Costume designer Randall Christensen has dressed some very famous people throughout his career. Since 1985, he's tailored for stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas, R&B singer Toni Braxton, actress Susan Lucci, and *NYSYNC member Lance Bass. He's been the sole costume designer for the popular ABC TV series Dancing with the Stars since season two, and he won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Costumes for a Variety or Music Program" in 2006 for his work on DWTS.
But the owner of Phoenix-based Randall Designs has been living in the Valley since 1979, and he still has a lot of pride in his hometown. "The Valley is God's country. It's wonderful," Christensen says. "I love the 333 days of sunshine, and the mountains. And I love how the arts have come to Phoenix. I used to be a season ticket holder at Gammage, and I've always loved the arts, so it's great to see them blossoming here."
Christensen relocated to Phoenix from South Carolina 29 years ago, and was a competitive dancer and instructor at a Valley dance studio. He started making costumes for his students, and when he realized that "the body can't handle dancing forever," he moved to creating costumes full-time.
"I'm totally self-taught," Christensen says. "I had some patient students who let me drape fabrics on them and come up with designs. You couldn't find patterns for dance costumes in those days."
In 1986, Christensen's company, Randall Designs, became incorporated. The company, located off I-17 and Dunlap, caters to ice skaters and ballroom dancers with a variety of custom-made costumes. They've also designed outfits worn in shows on the Princess Cruise lines and in movies like Shall We Dance?, Take the Lead, and Disney's Enchanted.
But for the past five years, Christensen's big gig has been designing for Dancing with the Stars. And he's got a lot to say about some of the cooler celebrities he's dressed.
"Jane Seymour was delightful -- she's a size 0. I've never been with a more professional person who left me to my own creativity," Christensen says. "George Hamilton was terrific in season two. He would talk to me about musicals and old movies, and I'm an old movie buff, so we got along great. And believe it or not, Jerry Springer was really great. He's the sweetest, humblest guy. He's nothing like what you see on TV."
Some celebrities presented challenges for Christensen, as well. Boxer Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, has an athletic build, and the designer knew he had to make a costume that was both flattering and feminine. "She's 5-foot-ten and has fourteen-inch biceps, so we really tailored an outfit that wouldn't make her look masculine," he says.
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Christensen works hard behind-the-scenes, with very tight time restrictions. "I do my own research," he says. "I look at every type of gown they've worn, and what worked and what didn't. Nothing is pre-designed. I design after the show on Tuesday nights, and I have about 15 minutes to get a concept together."
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The quick turnarounds leave no time for divas or drama, Christensen says. "Our department is the most fun department on the [studio] lot," he says. "Everybody respects the research and the hard work that I do, and everybody seems to like it. We don't have time for drama."
"And," he adds with a laugh, "I can make them look fat, too, so that might be a part of it."
For more information about Randall Christensen and his work, visit www.randalldesigns.net.