Here are all the reasons I love EJ Johnson:
EJ Johnson dresses like Kim Kardashian after Kanye Kondoed her Kloset. (He once wore a jumpsuit from her discard pile and was the subject of who wore it better discourse.) EJ Johnson shops like a champ — he’ll go from Barney’s to Jeffrey’s to Givenchy and back again. EJ Johnson will cut you with his cheekbones. EJ Johnson throws lingerie hotel room parties and matchmaking mixers where he promises that everyone will get the D. (He’s like the D Oprah in that way.) EJ’s very supportive father is Magic Johnson, who makes a few appearances by FaceTime to say things like “love your hair,” and “have fun at the lavish party I’m throwing you tonight.” EJ Johnson describes everything as bomb: macarons, catsuits, nonconforming gender binaries. EJ Johnson also has the audacity to talk “survival” when he’s like, eating at Nobu. EJ Johnson uses his show, EJNYC, as a platform to explain what capsule collections are, what Afro-Fusion Burn is (the new Zumba, I gather), and why you should eat braised oxtail at Amy Ruth’s soul food restaurant in Harlem. Middle America thanks him for the knowledge.
Who is this miracle human in a rotating collection of skintight daywear? You might remember EJ from the ensemble cast of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, where he quickly established himself as the most faboosh member of the #RKOBH squad. Thanks to that elevated sense of style and quippiness, he’s been rewarded with a spinoff show, EJNYC, which follows EJ as he attempts make it in the New York fashion world.
Like LC or Whitney Port before him, EJ tried to land the Entry Level Job at the Esteemed Fashion Magazine (this time it’s Cosmopolitan.) In a twist, he didn’t get the job, but he has pledged to keep working, one Instagram takeover at a time. In the meantime, he goes to nightclubs, he sips a glass or two of rosé, and he has endless conversations about mole-hill-to-mountain situations with his #squad (Core members of which include his sister Elisa, a former boy band member named Drew Mac, a Persian Kim K. lookalike named Sanaz, LL Cool J’s daughter Samaria Smith, and Kyle, a guy who once threw shade at EJ’s green python Fendi bag but stayed his friend anyway). Besides EJ, none of them even pretend to want jobs, so they have plenty of time to sit around and wear slip dresses and spill tea.
I’ll be the first to admit that EJNYC is not MTV-circa-2008-caliber great; E!’s reality shows are not as well-shot or edited, and EJNYC spends maybe 30 minutes too long on a Hood by Air-clad “rapper” who goes by Trassh. But the show has one basic innovation: Instead of following some doe-eyed Cali girl on her search for Big Apple truth, it follows our beloved EJ. The standard drama — nights out, days off, endless gossip — takes on new gloss. EJ’s required nightclub fights now include a “my sister is dating the man who wanted to hook up with me during a vacation in the south of France” twist. His spa day chats are about what it means to want to wear women’s clothes, but not transition. EJ’s three-episode fight over a boy is a lot more interesting when it’s spliced with his therapy sessions dealing with dating as a gender-fluid person. (In the tradition of I Am Cait, E! makes LGBTQ discussions central when it can.) All of this is of course manipulated and convenient, but eating sugar-covered kale still counts as eating a vegetable. (To me, anyway.)
By the time The City rolled around, we all realized that it does take more than a pulse to be a compelling reality TV star. Turns out that Whitney Port really should’ve been a 6-foot-3 black man whose wardrobe wasn’t exclusively provided by Diane Von Furstenberg. That’s all it takes for regular trips to Barney’s, vocal fry and the Meatpacking District to become a thing of beauty again. Thank you, EJ, for reminding us that it only takes a simple perspective change to make macaron-focused docudrama worth hate-watching again.