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The Woman Who Won His Heart

The spotlight focused intensely on Carolyn Bessette when she began her romance with one of the world's most sought-after bachelors, John F. Kennedy Jr., CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson and 48 Hours Correspondent Harold Dow report.

Once engaged, even their arguments became grist for the media mill. A dispute between the couple in Central Park was captured on videotape. Gossip columnists predicted the wedding would be called off.

"It is a bit like a Cinderella story, that she was discovered, and plucked away and swept off her feet by this wonderful man." says Linda Wells, who profiles Carolyn's style in the August issue of Allure. "I think that's why we all watch the story so closely is because we all thought maybe we could all become her, if we let our hair grow and lost 20 pounds and plucked our eyebrows really well and wore great clothes."

But there was much more to Carolyn Bessette Kennedy than her designer wardrobe. And although the media called her the Queen of Camelot, there was nothing haughty about Carolyn. She shunned the media spotlight, and seemed uncomfortable with all the attention. And her friends say that is just like her.

But the wedding did happen, of course, in September 1996, shrouded in as much privacy as the Kennedys could manage.

Carolyn was young, glamorous and elegant, born in posh Greenwich, Conn. She had a successful career in the fashion industry. Once she married into the Kennedy family, she was dubbed an "instant princess."

And she became a fashion icon; her hairstyles, choice of clothes, even her hemlines were carefully followed and copied.

Yoshi Yamamato was Carolyn's favorite designer. She frequented his New York store often enough to give manager Einar Holiloekk a glimpse of Carolyn the public didn't know.

"The clothes didn't wear her; she wore the clothes," said Holiloekk. "She really had a strong sense of her own image."

He added: "She had a great sense of humor; she was very funny. We had a lot of laughs working together. The public image of her was that she was a little distant. But when you got to know her, she was very friendly and generous. She really cared about other people."

Carolyn Bessette was turning heads long before she married Kennedy.

She was voted "The Ultimate Beautiful Person" by classmates at St. Mary High School in Greenwich.


Lauren Bessette: bought home in sister's neighborhood
And she won a job at a Calvin Klein shop in Boston when she was spotted walking down a street. Soon Calvin Klein himself saw her and hired her for the corporate office in New York City.

"She's got Princess Di and Jackie O. down pat," one former colleague said in a magazine article about Bessette after her weddig to Kennedy on a Georgia island.

Growing up in Greenwich a doctor's daughter, she spent two years at public school before transferring to St. Mary High School, where she graduated in 1983.

She majored in elementary education at Boston University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1988. While there, she dated John Cullen, a Canadian-born hockey star who now plays for Tampa Bay Lightning.

After college, she worked in Boston in public relations for a nightclub consortium, then left to work for Calvin Klein.

"I think that she gave Calvin a lot of inspiration in terms of her personal style," Sciascia Gambaccini, the fashion director for Marie Claire magazine and former Calvin Klein employee, told New York magazine.

Gossip columnists had her meeting Kennedy while helping him buy suits at Calvin Klein, or being contacted by him after he saw her jogging in a New York park.

The tabloids had Kennedy living with actress Daryl Hannah at the time, but he broke up with the actress shortly after the death of his mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in May 1994.

Despite the intense media interest in the marriage, Carolyn Bessette tried to guard her privacy. And John Kennedy Jr. attempted to protect her from the hordes of photographers that were always close by, including at their apartment in New York's Tribeca neighborhood.

Police have now cordoned off John and Carolyn's apartment building.

Carolyn was close to her sister, Lauren, who was also on the airplane. Lauren recently bought a penthouse in the same Tribeca neighborhood.

Those who saw Carolyn and John together say they seemed close.

But John's flying was one area of disagreement. When he took up lessons a few years ago, Carolyn was said to have been upset, thinking the hobby too dangerous.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report