Johnny’s World: Orange Birkin

October 10, 2013 8:34 AM33 comments

jworldA short history: The Hermes Birkin bag is iconic. Featured and heralded as the second coming of Jesus in fashion circles since its invention, the Birkin bag is the be-all, end-all of secret luxury. Waiting lists reach into the years, the cost is outrageous, and the exclusivity is unparalleled. This is the kind of bag that is sold not just to those who can afford it, but also at the discretion of eagle-eyed sales representatives at Hermes shops worldwide. Even if you ask, and there is one available in a locked safe in the boutique’s back room, you may not be approved to even look at it.

I have been lucky enough to wear many Birkin bags in a multitude of colors over the years thanks to very generous fans, borrowing, and, as of late, by saving as if it were for a home. While on first-name basis with many boutique workers and managers, I am still relegated to queuing up like everyone else, for the hard-to-get Picasso of bags. My sources have kept an eye out for the last two years for a 35cm, orange Birkin to complete my collection. I have saved every penny possible to own this bag for two years, and it was hard for me to do so as I am a poor saver and impulse buyer of anything from oversized paper towel value packs to see-through T-shirts. In any event, for a Birkin, you sacrifice.

In August I acquired my baby; while not rivaling the love I have for my mother, husband or puppy, it was very close. I took the whole day off of work just to marvel at, polish and acclimate the new bag to my archives. I know it’s not healthy to let inconsequential items alter your mood, but I was on cloud nine, and rightly so as the bag not only signified hard work, a strong business mind, and dedication to my craft, but also the fact that I owned something so exclusive and beautifully handmade. The bag is art.

Also in August, I started to have a lot of problems with the LGBT community and its supporters as I refused to boycott the Olympic Games in Russia despite Russia’s newly passed anti-LGBT propaganda law where gays are as unprotected as stray dogs. The Olympics and human rights are two very separate entities to me and I refuse to combine them. I will fight for LGBT rights in Russia, but I won’t use the Olympics to achieve that. Simply being in Russia, as a gay celebrated person is a hard thing to do these days, but I intend on fully showing my support to the community on the ground, in my own way, not the way I’m pressured into doing. I’ve said all this a million times and in a slew of interviews, however you can’t please everyone by speaking the truth, and I’ve been hated and abused for it, by my own lovely community.

Cut to a couple weeks ago, in a crowded restaurant in Manhattan. I was carrying my new bag, my prized possession, and sat in the aisle of a crowded multi-family booth. While my friends all gabbed away and filled their glasses and plates, I, having the bladder size of a pea, went to pee. I left my beloved bag in the careful bosom of my friends because I assumed she’d be safe.

Upon my return I saw a clearly homosexual person not associated with my group leaving our area. Nobody had paid any mind to his presence as it’s New York and you become used to random comings and goings, but I saw him walking away and as he passed me, he mouthed the B word at me with a judgmental, angry face. I didn’t think anything of it as I am used to this sort of taunting, but a half hour later, when I grabbed my bag from the little perch she was resting on I noticed the blasphemous presence of permanent black marker-ed handwriting raping the front section of the bag. In a commonly used two-word American expletive starting with an F, the guy had destroyed my treasure and served notice to me the amount of hate there is even in my own community.

I took all the proper measures to righting the situation, to not much avail aside from the bag spending two weeks, thus far, in an Hermes workshop, hoping to be cleaned. If the graffiti is not removable, I will still wear my bag proudly, in defiance to anyone who tries to use hate or aggression to force other people to believe what they believe. This bag will be a symbol to me forever that no matter how hard you work, how popular you get or how intelligent and unafraid you must be to speak your mind, there will still be idiots who use petty insults and at times, force, to refuse you your right to freedom of speech.

I have been somewhat off the radar to the world since this event happened, and for that I apologize, but I needed a moment to recharge my spirit, to reevaluate my positions and abilities, to find my love for my fellow man again and to find my strength. My strength doesn’t lie in my mind, but in my heart, and I dare anyone to “F” with me as it only makes my heart beat stronger.

  • MeredithMiner

    I knew you had fallen off the radar for a bit. I was just mentioning it to someone recently but, thought it was for a different reason. I’m so sorry someone was so cruel to you.Just because you’re used to it, doesn’t make it ok, it still hurts.
    A friend recently took me out to lunch knowing my “situations” over the past two years with health issues, cheating husband and other nonsense, she wrapped up our lunch saying that I’m one of the strongest people she knows. I thought, god, I don’t FEEL strong at all.. I feel like I’m going to snap or fall apart at the seams at any given moment. So, when I tell YOU, that you’re one of the strongest people I know of, it may fall on deaf ears because perhaps, you too, feel that you struggling. But, I’m here to tell you, that you are, my dear. We’re all pretty damn strong bitches, or at least that’s the face we show to the world and that’s half the battle, right? To not just cave in and give up?
    Carry on, ice skater prince! May you own a rainbow of Birkins in your future if you so desire it! xo

    • Beatrix Zenk

      What a wonderful comment, Meredith. It completely sums up what I´ve been thinking.

      Johnny, I wished I could buy you a new orange Birkin. I can´t. I also think you carrying the demolished one would be a great symbol of your strength and your power which people obviously are afraid of. Still, there are so many people who love and respect you. Don´t let yourself get down by hatred and ignorance. ♥ to you and yours.

  • AB

    Johnny, this is terrible. I cannot believe the bullying that goes on when people have differing opinions. People just don’t think that it’s possible to oppose the boycott for very legitimate reasons. And to people who will inevitably say “it’s just a bag”: (1) that bag represented your hard work. It’s like someone defacing another person’s home. And (2) it’s not just about the bag. It’s about complete lack of respect for another human being. Keep that heart strong. Many of us are with you!

    • princessomega

      I am horrified that in a public place with your friends around someone would come up and do something like this.
      This is also a cowardly act, someone who doesnt have anything nice to say, but simply has no guts to say it to your face.
      Your a stong and wonderful man. Please dont let such horrible behaviour get you down. I hope your prized bag can be slavaged, but if not wear it proudly in the face of adversity for all of us who also face such horrors and far worse every single day!
      I love you my beautiful inspirational swan!

  • Lady Lisa

    Oh Johnny, I’m so sorry to hear about your beautiful bag that you worked so hard for! Most restaurants have cameras, especially in large cities where you live. I’m sure they’ve got this loser on tape during his 15 seconds of fame. I would try to track him down and hold him accountable for what he has done. But if this is not possible, the old saying that I know always holds true “what goes around comes around”, because when you hurt someone else intentionally it always comes back to you, in one way or another, through life. It’s sad, and frightening, when people cannot (or simply refuse) to understand that not everyone has the same opinion on things, be it the Olympics, LGBT rights or anything else. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree! Your uncrushable strength is more strong and beautiful than any Birkin, but I surely hope it can be restored. There used to be a carpet spot cleaner called dd7 or something like that, and I never knew any stain that it couldn’t get out, now in no way am I saying this could work for you but I think it’s worth mentioning.

  • Barbara Erickson Breuer

    I am so sorry to hear this. It sickens and saddens me.

  • gabi

    This would have been great – minus the Birkin adoration.

  • TJ

    h

  • TJ

    PS I know this doesn’t make it better, but… Lady Gaga drew on her
    Birkin bag with marker… and this graffiti-ed Birkin (link below) is being
    called a “pop culture masterpiece”… :

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2343390/Is-ultimate-tag-luxury-Two-artists-transform-Hermes-Birkin-bag-pop-culture-masterpiece-covering-graffiti.html

  • MartinR80

    “When you adopt the standards and the values of
    someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own
    integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human
    being.” -Eleanor Roosevelt.

    Just keep on keeping on.

    • Ali dM

      Yes, but sometimes you just have to be the bigger person. It seems like he’s so focused on his fights within the gay community that he never comes up for air to realize that there’s a bigger world out there and he could be better using
      his time to help others. Johnny’s not a little boy at the mercy of the
      USFSA anymore. He’s a grown man. The pouting and pseudo-heroic declarations of “my heart will only beat stronger” over his Birkin bag do come off as a bit immature and self-centered imo, particularly when we consider his apparent disinclination to actively help anyone who is actually being seriously persecuted.

  • Ali dM

    I’m sorry to say this, but to me, this article unfortunately comes off as a bit distasteful. I understand that it hurts to have a treasured possession deliberately destroyed, and I understand that certain members of the gay community are and have always targeted Johnny Weir. But it is a bit nouveau riche to complain to people who do not have your wealth and social status about your problems with your luxury items (however severe), without acknowledging that overall, you are indeed well off (even if you don’t feel like it at the time). Comparing saving for a Birkin bag (as a multimillionaire) to the average American saving for a home (during a recession), without any self-reflection or sense of irony, seems inappropriate. I don’t understand the hatred that could lead to somebody to destroy a beloved item. And I deplore the narrow-mindedness of some members within the LGBT community. But if Johnny Weir can’t understand why talk like this might make him annoying to people outside his fiercely loyal fan base and his haute couture colleagues, I really do think he’s going to have trouble remaining relevant and sympathetic to the general public. Perhaps he’s not interested in that. Sorry for the tough love, Johnny – I am genuinely sorry that you were wronged, and do hope your bag can be repaired.

    • TJ

      Agreed.

      I also wish he’d stop saying he’s going to fight for LGBT rights by… being himself (i.e. not actively doing anything that he wouldn’t normally do).

      He can be a *role model* by being himself, he can be *courageous* by being himself… but it’s kind of a stretch to call that “fighting” for LGBT rights.

      I probably shouldn’t say this (but of course I will) — if anything, he’s less likely to be arrested in Russia as a celebrity. Celebrities usually get the benefit of the doubt; it’s the normal people who get the harsh treatment.

      Btw did you see that almost 70 people were detained at a LGBT protest today in St. Petersburg?

      • Ali dM

        Yep. Not a peep about it from you-know-who though.

        • TJ

          That’s a little unfair. He might not have seen it?

      • Sandra Dee Lee

        Hi, not going to touch the rest of your comment — but am pointing out the fact that just because he’s a (gay) celebrity is not going to do anything but end terribly in Russia for the Olympics. They have said (prior to, in their own words “Americans making such a big deal out of it”) that anyone supporting gay rights, no matter their status, will be detained and arrested. It’s one of our major(est?) concerns over in the hockey/NHL world because of how many players who aren’t gay, but are proud allies in the If You Can Play initiative who might face jail time during the Olympics. Later on, the Russian officials said everything would be rosy, but, given that this is Russia, I’ll eat my hat if it doesn’t end terrible in Feb.

        • TJ

          Hi Sandra, thanks for your comment. I can definitely relate to your concerns about the NHL players. This is a very scary time for anyone to be gay (or an “out” ally) in Russia — no matter their public stature.

          At the same time… sigh… I don’t want to appear more insensitive than I’m sure I already am… But I do think that the truth is that celebrities tend to get off easier for this sort of thing:/ Both Madonna and Gaga have deliberately violated the law and neither has been even been legally charged for breaking it. Many average Russians have been arrested and beaten for much less. (And of course, some even have died for less).

          Fortunately for our athletes, Russia knows the US is prepared to make a big, big stink if anything happens to them. Fortunately for Johnny Weir, he is not only not competing in the Olympic games, he is also (ironically) a beloved celebrity there — perhaps even more so than in the US.

          I am keeping all of them in my thoughts and prayers. But I am most scared for the average Russian citizen, who has neither a superpower governments nor thousands to millions of loyal fans on their side when they are found to have run afoul of the law.

        • TJ

          PS Putting our fears about the Sochi Olympics aside for a moment, I think that’s wonderful that there are so many allies in the NHL:) I had no idea.

    • DR

      Well, I don’t get the hype about Birkins either. But I don’t think the point of this essay was “They wrecked my expensive bag!” The point was someone knew that this was his prized possession – something he had to SAVE for – and this person deliberately damaged it. Not to inconvenience him, but to hurt and upset him.

      Imagine if someone damaged YOUR possessions just because they disagreed with you. It’s like waking up in the morning and finding your tires slashed and an obscenity keyed in the paint. This was vandalism with intent to intimidate. When someone does this to you, there is an implicit threat. “We came for your things this time. If you don’t shut up, next time we’ll come for you.”

      • Ali dM

        Hi, thanks for replying to my post.

        First, what I disagree with: to be honest, I don’t really think JW had to ‘save’ in any meaningful sense of the word to get this bag; I think he is trying to make his story sound more relateable by saying that (which is prob well-intentioned but just comes off as disingenuous to me). His net worth is 10 mil; he can easily buy a Birkin bag if he so chooses.

        That said and more importantly, I definitely agree with you that it was a seriously messed up thing for someone to do. I also definitely think that it’s important that Johnny Weir wrote this article – it’s among other things a startling exposé of femme-phobia (in addition to a host of ironically under-recognized other prejudices) within the gay community. Weir naturally generates a lot of envy and jealousy that probably fuels a decent portion of the femme-phobia directed towards him. (I don’t mean to make the gay community sound awful – there are also a lot of wonderful people, obvi).

        I just wish that he had framed the article better. As in “I know this is inconsequential in the bigger picture and may seem pretentious compared to many of the struggles a lot of people have to face. But, […]” and then a similar statement at the end. Then it would have been an excellent and very persuasive article. Because, as you say, I can absolutely identify with what he is saying and as I said before, I think it IS a really important message.

        But nobody’s going to take him seriously if he acts like anything to do with a Birkin bag is literally the end of the world as we know it. If he just showed that he realizes that even though it felt like the end of the world at the time, it wasn’t, it would actually have strengthened his case about what a dick the guy was who did this to him, and why the event was important in the larger scheme of things.

        Now the article is just: “Someone was crazy and mean to me and it hurt my feelings.” Okay, that’s fine, but realistically not all that many people are going to care for an article about that and the message (which is important) is not going to get anywhere. Show that the article, while appearing to be about him, is actually not just about him and his experience — and he’ll have a much larger audience.

        What does it mean? Where’s the bigger picture? He never gets to that, which is my problem with the article.

        • Ali dM

          Sry that was really long.

    • Jen

      You are terribly misinformed if you think Johnny Weir is a multimillionaire. I WISH he was, but he really, really isn’t. And owning your own home IS a luxury, believe it or not, just like owning a Birkin bag, so the comparison is quite fair. He acknowledges that his bag may seem “inconsequential” to other people, but to him it means a lot for a variety of reasons he listed. So your self-righteous indignation in the face of clear evidence against your arguments seems a tad misplaced here.

      • Ali dM

        No, he really is a multimillionaire. Google “Johnny Weir net worth” — it’s $10 million.

        Shelter is a basic human right. A Birkin bag isn’t. The UN agrees with me;)

        I’m not saying JW shouldn’t have written the article or that it’s not about a really important topic — I just think it would have been more powerful if he’d taken a quick second to put it in context, and THEN tell the story. Right now the story is all about him and his experience and not many people besides his fans are going to be interested in that. If he’d taken a second to stop and say explicitly that he understands that he and his experience are not the most important things in the world, and show that his experience is relevant to other people besides him (i.e. the hate many femmes get from many members of the LGBT community) then I think it would have been a really awesome piece of writing.

        Maybe he’s just writing for his fans though and that’s all he wants to do. I think he’s a good enough writer that it sometimes bugs me he doesn’t want to step it up a notch but that’s my problem:/

        • Beatrix Zenk

          What does “net worth” mean if I may ask so?

          • Ali dM

            It means the value of everything you own, minus the value of any debts that you owe. An example of another celebrity who had net worth of $10 million was Amy Winehouse. John Lennon had a net worth of $15 million; Stieg Larsson (the author of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) has a net worth of $9 million.

            I don’t think he’s meaning to be deceptive; I think he probably just comes from a family that is very tasteful and doesn’t believe in saying that they have money. (Old-school conservative Pennsylvanian values).

            To be fair, there may very well be another explanation — or it’s possible that the celeb “net worth” websites are totally off in their calculations of him.

          • jenn k

            You really believe a man with a net worth of.$10m lives in an apartment complex in suburban NJ?

            Johnny doesn’t come from conservative old-school Pennsylvania money. He’s written extensively about his family’s modest means and the sacrifices they made for his training. He’s written of scouring the racks at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx looking for the perfect designer piece before he could afford retail.

            He’s mentioned in columns for this very paper his financial difficulties caused by cutting back on work and the expenses involved in training to return to competition. Not everything you find on the internet is true.

          • JaneS

            Of all the ridiculous, ignorant and self-righteous comments you’ve posted on this thread, this takes the cake!

            All your assumptions and the “information” you bring to back up your claims are big BULLSH*T! You must be so proud of yourself, now everybody knows you can talk for hours about people and things you have absolutely NO idea about! Brava!

  • JaneS

    That’s sad but, sadly, not surprising. That’s our lovely “community”, we’re only welcome if we toe the line or if for some reason, for a while, we’re deemed useful.

    It’s life, we really are all alone in the end.

  • teasingmecrazy

    JGWV recently said he was going to “wash off the make-up” and “speak from the heart.” I think he’s done that here. Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but either way – this reads like a deep glimpse into his inner struggles – revealing and almost raw. And whether we agree or not with what he values and how he feels, I think we have to respect when anyone is willing to be this vulnerable.

    • Beatrix Zenk

      That’s been my perception as well…and yes, I respect it and applaud him showing vulnerability.

  • Lady Lisa

    I was just reading about a person who says she got rid of marker marks by getting a vial of pure orange oil or lemon oil, putting 1 – 2 drops on the mark, waiting 5 minutes and then wiping it clean. I am not saying this will work for your bag, but it may be something to try this on a test piece of leather and seeing what happens.

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