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SO INTO HISTORY, SHE WEARS IT

Vintage clothes. Big band music. She lives in the past and loves it.

Just as stepping inside the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn is like stepping back in time, so is visiting with Lovelynn Jensen.

Dressed in a 1940s-inspired cardigan sweater and skirt ensemble accessorized with vintage eyeglasses and a silk flower pinned in her hair, the 37-year-old Seminole Heights resident says of the Don Vicente, "I've always really liked history. I just fit right in!"

Jensen, an active swing dancer, teacher and former professional dancer, actress, and costume designer, is naturally creative and accustomed to adventure.

After spending almost a year and a half as the Don Vicente's event sales manager, Jensen is seeking out her next quest.

"She was a breath of fresh air for the hotel. We will miss her," events director Tessa Shiver said.

Before she was born, Jensen's free-spirited parents lived in the Caribbean. With her mother pregnant, they moved back to the States, bought a VW van and drove around until her mother was close to giving birth, she said.

They landed in Colorado, where Jensen was born in 1971. After enduring their first winter in the Rocky Mountains, her parents discussed whether they wanted their baby "bundled up in the snow or running naked on the beach," she says. The beach won, and they moved back to the Caribbean before Jensen was 8 months old.

By age 4, Jensen's family had moved to California, where she began taking tap dance classes.

She attended what she refers to as a "hippie school," similar to a Montessori school. She remembers studying poetry in the form of Beatles song lyrics every morning. There she began acting and dancing in school plays.

A child of the '70s, Jensen, from early on, wasn't fond of that period's styles. In her sophomore year of high school, she appeared in her school's production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Since then, historical dress has been her style of choice. "I guess I was a method actor," she said.

Acting classes in high school led her to an agent, and she began auditioning. During her senior year she scored the primary part in a national Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial. "It paid my way through college," she said.

At the University of California at Santa Barbara, she studied acting, dance and costume design. After graduating, Jensen worked in the costuming industry, including with the San Francisco and Los Angeles operas.

She also was part of the costuming team on a number of films including Titanic and Wild Wild West. Her favorite was My Dog Skip. Throughout filming she would bring her beloved yellow Labrador retriever and former dog actor, Lady Sasha of Wilmington, to the set with her.Jensen rarely had pictures of herself taken with the film's actors, but she would often take pictures of them with Lady Sasha.

She met her husband, Derek, on the set of the TNT film Kingfish in New Orleans. For two years they were best friends. Over time, they fell in love.

When they married, Jensen - ever the costumer - bought her dress for $200 and then completely customized it.

Leaving the skirt intact, she tore apart the bodice and remade it herself. She remembers sitting on the couch making her veil and dying it in tea to achieve the same aged look as the fabric of her dress.

Shortly after marrying, Jensen left the film industry so she could have a more stable schedule and start a family. However, she soon found herself running two successful events-planning businesses and teaching workshops for a bridal organization.

Through a friend, she began consulting as the technical adviser to the costume department on the hit film Wedding Crashers. The director eventually asked her to appear in the movie as a wedding planner. "If you don't blink, you'll see me," she says of her fleeting appearance in the film. She has a longer appearance in the DVD extras.

Jensen and her husband have family members in Florida. In 2004, when he decided to leave the film industry where he worked behind the scenes, she sold her events business and they moved to Tampa so he could attend the University of South Florida. He recently graduated with a master's degree in architecture.

Since moving here, Jensen has progressed from stay-at-home mom to bridal consultants' instructor and most recently to her position at the Don Vicente.

She also has become an active member of Tampa's Swing Gang dance club, regularly participating in its Sunday night dances and other events around town. Her fellow dance instructor, Fran Johns, says, "She is the most talented, talented woman you'd ever want to meet. She's wonderful!"

As she sits in her home, built in 1954, discussing where her next adventure might take her, it's clear that her appreciation for the past keeps her grounded.

Her dining room is filled with old black and white photos of her parents and other relatives in their younger years.

Typical of her vintage side, Jensen says this is the newest house she has ever owned.

FAST FACTS

Lovelynn Jensen

Neighborhood:Seminole Heights.

Family: Husband, Derek, sons Tristan, 5, and Julian, "extremely 2."

Music of choice: Fell in love with big band music when she started swing dancing, "and that's pretty much all I listen to now ... that and kids' music!"

Favorite aspect of her career: Teaching.

Signature piece: Almost always wears an artificial flower in her hair. "The real ones don't hold up."

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