JUST LET IT GO: “F–ed by a boa — my world of fashion.” That was how Betsey Johnson sized up a wardrobe malfunction during her debut performance on Monday’s “Dancing With the Stars.” With a total score of 20 out of 40, the designer was not confident that she and her partner Tony Dovolani would make it through Tuesday’s elimination round. During Monday’s cha cha to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Johnson stopped cold when she couldn’t grab a marabou boa that had inadvertently been rigged to a clothing rack. “I learned afterwards from the mean judge that you only stop if seriously injured,” Johnson said. “As much as I screwed up, my fans loved me for it. I ended the dance with a Gloria Gaynor kind of cartwheel and split to say, ‘I Will Survive.’”

Doomed as she thought she was, Johnson said it would be fun if her fans — many of whom were in Monday’s audience and cheered her on with abandon — voted by phone or text to keep her on the crowdsourced reality show. But her own realistic outlet told her otherwise. “It’s a TV show. It’s a business. It should be about the young,” she said. “I wish it could be truly a public fan vote because that would be totally fair and square.”

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.