“The most beautiful thing in the world…
That I know,
What is the most beautiful thing in the world? A shoe, of course!
These lyrics are from “The Most Beautiful Thing In the World” of the Tony award winning musical, “Kinky Boots.”
I was thrilled to snag tickets to the hottest show on Broadway last week. What could be better than a collaboration between Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein? The score was written by my hero, Cyndi Lauper, whose illustrious musical career goes back to the early 80’s. The book was crafted by actor Harvey Fierstein, star of film and stage. He starred in “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Bullets over Broadway”, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and many more.
What should one wear to see “Kinky Boots” on Broadway? Eugenia Kim satin cap, Jean Paul Gaultier top, American Apparel latex leggings, and my version of KINKY BOOTS by Juicy Couture.
This three year collaboration in the creation of Kinky Boots culminated in a production so spectacular that it swept this year’s Tony’s to win six awards. I have a hard time remembering the last time I enjoyed a musical this much!
The best way to describe my experience is to imagine ripping open an oversized bag of Skittles. Out of the bag tumbles abundant and sweet vibrant color and flavor to the tune of catchy, multi-octave pop tunes. By the end, you are on such a sugar high that you want to jump on stage, sing, kick up your heels and smile ear to ear.
The story of Kinky Boots is set in a small working class town in England. The family shoe business of the Price family has been in existence for a few generations. The company has proudly employed local people for decades, but due to the global realities of Asian competition, is on the brink of bankruptcy. The patriarch, Mr. Price, dies and leaves the business to his son, Charlie. Charlie, recently engaged in London, reluctantly returns and decides how to keep the shoe factory in business. He struggles with streamlining the company and laying off his loyal staff.
One evening when he needs to blow off some steam, he visits a drag queen venue where he meets Lola. Lola, a drama-drag queen par excellence, is played by Billy Porter, who won a Tony for this role. Lola is an ex-boxer who struts and kicks like a Rockette in thigh-high burlesque boots. Lola complains to Charlie how difficult it is to find a well made high heel boot built for men with a metal shank and heels which won’t snap in half during a high stepping routine.
Stark Sands as Charlie, Cyndi Lauper (composer) and Billy Porter as Lola. Photo credit: Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Back at the factory, Charlie ponders Lola’s conversation and decides to retool and manufacture high end fashionable boots for drag queens. Lola is brought on board to oversee design.
Weeks go by during which Charlie’s team tirelessly works to bring Lola’s vision to life. The goal was to deliver a collection of the most beautiful, colorful, Vegas show-worthy and sturdy boots that would be the toast of the Milan fashion shows.
Besides the grand choreography, the set design (by David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group-an award winning architectural firm), the acting and a seemingly frivolous storyline, there is a serious undertone to this musical. Lola has tried her whole life to win approval and love from her macho boxing father. He never accepted his son’s career as an eccentric drag queen with an incredible octave range. Lola also faces animus and stereotypes from her co-workers at the shoe factory. Ultimately, with fortitude, she wins respect from Don, a bullying, bigoted co-worker whom she challenges to a boxing match.
In the end it is Lola and Charlie who forge a stalwart friendship. They gain a groundswell of support from their factory workers, Lola’s fellow drag queens and the Milan fashionistas. The factory sample room produces an impressive line of stiletto boots with reinforced steel heels that are both stunning and combat-worthy. If Kinky Boots needed a subtitle, it would be “Queens Kickin’ High in a Fashion Combat Zone.”
By the end of the finale, my hands were aching from non-stop applause! I felt like an overworked sea lion at Sea World. So I slid down into my wheelchair and pondered “How the hell does this troop of drag queens traipse and perform acrobatics for two hours, seven nights a week on six inch heels and….smiling?” Are their feet insured for at least $1M? Not exactly, but the producers had the foresight to hire physical therapists to treat the dancers’ aching feet. They visit three times a week to massage and treat the male dancers’ feet for ailments associated with female high heel wearers. Billy Porter swears by Yoga Toes, the styrofoam toe separators which give his feet some relief between performances. OUCH!
It’s so hard to fathom the suffering that one endures in dedication to his or her art. I needed to put a stop to this and seek a solution. Why suffer in “Kinky Boots” when you can look stylish in other “Kinked- Out” footwear that won’t lacerate your feet?
I consulted my friend, style arbiter and fashion designer, Jamie Kreitman, to help me design “Kinky Sneaks.” Why not a sneaker? After all, sneakers are the ubiquitous American uniform which can be seen in malls, while pushing couture strollers the width of an entire side walk, or with bridal finery getting hitched at a Las Vegas Wedding Wagon.
Miu Miu studded velvet sneakers
Here’s the DIY: take a pair of wedge sneakers from Kohl’s which resemble our design inspo, the Miu Miu sneaker of Spring 2013. Purchase gems from a craft store (we gathered gems from Jamie’s vast trim stash), spikes from www.studsandspikes.com, E-6000 glue and an awl. Take the awl and create holes in the Velcro strap. Once the holes are created, screw in the spikes with a small screw driver. Apply a spike to the zipper pull. Place the gems in a pleasing design on the toe cap. Once the look is achieved, proceed to glue the stones individually to the toe cap. Do the same at the back of the sneaker. Voila! Your own (Miu Miu inspired) KINKY SNEAKS!
The message of Kinky Boots is one of acceptance, tolerance and inclusion of all people no matter their orientation, nationality, race and religion. I add to this lofty message my footnote of style and comfort. Wear your Kinky Sneaks to see Kinky Boots at The Hirschfeld Theatre and dance the night away!
Here is my hand picked KINKY BOOTS collection to purchase.