To those around her, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy showed a face of laughter, a wealth of tenderness, and a deep commitment to her husband, friends, and family during her brief life. Born in White Plains, New York, and voted "Ultimate Beautiful Person" of her high school class of 1983, Bessette grew up in a wealthy corner of Connecticut just outside of New York City with twin sisters, Lisa and Lauren, just one year older. She moved to Connecticut with her mother and sisters at age 8 when her parents divorced. Her mother, a school administrator, remarried to a prominent doctor. After Catholic high school, she earned an undergraduate degree in education at Boston University. She was the cover girl for the "Girls of BU" 1988 calendar. Her first job after college was in public relations for a nightclub company in New England. Then she went to work at Calvin Klein's store in Boston and then transferred to the company's New York location. By day, she helped dress the likes of Blaine Trump, Nan Kempner, and Diane Sawyer. By night, she hit the downtown club scene. New York City was her element.
Bessette was linked with an assortment of men before Kennedy, including a Calvin Klein model, a pro hockey player, and the heir to the Benetton fashion company fortune. She allegedly first met and spoke with Kennedy when both were running in Central Park and impressed him with her beauty, intelligence, and sincerity. The more realistic story is that they met through their mutual friend Kelly Klein. "He was instantly attracted to her," recalls John's assistant RoseMarie Terenzio. Though she turned him down when he first asked her out, he eventually won her over. In her, his friends say, he met his match. Carolyn was not a play it by the Rules kind of girl. If John held back, Carolyn would remind him about underwear model and future Baywatch star, Michael Bergin, who was still on her back burner. They say she phoned John at George several times a day, and acted as the unofficial hostess at the magazine's functions. Their soon-worthy, fairy tale wedding, in 1996, took place in a 100-year-old, flower strewn chapel on a secluded island off the Georgian coast...
After her marriage to "John-John", Bessette was the focus of much media attention. She was quickly declared as a trendsetter by the press. In October of the same year, when John and Carolyn returned from their honeymoon to find a herd of reporters camped out their Tribeca loft, John pleaded with the paparazzi to leave Carolyn alone, that was the ultimate declaration of love, a man protecting his lady.
Bessette and Kennedy, along with her sister Lauren, were killed when their small private plane, piloted by Kennedy, crashed off the coast of Martha's Vineyard on July 16, 1999. Nearly two years later, Carolyn and Lauren Bessette's parents received a monetary settlement as a result of their wrongful death lawsuit against the Kennedy estate.
Just as John was inextricably bound to his father's legacy, Carolyn, from the moment she wed John, was destined to be enshrined by the media as the next Jackie Onassis. she was often compared to her late mother-in-law, because of her fierce protection of her own privacy, as well as her work for charitable causes. There were the on-paper similarities: like Jackie, Carolyn was Catholic and her parents divorced. And then there was that look: minimalist 90s chicness that transcends to every era, that instantly made her a modern icon. I can see her style today on the likes of Ashley Olsen, a style icon in her own right, the way she's always in black, the over-flowing 90s references, that golden flowing hair, the flats, the Manolo kitten heels...
After all these years, RoseMarie Terenzio, John's personal assistant, publicist and one of his closest confidantes during the last five years of his life; uncovers all in her book, Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss, she reveals that the couple were having serious troubles in their marriage. With that in mind, Carolyn, refused to join him at his cousin Rory's wedding on July 17. When John told RoseMarie that Carolyn was determined to stay at home and that he was not 'going to fight with her about it', RoseMarie tried to change her mind. 'I'm not a priority,' she said. It's always something else, George, somebody getting fired, a trip to meet advertisers, I just want some normal married time. I'm exhausted', RoseMarie said she urged Carolyn to take the flight and go to the wedding in Massachusetts.'I know. But now's not the time to take a stand. His whole family's going to be at this wedding. Listen. You don't want to put yourself in a position of being judged, you get enough of that. 'Go get a dress and I'll get you a car to the airport.' RoseMarie told her. As he left, John had thanked RoseMarie for talking Carolyn around. 'He turned to me and said, 'Rose you're the best. Thanks for smoothing things over.' Hours later, John's plane crashed in the Atlantic Ocean near Martha's Vinyard, Massachusetts killing him, Carolyn and her sister Lauren. 'I don't feel responsible for what happened, but I will certainly always have the feeling that I should have kept my mouth shut and not told Carolyn to get on the plane,' said RoseMarie.
Some 'Facts' revealed by the book:
-RoseMarie reveals details of John and Carolyn's sometimes turbulent relationship, and the strain Carolyn felt from the constant media attention after their wedding in September 1996. 'Whenever she went out - to get coffee, walk the dog, or meet a friend - they were there, pushing in close and shouting things like wh*re and b**ch. If they could break her perfect exterior, it would be an instant story,'
-John proposed to Carolyn on a fishing trip.
-The couple teased each other a lot, one Valentine's Day there was some tabloid story about him cheating, so she sent him flowers from all these famous models and actresses, like Pamela Anderson.
The enduring, lasting images of Carolyn and John, of them holding hands, her sitting in his lap, and the two kissing, laughing, or just gazing at each other, will always haunt us, inspire us, and make us think.