Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s Biographer Gives Insight into Her Relationship with John F. Kennedy Jr. (Exclusive)

A new biography takes a deep dive into the fascinating life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and examining its relationship with John F. Kennedy Jr. before their tragic deaths.

Sitting down with ET’s Nischelle Turner to discuss her book, Once Upon a Time: The Captivating Life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Author Elizabeth Beller offers new insights into the couple’s highly publicized marriage and the effect it had on Bessette-Kennedy, a previously unknown publicist.

Bessette-Kennedy and JFK Jr. met in 1992 while she was working for Calvin Klein in New York City after being discovered by a traveling sales coordinator at one of the brand’s Massachusetts stores, according to a July 20 obituary. 1999 The New York Times.

Beller says that at the beginning of their relationship, in which JFK Jr. worked as a lawyer in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, they were not much different than any other couple.

John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy at a gala in March 1999Arnaldo Magnani/Link

“The early years weren’t all that unusual for two people who met in New York City and juggled their careers. Carolyn was just 26 when she was at Calvin Klein. She had a real community of friends and was busy with work “, Beller shares of the late daughter-in-law of John F. Kennedy.

He adds: “(Carolyn) was one of those people, especially, you know, new to New York City, who really liked to make the most of New York.”

Beller says Bessette-Kennedy, who eventually began dating Kennedy Jr. in 1994, had an enthusiasm for life outside of their relationship and spent her time with friends doing everything from sightseeing to visiting museums and seeing plays. However, her life took a complete turn when she went public with her relationship with Kennedy Jr. and she became the target of the tabloids, photographed and written about at all hours of the day.

For a charismatic and social creature like the Calvin Klein publicist, it was a difficult transition and one that was only increased by the high expectations surrounding the Kennedy family. While there are many examples of celebrities gaining notoriety seemingly overnight, few receive such criticism for not following an established system of ideals for how to look, dress, or act.

“In that life she had before, she had a real sense of freedom. She loved being away from home. She really loved being around her friends,” Beller tells ET. “She was a great caregiver and I think the fact that the press started waiting for her outside really killed a lot of her joy. She saw fame as the thief of joy, especially when she really got into it and there was no way knowing that they would be under so much pressure from the paparazzi.

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in New York City in July 1997Lawrence Schwartzwald/Sygma via Getty Images

Bessette-Kennedy went from being a private citizen in a city of millions to having public disputes with her partner, photographed, videotaped and slapped on the cover of publications around the world and shared on the news. For that reason, Beller says JFK Jr. was cautious, at least at the beginning of his relationship with Bessette-Kennedy, because he knew what could become of his life.

“What was difficult for him was knowing. For him, it was that when she was with him, they weren’t as nice,” she says of the paparazzi photographers who harassed them non-stop. “They were insulting her to specifically upset her.”

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr. at the Municipal Art Gala in October 1998Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Despite the media phenomenon they became, the couple did everything possible to live their lives privately, even managing to get married miles away from their life in New York. The couple married on September 21, 1996, two years after they began dating, in a small ceremony on a remote Georgia island with Kennedy Jr.’s sister, Caroline Kennedy, as matron of honor.

However, even after their wedding in 1996, Beller says Bessette-Kennedy was under extreme social pressure, which infiltrated her own mindset, to become a member of the Kennedy family in the way the public expected her to. did, complete with a physical transformation that he might not otherwise have accomplished.

“I think it took her a while to feel comfortable. I think she didn’t want to disappoint John,” Beller says. “She was like, ‘Oh, I’m no good, let me see how I can try to be, you know, more like what Americans think a Kennedy should be.'”

Bessette-Kennedy did everything from losing weight, lightening her hair, and raising her eyebrows to align more with what she believed the public’s perception of a Kennedy should be.

“It’s this pressure to conform. Although I don’t think John was putting that pressure on her, and certainly not the Kennedys, I think she was just thinking, ‘What can I do?’ “I think she was surprised and a little hurt by how hateful the tabloids were to her,” Beller adds.

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy at a gala in 1999Joe Vericker/Getty Images

Those hateful headlines included accusing Bessette-Kennedy of having a drug problem (which Beller says she “absolutely did not have”) and being ridiculed for her appearance and clothes. Even in death, the author says Bessette-Kennedy was not free from the cruelty of some publications that blamed her for the horrific accident that claimed her life.

On July 16, 1999, Bessette-Kennedy and her older sister, Lauren Bessette, were flying in a small plane piloted by Kennedy Jr. when the boat crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the western coast of Martha’s Vineyard. All three died in the crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board later ruled that fog and darkness were contributing factors.

In the days, months and years that followed, tabloids and other publications alleged that Bessette-Kennedy made the group board her plane later than planned while she was shopping and getting her nails done.

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy on the cover of the September 1999 issue of ‘Vanity Fair’ after her deathfake images

“She was certainly vilified,” Beller says of Bessette-Kennedy’s blame for the accident. She adds that she was another person who publicly stated that she believed Bessette-Kennedy “got into a fight” with her husband on the plane that partially inspired her to write the book.

As the world approaches the 25th anniversary of their deaths, Beller says he believes Bessette-Kennedy and Kennedy Jr. would have welcomed some children of their own, as they were both lovers of children, especially Bessette-Kennedy, a student of education in colleague.

“I think they would have been great parents,” he shares, adding that he also believes Kennedy Jr. would have inevitably found himself in public office as he and his wife figured out how to meaningfully engage with the spotlight while focusing on their quest to change. .

“I think they would both have matured and found a way to maintain their reserve,” Beller adds. “And finding a way to navigate social media in a way that was not only comfortable for them, but I think would be useful to others.”

Once Upon a Time: The Captivating Life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy It hits stores on May 21.


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