of the time.

Is there something that you can point to that would be a huge faux pas or a huge say like a must do for Kentucky Derby?

Johnny Weir:  I mean, I feel like a hat is kind of necessary. And then Tara you can agree maybe. But a hat for the Derby is kind of what the ladies are supposed to do.

I know a lot of gentlemen will just where a little straw hat or a little Fedora or some like that. But for the ladies, you must wear a hat or a fascinator or some kind.

Tara Lipinski:  Because the hat is the most fun part. And I can’t really think of any other event, especially a sporting event, where the hat is the main focal point, and pretty much makes the entire outfit.

Johnny Weir:  Now, I think something that I wasn’t prepared for when I attended the Derby in 2010 was that it was really hot. And then it rained and it got muggy. And then it was hot again.

I chose to wear Chanel tweed that day. It doesn’t really breathe, so you get shiny and sweaty and puffy from water retention and drinking too much. I think a fashion faux pas is definitely wearing too many layers. I’m definitely going a bit breezy this time around just in hopes that it’s warm and hot again because it was so nice to be down there.

But, you know, that and visible sweat lines I think it would be a major faux pas. I love watching the ladies who attend the event that walk out to the winners circle. They have to walk through all this grass. And who knows if it’s wet or not. But, you know, they all have the crazy high heels on that are skinny. And you watched them sink and struggle to get out to the center.

Where I think a little bit more reasonable shoe might be in order if you are planning on running out…

Tara Lipinski:  Absolutely not. I’m just…

Johnny Weir:  You will sink in the mud.

Tara Lipinski:  It’s okay. You can hold on to me.

Johnny Weir:  I will carry you. I will carry you in my papoose carrier and I will take you there.

Are you guys going to be betting? Do you know which horses you’re looking at already? I mean what’s the – how up to snuff are you on the actual race?

Tara Lipinski:  I was just going to say tonight I have a few girlfriends coming over. And we’re going to do some homework because they do hope to possibly bet a little bit. So I definitely want to be up to speed.

Johnny Weir:  And I’ve heard really good things about Danza. So I think that’s where my loyalty lies a little bit. I don’t know why. I just feel it.

You guys are with the breakout stars broadcast wise at the Sochi Olympics. And it’s such a treat to watch you on television. Do you hope that you’ll bring a new set of eyes from the standpoint of non-horse fans, people who have never watched the Kentucky Derby before, to the event and a younger group of audience to the event?

Tara Lipinski:  Okay, so the question was just about the younger – like bringing a younger audience?

Right, and a non-sports audience.

Tara Lipinski:  Well yes. I mean I think that you look at the Olympics or you look at certain sporting events, obviously the sport is the main focus and what everyone is there for.

And when everyone puts such hard work then, especially the athletes who are in this case the jockeys, that is the main event. But I feel that in this day and age, everything is changing so much and everything is so entertainment driven.

There are so many more things happening other than just a two-minute race or a four-minute ice skating performance. And that’s what makes the Olympics or the Kentucky Derby, or whatever event it is so much fun.

That’s what I’m looking forward to most, going there with Johnny. You know, I think we have a certain way of doing things. And we’re just going to try to bring that same magic that we did to ice skating to another event…show people what they want to see. If I was sitting at home in the living room, I would love to see the race. But I also would love to see the fashion and who shows up, and the parties and everything else surrounding the event.

Johnny Weir:  And for me I think Tara and I are based very much in reality. While some of our clothing and our confections can kind of lead you to think otherwise, we are very real, down-to-earth people.

For me, the Kentucky Derby is a beautiful event to watch because I love horses. I love horse racing. I think there’s nothing more beautiful than a horse that’s running with its tail and mane flying behind it.

I love that imagery. And I’ve been into the Kentucky Derby to watch the horses for two minutes. But also I want to be entertained. I want to know what’s going on in Louisville. I want to know why everyone flocks there every spring to see this race when you can watch it just as beautifully on television.

So I’m excited to bring sort of a real opinion of what the Kentucky Derby is about. It’s not stodgy and older people sort of telling you about the illustrious history of the event, which will happen. We are respectful of that.

But also to bring like, “oh, well we saw Jay Z and Beyoncé sitting over there, and we sat on their laps and we sang to them. And we enjoyed it.” And that’s what Tara and I brought to the Olympics, was a very good knowledge of sports, about what it takes to be an Olympian and what it takes for young people to be out there on the ice, and also we could explain our sport.

Here, we’re explaining the culture in the atmosphere around the Derby. We’re not actually calling the race unless it’s just to one another for Instagram or something.

But we’re talking about things that we know very well…

You know, Johnny I have to agree with you about the comfortable shoes. Something from Michael Kors or something like that. I’m sure you can still find a fashionable shoe. But comfort is very important when you’re out in the messy situations out there at Churchill Downs.

Johnny Weir:  Yes. Last time I was just so uncomfortable with the weather. And I was dressed for a slight chill. I was in tweed. I was in a tie. I had a button up. I had a huge sun hat that was black.

I sweated through my foundation. It was just not a good scene. I was not cute. So you have to be prepared for any condition, and you have to be prepared to look beautiful the whole time. That’s my advice for Tara or any first-timer at the Derby. You have to be ready, or at least have somebody that can carry you around.

Johnny I hate to tell you this, but it’s supposed to be pretty chilly this time. So in terms of the tweed, that might be a smarter way to go this Derby.

Johnny Weir:  I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it. It was supposed to be chilly last time, chilly and rainy – I’ll bring a sensible shawl.

Why is it so hard to hit the sweet spot for Derby fashion? It seems like this is a really, really tough zone to get into. You see people either way underdressed, way overdressed. Where is the sweet spot for Derby fashion? What does that look like?

Tara Lipinski:  I do always love a classic look. And I love a popular color and something fun. But especially with all the hats, I think some people with accessories and the hats and the color and the flowers and the big dresses…it can be for me a bit overwhelming.

You look back at certain people who walked the red carpet and just have nailed it. I’m thinking of Lauren Conrad last year, a very simple, classic dress with an amazing hat. And she just looked so chic and beautiful.

So I definitely love a classic look. But at the same time, it’s the styles and it’s a fun event. There’s a lot of charm to it. So adding a popular color and something fun is always nice to see.

Johnny Weir:  For me, the sweet spot kind of lies in knowing what you feel good in. It’s a long day and you want to feel comfortable…perhaps things that won’t wrinkle.

My mother, for example, was trying to suggest that I wear a linen pant. And first of all, I’m not a fan of linen. Second of all, it wrinkles so terribly that by the end of the day, your butt looks, you know, like a walnut or something. I’m not quite sure, but something like that.

So I try to stay away from things that don’t travel well and that won’t sort of take a turn for the worst throughout the day. But there is something so lovely about Southern charm and sweet tea and Fried Green Tomatoes, and every movie we see with the debutantes and their huge dresses.

The Kentucky Derby itself, with the mixture of the jockey uniform with the jersey and the high boots…I’m a huge fan of equestrian culture and that the helmets and the sword of a beautiful leather (world) from even people like Armez.

And I love bringing that side of things into the Kentucky Derby. I’m not really down with people that will show up in blue jeans and cowboy boots. Even though that may be their style, I think that you should dress it up a little bit more.

This is a huge cultural event and America’s watching and we’re all rooting for our horses, but also, it’s one of those few opportunities to bring culture and sport under the same roof where everyone’s watching for both of those things. It’s not just who scored the most touchdowns.

If ordinary people want to catch your eye at the Derby and maybe make the fashion parade, what should they wear? I mean, are you guys going to be looking at just celebrities or will you look at ordinary people, too?

Johnny Weir:  Well, we’re ordinary people. So we’re definitely going to look at our peers and celebrities are celebrities, and many of them use wonderful stylists and have great designers that back them and they of course will look chic. I’m actually more interested in seeing the normal people that really bring it. If I see a beautiful hat with an Elmo stuffed animal on the side that’s completely rhinestone studded and, you know, that’s obviously going to catch my eye.

Tara and my tastes are very different in what we look for and what aesthetically pleases us. So I definitely have more of an eye for the drama, the costuming. But on a more fashion oriented level, I think celebrating spring — celebrating the season — is something that’s going to be so special — and it always is at the Kentucky Derby — with the pastels, the pops of color, what’s going to be hot for summer, whether it’s orange or emerald or mint green. I mean, all of these things are eye-catching and to me I’ll be looking for the outrageous, as well as the fashion, mainstream sort of look.

Tara Lipinski:  I think I’m just excited because there’s so many different events throughout the year. I mean, it’s almost like a cocktail party – beautiful fashion and some people are going to be more dressed up than others, but the Kentucky Derby I think just stands out as that one event where that doesn’t happen…that you know everyone is thinking about what they’re wearing and in a specific way. So that’s what’s most exciting. I can’t wait to see.

As much as it is about the horses is about the party, the lifestyle, the culture, the betting; everything that goes on into the whole day of the races. And I know Johnny has already been there before, so, what are you most excited about? And also to Tara, what are you really looking forward to at your first Derby?

Johnny Weir:  Well, I’m so looking forward to the race itself. I love horses; I love the excitement of the race. I like the build-up, I like the people waving their receipt and their bet ticket in the air. I’m so looking forward to the race itself. But as a cultural event, I can’t wait for the ladies in big hats. I mean, I’m pretty classic when it comes to Kentucky Derby. I’m excited for the tradition. I’m excited for the spectacle that it creates.

The parties are fun and I love southern hospitality; I hope to live in the south one day and I just absolutely love everything about southern culture. That’s really what I’m excited for. Of course, the fashion and working with my best friend, but I love being in the south and celebrate it every time.

Tara Lipinski:  Yeah, I think the same goes for me. I actually live in the south; my favorite thing is going into Charleston in the summer and there’s the garden party and you know what you’re going to expect and what you’re going to see from the women and the men. It’s just such a fun vibe. It’s the Kentucky Derby; it has that traditional affect that I’m really excited to go there. I kind of have this vision in my head of what I will see, but I’m sure it will exceed my expectations.

Hi, my question is for Tara. First off, I really love the Big Labowski bit on the Jimmy Fallon show right ahead of the Olympics.

Tara Lipinski:  Yes. It was so much fun. That is actually one of my favorite things that I’ve done in the past year.

How did you keep the drink in your hand the whole time?

Tara Lipinski:  I have no idea, because when it first happened and they like gave the drink to me, like, “Oh, wow, there’s real liquid in here.” This is going to be a disaster. But somehow I managed to do it.

Who came up with the idea and how did that all come about, because it ended up on every sports blog in the entire country. And then two, are we going to see something like that related to horse racing? Do you have any like possible videos that might go viral planned out of the Derby?

Tara Lipinski:  I don’t, but you know what? I should put a call in to Jimmy. I could get on the ice and I’m sure we could think of something equestrian.

Johnny Weir:  Maybe I’ll throw a saddle on and Tara can ride me.

Johnny, I’m just kind of curious about how much luggage you took to Sochi with you, because I got hooked in with you on Twitter and I saw this broadcast every day of what you were wearing.

Johnny Weir:  I took four suitcases. All of them were about the same size as a Ford Focus. Tara took three suitcases, maybe the size of a Prius. And we really had a lot to choose from. I don’t under pack. I’m not a frugal packer. I’ve been traveling internationally since I was 13-years-old and I have not learned the art of being a smart packer. So definitely a lot and definitely for the Kentucky Derby I will be taking a lot of options.

Can you talk about your horse culture from the past?

Johnny Weir:  Well, I grew up in rural Pennsylvania in Lancaster County and it’s rolling fields, horse farms. I was in love with horses from when I was very young. My father kind of bred that in me as an equestrian himself and having grown up in it on a horse farm. So I was always into it. I started riding English saddle when I was about eight years old and I started showing. I showed at seven, I showed at the Blue Rock. I was on very much a fast track to becoming something in the equestrian world even at a young age.

Then I chose figure skating and I had to choose one or the other. There was only so much time in a day for a 12-year-old to devote to sports in addition to school. I had to choose one and figure skating was what I chose, but I’m never against returning to my equestrian roots. Who knows, maybe I’ll compete in the summer Olympics for equestrian someday. But I absolutely love the culture. I love the boots, the tack, the horses. I had an Arabian – dapple grey Arabian – his name was Shadow – and he just was my everything and my best friend and the love of my life when I was young. So I definitely have that horse bug in me.

You went to the Derby in 2010, but have you watched it other years?

Johnny Weir:  Yes. I watched it the year after and unfortunately I started traveling and Jesus took the wheel and I wasn’t able to sit down and watch the broadcast all the time. But I did follow it via my parents and I definitely am somebody that would tune in, as long as I’m home on that Saturday afternoon to watch the Derby. I am a fan and I do love the event and so respect it.

Do you remember who you bet on in 2010?

Johnny Weir:  I can’t remember the horse’s name, unfortunately. But I know this year I have kind of a little birdie in my ear giving me a little bit of advice on the horses. Just from what I was told and the research I’ve done I’m looking forward to seeing Danza run. I think that’ll be a pretty wild moment if he can win and if I was right in my assumptions.

And Tara, what about your horse culture from the past?

Tara Lipinski:  Well I grew up in Jersey, but then when I was nine our whole family moved to Texas outside Houston. I was already skating at the time and training and my parents were not horse people. They definitely wanted to show me other activities that I could do or try and I think in hopes – hoping that I would sort of stray away from skating. So they knew I loved horses, they had the great idea to say, “Tara, we’ll get you a horse and you can try that.”

And of course I was in love with the idea. I had a white Arabian – Moonray – and I rode for a few years and then of course, it’s very expensive, and alongside with skating it was just too much for my family. So they gave me the ultimatum which I was not happy with: “You have to pick, skating or Moonray.” And that was the worst decision of my life and I chose skating.

But that’s why I am very excited to go back and I’ve been telling them this story that since I found out I was going to the Derby, trying to make them feel bad that they squashed my horse dream.