"Why I Didn't Win The Spelling Bee"

Talking with Project Runway bad boy Santino Rice

Maybe it was Chloe Dao's irritating dolphin-pitched squeal upon receiving the free Saturn, maybe it was that demonic photo in her parents' Houston home of her and her eight million sisters—or maybe it was that Dao, winner of this year's Project Runway, was just a tad too dull. At any rate, we skipped interviewing the victor this year and put in a request to talk to Santino Rice instead, this season's designated bad-boy designer and the one we were convinced would win almost until the end.

We chat with him about who he dreams of dressing, possible on-set Project Runway romances, Guadalupe's bizarre reunion behavior, and why he thinks Nina Garcia is not qualified to judge this competition.

Were you happy with who made it to the final three? That was my ultimate goal, to be on the show, and I knew I was going to make it. Upon showing up with my first garment, the garment I had to make at home, I looked at it, questioned it, was unsure of whether or not I was going to be able to qualify with it. I thought I was going to show up and everyone would have these amazing articles, and it wasn't like that.

Spot the Santino head
photo: Jennifer Snow/jensnow.com
Spot the Santino head


New York Casting Call for Project Runway Season Three: Bravo is now casting for Project Runway Season Three, and will be in New York at Macy's Herald Square on March 25-27, from 8am-5pm. The judging panel will include Daniel Vosovic from Season Two. Please go to this website for application and eligibility information.

That part you don't see is my humbleness. It comes across like I'm God's gift to fashion, and that's totally not . . . the best artists, talents, writers have [insecurities]. People I've worked with who have this blind confidence, it's usually just like they're drinking their own Kool-Aid.

Did you think there was some manipulation of your character, and did that bother you? I suspect there was a tendency to air every negative comment you said about other contestants, and leave out insults made by others. Everybody else was saying stuff as well. That's the part of the show where you're supposed to give your opinion on things. Whereas in real life, I don't really give my opinions like that very freely. And you come across looking like you're jealous or just an asshole. The thing was, I had the most cutting comments and some of the best sound bites, so it made sense to make me the villain, the man you love to hate.

What do you wish they had shown? I don't mind being the butt of my own jokes, and you don't see my sense of humor 'til maybe the seventh or eighth episode, when the Tim Gunn impressions start coming out. So people don't understand that sometimes my remarks are very tongue and cheek.

What did you think of Chloe's and Daniel's collections? Oh god. I know I did a great job, I know a lot of people think I should have won. At this point, I don't want to say anything bad about any of the designers. What really matters is what a designer does after this opportunity.

I thought Kara Janx's collection [during New York's Fashion Week] was better than anything she had on the show. Yeah, I do too. The hardest part of doing the collection was not designing, but playing by the rules and budgeting the $8,000, and keeping track of every single receipt. I would have done like chinchilla coats, some things that were definitely more than $8,000 worth of material.

I don't think I'm showing my Achilles' heel by saying that, because most great designers are really horrible with money.

So Kara wasn't held to an $8,000 limit? I've read that she said she was, but the bottom line is, when she turned in her receipts, did anyone really care to count them? I'm not taking anything away from her, I'm just saying that being in that situation, she had a freedom to her collection that Chloe, Daniel, and myself didn't.

Of course, the big critique at the end was Nina Garcia wondering if the judges had beaten you into submission—into showing what was regarded as safer than what you had been giving them before. I thought that was such bullshit. I felt that the judges still had some animosity toward me regardless of what they were saying to me, as far as like "Oh, I belong in fashion." Oh, why thank you—now I'm a real fashion designer 'cause you just validated my existence.

There are still a lot of things in those pieces that you can tell are mine. My combinations of fabrics—the vintage lace with the satin-back crepe, the trims I used, the layering of the georgette over the top of the chiffon. But sometimes—what's the expression, pearls before swine?—maybe I should have just hot-glued trim over everything.

I can look at Chloe's and Daniel's collections and see a lot of fit problems with garments, but I've watched my collection over and over and over and over again now, and I'm looking and am like, you know what? They just had to say something to me that was negative, and that's what they went for.

What I presented was more of a logical progression from trying to get my point across on the show and maybe sometimes shooting past the mark a little bit. I always felt like doing too much was better than doing not enough. So I think it is the logical progression for a designer who was doing things like that, and then finally getting time to edit himself and do some things that are more subtle. Sunburst pleating in the wire hem is not easy, working with mousseline is not easy. Combining leather with silk in the same garment is not easy.

Next Page »