Bessie the Beader
I wonder how many local people remember former Brea resident Bessie Nelson (known to many as the Brea Beader), who gave glitz to so many entertainment and political stars?
Bessie’s talented touch added the gleam of rhinestones, sequins, bugle beads and more to Michael Jackson’s glove, Neil Diamond’s jackets, Liberace’s capes, Joan Rivers’ blouses and Cher’s evening dresses, not to mention Nancy Reagan’s and Hillary Clinton’s inaugural ball gowns.
We remember one year when Bessie’s daughter, also known as Bessie, was involved in Brea Olinda High School’s dance production program and her mom volunteered to hand bead costumes for all the girls – at the same time she was running back and forth to Hollywood doing beading for top designers!
Bessie moved to New Jersey several years ago to be closer to family, and once word got out, Broadway came calling. She did beading for shows from “Dreamgirls” and “Sunset Boulevard” to “Miss Saigon,” “Wicked” and “The Boy From Oz,” but her biggest project of all was embellishing 31 costumes for the national tour of “A Chorus Line.”
Now 86 years young, Bessie keeps her needle busy, recently beading dresses for Bette Midler and her understudies for the Broadway production of “Hello Dolly!” and adding glam to the outfits of all the Radio City Rockettes for a Chase Bank TV commercial. She’s currently working on costumes for “Frozen,” which is expected to open on Broadway next spring.
Story by #SusanGaede aka "Newsy Susie." Bessie Nelson aka Bessie the Brea Beader, gives glitz to many entertainment and political stars. She is shown with her daughter Bessie. (Courtesy of Vita Zol)
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