To anyone waiting for their luggage at LAX at the time, they probably thought TSA had replaced Dayna Isom Johnson's clothes with gold bars. Or that she'd grabbed her suitcase off the conveyor belt, and her claim tag was replaced with the winning Powerball ticket. "I was standing there, in the middle of the bag line, just screaming and yelling — I was so excited, I couldn't hold back," Dayna laughs.
As Etsy's trend expert, responsible for forecasting what everyone will be buying in the weeks and months to come, she has a pretty cool job. But her life was about to get even cooler, thanks to a new side gig: judge on Amy Poehler's new crafting competition series, Making It. She and her husband had just gotten back from their vacation when she got the call.
"I'd never really done things like that before," Dayna explains. "My experience on TV had always been live segments, like Good Morning America or the Today show, but my husband is an actor, so he coached me through the audition process."
Even Judges Have To Audition For The Role.
When you think of reality TV casting, you think of the audition reels competitors go through to land a spot, but you never really think of what it takes to become a judge. Dayna hadn't, either, until she heard rumblings last April that NBC was working on a show for makers.
"My name got tossed in the hat somehow, so I went — just like anyone else — and submitted a casting tape," Dayna says.
She recorded a little info about herself and why she's qualified (in her role at Etsy, she sifts through 50 million products listed on the craft marketplace, which means she's developed a discerning eye for what's new, different, and noteworthy), then waited. Before long, the director called her, asking her to fly to California and meet with producers — including executive producer Amy Poehler — for round two.
"I was me; I did the best that I could do," Dayna says. She didn't hear anything for a while, so she went on vacation, trying to keep the dream out of her head — and then she got The Call.
Filming Happened Around The Clock.
In true TV hurry-up-and-wait fashion, things were a whirlwind after that. Dayna headed to Thousand Oaks, CA — about 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles — where the team filmed for six days a week, for a little over a month.
"We had a 6 a.m. call time each morning, where I got glam squad to the max. I got way too used to it," Dayna laughs. "My hair takes on its own life in every episode — there's braids, there's twists, there's updos."
Dayna's Icon Soon Became A Close Friend.While attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, Dayna looked up to Barneys creative ambassador-at-large Simon Doonan. That may have caused some initial jitters when she realized she'd be sharing the judging spotlight with him, but they soon melted away.
"He's a star to me, in the work that he's done. He's such an inspiration," she says. "While we were filming, Simon and I would go hiking. ... We just kind of clicked from our first hiking date. We get along so well and have so much in common, and I love that I can talk to him about everything from Paris Is Burning — this documentary from the '90s — to Cardi B."
She Had To Develop Her Own Judging Style.
Just like every new judge on American Idol has to answer whether they'll be more Simon or Paula, Dayna had to figure out how she'd handle things on camera — and what the role of a judge on Making It should be. Rather than try to play a role (the snarky one, the big softie, etc.), she focused on being herself. Then worked with Simon and the crew to develop the criteria they'd use to determine which competitor's work deserved the $100,000 grand prize.
"We wanted to make sure makers were taking risks and stretching outside of their comfort zones. I wanted people to challenge themselves and the talents they already had," Dayna explains.
Working Alongside Amy Left Her Feeling Empowered.
With the Saturday Night Live legend serving as both host and executive producer on the show, Dayna could have walked into some pretty intimidating, "Am I doing this right?" territory. Thankfully, the actual experience was far from it.
"For me, to see her being the boss on set was inspiring," Dayna says. "I loved seeing her in action. It made me feel like a bad chick too."
She should feel that way — all it takes is watching one episode of the show, which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on NBC — to see Dayna's a bad chick in her own right.
Follow CQ on .