In a bid to breathe new life into horse racing's image, NBC is bringing Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, the breakout stars of the Sochi Winter Olympics, to the Kentucky Oaks and Derby this weekend.
Weir and Lipinski, both of whom rode horses as children, will comment on fashion — but clearly the former Olympic figure skaters have more than silk and sequins on their minds.
During a conference call with reporters this week, they talked about their plans, as Weir put it, to report on "what it's like to be young and hip, as Tara and I are, and attend this very elegant affair and cheer on our favorite horses."
Apparently they won't be going to the infield.
First, of course: What will they wear?
"I obviously needed a custom hat, because I'm me," said Weir, known for his flamboyant fashion sense, which included wearing a broach — in his hair — on national television during the Olympics.
He said he's been brain storming with sunglasses designer Kerin Rose Gold of A-Morir, who has created custom pieces for Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna.
He said, "The theme of my hat for Derby Day is ... Pegasus."
Let that sink in for a minute.
"For the rest of my look, I'm pulling a lot of vintage," he said. "I feel like there is a very customary way to approach the Kentucky Derby. I don't believe in dressing for what you're showing up to. ... I like to wear craziness at all costs,"
Remembering that shoes make the outfit, what about footwear?
"Of course, Christian Louboutins."
Lipinski, 31, hadn't quite decided on her wardrobe yet. She was in the midst of fittings and hats.
Many, many hats.
"I'm sitting in a sea of them right now, thinking of designs. ... It's all very last-minute, but it's been so much fun. A sea of bright colors and dresses and tons of fun hats. So I'll be bringing many," Lipinski said. "The hat is the most fun part.
"I can't really think of any other sporting event where the hat is the focal point."
Lipinski said that at last year's Derby, designer and reality TV star Lauren Conrad "nailed it" with her monotone ensemble of a nude-colored sheath dress and flower-shaped hat.
"I definitely love a classic look," she said, "but it's the South, a fun event, and there's a lot of charm."
Weir, 29, came to the 2010 Kentucky Derby in Chanel tweed. That was a mistake he doesn't intend to repeat, he said of the heavy, suffocating fabric. This time, he wants something "breezy."
His mother suggested a linen pant.
Um, no, he said.
"Not a fan of linen," Weir said. "It wrinkles so terribly that by the end of the day your butt looks like a walnut."
"I try to stay away from things that won't travel well," he added.
Weir suggested Lipinski go for comfortable footwear over high heels, citing the women in stilettos seen every Derby sinking into the turf course on the way to the winner's circle.
Her response? "Absolutely not."
Besides to-die-for wardrobes, Weir and Lipinski plan to bring a refreshing enthusiasm to the first Saturday in May.
If, for instance, Weir suggested, should they see Jay Z and Beyoncé at the Derby, they just might sit on their laps and sing to them.
(Considering the typical wattage of the Derby's celebrity guest list, it's so unlikely that would happen. But who knows? Horse racing really needs some fun.)
"We take every beautiful opportunity that we get and we run with it," Weir said. "We love working together and sharing our own special bit of moxie and sparkle with the world."
What will it take for a Derbygoer to make their fashion show? Or will they only do celebrities?
"I'm actually more interested in seeing ordinary people who bring it," Weir said. "Tara and my tastes are very different. ... I definitely have more of an eye for drama and costuming. ... I'll be looking for the outrageous, as well as the mainstream."
This, Weir said, "is Kentucky's time to shine."
Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: janetpattonhl.