What do you think was your favorite challenge?
My favorite challenge so far is actually the superfan challenge, because I really like making garments for specific people. And with the superfan challenge I had Kristen and she had specific requests. She was a Mormon and she has lost over 100 pounds and she’s going through this transformation in her life, so it was definitely a challenge for me. But at the same time, I wanted her to be happy in her body and all of that. And i feel like I was able to succeed in that, and I’m really proud of it. She actually has the dress right now, so I’m really happy for her.
Which of the judges do you feel like you agreed and disagreed with the most?
That’s a tricky one. I think that’s a tricky one for me because I haven’t been on the runway that much, it’s always in the middle. So I never really had a chance to get to know them. But at the same time, I feel like I got the most feedback from Nina [Garcia] and Zac [Posen]. The good and bad. Nina, she is a very professional woman, and she has very interesting insight about fashion and beyond. So I find it really her feedback—besides the foaming vagina one—her feedback tends to be really helpful, and I can apply that to my design, and I have to say the same thing to Zac. I mean, I don’t really have anything negative or anything that I disagreed with them. It’s just all about learning and just moving forward.
So there was the episode when Tim Gunn used his one save on you, to keep you on the show. What was that experience like for you?
I’m still trying to remember when that happened, because it was definitely a very emotional time. I was shocked that it happened, because I knew at that time that I was not taking risks, and decided to take a risk with my garment. [The dress led to this quip from judge Nina Garcia: “It almost looked like she had a… foaming vagina.”] I mean, unfortunately it did not pay off, but at the same time, when you invest yourself in doing something that you’re not comfortable doing. But at the same time, I’m proud of it, that I tried even though it got me eliminated. I’m thankful that Tim Gunn saved me, because out of everyone I respect him the most out of the judges. He is a really good mentor, and just the fact that he sees something in me is definitely a win in my book.
He seems like a really wonderful person
He is, he’s even nicer off camera.
It’s hard to imagine that. He’s so nice!
Yes, he’s an amazing guy.
On the show, I didn’t realize you had actually lived in Chicago because they plug you as being from Raleigh. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with Chicago?
I came to Chicago to go to the School of the Art Institute to get my master’s in fashion, so I lived here for almost four years. And I mean, This was my first experience living in a city and it’s an amazing city. All the things you can do, the different areas, public transportation. The only thing I don’t like about Chicago is the winter, because I’m from the South, so putting a Southern boy in that kind of winter, like, WOO! But it was definitely an experience for me, but I loved it. I mean, I would definitely come back here if i can, it’s just a matter of finding a place to work or start a business here, so it probably will happen in the near future.
Well that’s good to hear, we’ll be happy to have you back. What were some of your favorite places to go to and things to do here?
Some of my favorite things I like to do here is, I like going antique shopping actually. There is a place in Uptown, and the name just escapes me, an antique mall. And I go there all the time, because it always has really interesting modern things from the ’50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, and I like those kinds of elements because I find inspiration from them. And I love going to Wicker Park, you can always find something new when you’re there. And naturally I go to Boystown; it’s where all the men are, so why not? There’s definitely a lot of spots, I can’t think of them right now, but I’m definitely going in the next couple days.
Awesome, that’ll be so fun. So growing up, you didn’t get your implant until you were 18. What was your experience like growing up before that, not being able to hear?
My experience before getting a cochlear implant, I primarily relied on sign language, that was my mode of communication. My parents have been so supportive of me growing up, and they just wanted to make sure I had all the opportunities that I can get. I have to thank them for raising the person that I am today. , because they definitely made a bunch ... and I don’t think ... I can’t really pick out ... I think it’s kind of difficult for me to answer that question, because I can’t really compare myself to other people, that’s just who I am and I was happy with that. So I just grew up being a Deaf guy, and it worked out for me.
And also as a gay man too, which community do you feel like you lean more toward when you’re doing advocacy? Or do you kind of try to bring all of yourself into your advocacy?
I’m trying to bring it all together at the moment, because it is something that I am working on, because I can’t pick and choose. I mean, I am this person, I am a Deaf and gay man, and I mean, everybody has their own identity, and for me, that’s my identity. But at the same time, we are able to really show people that we don’t have to pick, just be true to yourself, and that’s what I’m doing right now.
Do you find that you’ve had more opportunities for outreach since you’ve been on the show?
I think so. In a way I guess I’m still processing everything at this point, because I’ve been receiving so much support lately. And just the fact that I am able to be myself on the show and just doing that really inspires other people. A fan came up to me the other day, he was a 13-year-old guy, and he actually thanked me for giving him the confidence for him to come out to his parents. I’m like “ooooh, I have goosebumps right now;” it was a lot for me to take in. I’m just being who I am as a person, and I’m happy that it inspires other people to really not feel ashamed about who they are, and just really enjoy their life and what they have. So I’m happy I’m able to do that.