The owners of Paradise Boutique in Sweetwater, sisters Jacqi Johnson Martinez and Sheretta Johnson are celebrating — and now very busy — after a pair of their custom bling boots recently made their way, and a big impression, on the Fox Television show American Idol.
According to the sisters, they were contacted a few weeks ago by a friend of American Idol contestant Janelle Arthur of Tennessee, wanting a pair of their blinged boots for Arthur to wear on stage.
A pair of the blinged boots were seen on Miss Texas DaNae Couch, when she attended the Going for the Gold Gala fundraiser put on by Baylor University as a fundraiser for women who cannot afford to attend nursing school. This year’s event had a Texas-style theme and Emmitt Smith, the CEO of the event, was a featured speaker at the event and had invited Couch. Someone at the event saw the boots and sent a photo of them for Janelle Arthur to see and the rest is history.
Martinez says that she received the message about making the boots for Arthur while in a hospital waiting room, waiting for tests to be performed on a family member early in the morning. “At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was very exciting.”
The sisters grew anxious throughout the weeks before the boots made their way to the stage, as Arthur had not yet worn them. The time came when the “Rock and Roll” segment of American Idol rolled around. “I was just hoping that they would get a close-up of the boots, but I had no idea what a hit they would be,” said Martinez.
After Arthur’s performance on stage, American Idol judge Nicki Minaj wanted to wear the boots herself. Nicki got her wish when host of American Idol Ryan Seacrest brought those boots out right after Janelle’s solo. Minaj kept the boots on throughout the remainder of the show. That night, many news and fashion outlets covered the Idol “boot event” and the sisters have been busy ever since, with many Facebook friend requests — gaining hundreds more friends in just a few days — e-mails and enough phone calls to crash a cell phone. One call made the sisters curious as to who one pair might be made for. “One person called as a representative and asked for a pair of boots for someone who is on stage quite often. The person did not say who they were for, so it made me very curious,” said Martinez.
“When she came out on stage I couldn’t even hear,” said Johnson about seeing the boots on American Idol. She says that family and friends at her house watching the show went crazy, yelling and crying at the same time.
“I didn’t expect for anyone to say anything about the boots,” said Martinez. “My house was shaking from everyone jumping up and down.”
Martinez says that her father, John Johnson, was also very emotional. “My dad has been a tremendous support through it all.”
“I was feeling so many emotions at that time,” said Johnson. “I felt happy, anxious, overwhelmed and excited all at the same time. It was almost surreal, just to think that something we worked on in Jacqi’s kitchen was on national television.”
Also with the sisters and their family watching the show were Kayla Chowning, her mother, Ann-G Chowning and Kathy Smartt. “It was insane,” said Kayla. “We weren’t even sure why we were at their house that day, especially watching American Idol, as they were not allowed to tell anyone about the boots being on the show. We had seen Janelle Arthur on the Paradise Facebook, so we were waiting for her to come out. We all freaked out when we saw her boots because we all knew who made the boots. As soon as the judges started talking Keith Urban said ‘Your boots,” and we didn’t hear another word, everyone went crazy. Then Nicki said she wanted a pair. It was one of my most memorable nights.”
The sisters opened the shop 10 years ago, fulfilling a dream that their mother, Lucy Johnson, had before her passing. Their father, John Johnson, had purchased the building in 1978, and it was a restaurant and disco. “It was in such bad condition when he bought it, you could see the sky,” said Martinez.
After years of planning the girls finally had a contractor come so that they could get their plans for the shop underway. “We had the contractor come in that Friday and my mom died of a heart attack that Sunday.”
“My mom was a fashionista,” said Martinez. The store was her idea, but she passed away before we could get it done.”
So the shop was put on hold for a few years. “When we finally got the shop running, we started with only 15 dresses ordered. My dad has been a great help, even helping us to sew beads back on dresses.”
Martinez and Johnson have been interested in fashion for many years, as Martinez was a model for about 10 years, beginning when she was about 15 years old. Modeling took her many places such as Chicago, New York, Dallas, San Antonio and many more places, but she always knew she would come back home. “I didn’t really like the modeling. I didn’t like the spotlight. As a model, you are just a hanger. What really interested me was what was happening behind the scenes. I liked learning about different fabrics and designs.”
Johnson was in many fashion shows and she liked that her sister was a model, as she would send her clothes in all of the latest trends. Martinez says that she even sequined a dress and a pair of shoes for her sister’s high school prom.
Martinez says that she blinged her first pair of boots about 10 years ago, but tucked them away to wait for the perfect moment to bring them out. Last year, Ann-G Chowning asked for Paradise Boutique to take over the wardrobe for her daughter as she entered the Miss Snake Charmer pageant. Kayla won the pageant. “That’s when I brought the boots out and made a pair for Kayla to wear on stage,” said Martinez.
Kayla says that now when she wears the boots she feels like she is famous. “I get stopped so many times by people asking me where I got the boots.”
After 10 years of blood sweat and tears, the sisters saw their hard work pay off, as many orders are being made for the custom made boots. The boots are covered in Swarovski crystals, imported from Austria, all done by hand. The sisters also credit Dandy Western Wear of Sweetwater for their part in the process. “I want to thank Dandy Western Wear for always being such a great help in providing fantastic boots for us to bling for our customers.”
The sisters credit their success to a strong foundation and determination. “When God plants something in you, He will not give up. No matter what happens, people should always pray bold and dream big, and when those prayers are answered, stay in the middle. Don’t stay in the valley and don’t scale the mountain top. Move forward, not upward and as long as you can see the valley from where you stand, you will stay humble,” said Martinez.
The sisters’ bling has already been seen four times by Emmitt Smith, once with the boots worn by Miss Texas DaNae Couch, but before that, Smith noticed a shirt worn by Sweetwater Independent School District Assistant Superintendent Kathy Smartt, as she wore a blinged shirt with his name when she went to see the third season of Dancing with the Stars, which Smith won. He saw a different shirt recently, again on Smartt, a big fan of Smith, at the Dancing with the Stars All Stars, that Smartt attended. Smith recognized Smartt and took a photo with her at the event. The work of Martinez and Johnson has also made their way to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
Some may have also recognized their work last September when the CMT show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team aired, as they designed outfits and shoes for contestant Chelsea Chaney. The show will air again this September, and Chaney will once again be sporting blinged outfits created by Paradise Boutique.
Martinez says that her wish is that Emmitt Smith realizes that all of these different works that he has noticed come from one place, their boutique in little Sweetwater, Texas.
This may not be the last time the sisters’ work is seen by many, as the future Miss Texas is scheduled to wear her own custom boots made by Paradise Boutique at the Show Us Your Shoes Parade in Atlantic City, hosted by Miss America. The event will be in September. Also, Miss San Antonio will be wearing a pair of her own custom boots to Fiesta San Antonio next week and the boots will also be featured with her in San Antonio Living.
For more information about ordering, search the store on Facebook at Paradise Boutiqu (no ‘e’). The sisters also have a website, www.paradisecustomboots.com . You can also vote on a poll about the boots on American Idol at http://www.countryweekly.com/surveys/american-idol-season-12-did-you-lov... .