Austin Scarlett
-- yes, that’s his real name -- may not have won the
big prize on Project Runway, Bravo’s
slick and addictive fashion design reality show, but
he won the affection of scores of armchair
fashionistas. By being his fabulously hair-flipping self --
and kicking ass in most of the show’s
cleverly-conceived design challenges -- the
Oregon-born Fashion Institute of Technology graduate became
an inspiration to sissy boys and glamour-pusses
everywhere. “I would love to set an example to
any dreamer -- maybe not the most popular kid in
school, but anyone who’s different -- who has a dream
to always stick to that dream,” he said in his
final on-air interview. “No matter how many
people tell you to walk a certain way, act a certain way,
dress a certain way, design a certain way, you
can’t listen to them. You have to be true to
yourself. No matter what.”

Sew there.

I loved your final farewell speech. Is it important to
you to be a role model?
I think so, even though that’s not really
what I ever set out to do. I think it’s
important in life to conduct yourself in a way you can be
proud of. Growing up, I never really had that many role
models to look up to. It was hard, and I think I did
long for someone I could identify with. If one person
saw me on the show and was inspired to shoot for their
dreams, that would totally make the whole show for me.

How did you get
involved with Project Runway originally? A
friend of mine heard about it and told me. I thought it
would be the perfect opportunity, so I just put
together a little portfolio and showed my stuff, and
they picked me!

And now America loves you. Do you get recognized now by strangers? Yeah. I get spotted most at fashion shows.
People that actually work for other designers and work
for fashion magazines that you wouldn’t think
would take the show seriously, well, they do. They’re
really into it.

Is it easier to get into the big fashion shows now? Definitely. They give you special treatment.
It’s nice, because I did not have that before.
Before, I would do my best to get into a few shows, but
now it’s so much easier.

What was the high point of the show for you?I liked my Banana Republic dress and the bathing suit. I
was happy that I won that challenge. And when I won
the very first challenge with the corn husk dress.
That was great because we were all so nervous at that
point, so to have recognition early on gave me a lot of
confidence that carried me through the rest of the

What happened to the corn husk dress? Is it decomposing
in a landfill somewhere?
The show put all the winning designs on display
for a while at Rockefeller Center and then auctioned a
lot of them off and someone bought the corn dress.
I’m sure it’s even more shriveled than it was.
Maybe the buyer can just hang it on the wall or

Did you get to keep any of your designs?The designs are all the property of Bravo, so I
didn’t get to keep anything at all. They
whisked it all away during the filming.

What moments got edited out that you wish the show had
left in?
Vanessa, the British girl, and I really clicked and
became like best friends right away, and they never
really showed that at all. When she was eliminated and
I was crying onstage, it really doesn’t make sense
because you never knew how close Vanessa and I had become.
And I wish they would have shown more of the actual
making of the outfits; the problems, the details that
went really into these outfits.

How closed off from the rest of the world were you on the show?The taping was about a month, and we were under complete
lock and key the whole time. We could not even go to
the corner to get a soda. They would never, ever let
you know what you would be doing for the next 10
minutes, so we were anxious the entire time. When it was all
over, I had very weird sort of post-trauma dreams,
like where I’m in the center of this huge arena
and all these people are asking interview questions and
judging me.

Speaking of judgment, which of your outfits do you think
was the most underappreciated?
The future one. It was supposed to be worn over a
fabulous pair of boots and the heel broke a second
before the show and that kind of ruined the whole
look. The judges were a lot nicer than the way they edited
on television. It comes out like they criticized my
things so much, but I remember the judges liking my
stuff a lot more.

Of all the contestants, I thought you were the one with
the most consistent singular vision. There was
definitely an “Austin aesthetic.”
That was sort of the main criticism they gave me on the
show, that I didn’t stray enough from my
particular look. I don’t see that there’s
anything wrong with that. Obviously, my clothes
aren’t for every single woman in the world, but
I’m sure there are many people who would like to
wear my things.

If you could dress any woman in the world, who would you pick?Cate Blanchett always wears the most fabulous things,
and she’s beautiful.

After losing the challenge of designing a Grammy outfit
for Access Hollywood’s Nancy
O’Dell, she asked you to do her Oscar dress. Are
you doing it?
I didn’t have a chance to. It was my
fault. I should have pursued that, but I’ve
been involved with the show since August, so I never had an
opportunity to. I would certainly love to work with

What’s it like for you to watch the show put
together? Do you feel like they were fair to everyone?
I think for the most part they keep our characters
pretty much true. They exaggerate a few things here
and there to make it flow, but it’s more or
less truthful, and so I really can’t complain. Even
if they show some things that are maybe not the most
flattering, it happened.

What do your family and friends think of the show? My two younger sisters are completely thrilled.
My mother, I don’t think she realized how big
the show would become, but she’s very proud of

Were there moments during your childhood where it was
obvious that you’d grow up to be a designer?

Were you picked on a lot as a kid? Yeah, I was, my whole life. It was always
something I had to deal with. For years and years I
tried to modify my behavior and be more normal so I
wouldn’t get picked on and fit in a little bit
better, but it would happen no matter what.

Was there a point where you said, “Screw it,
I’m going to be who I am”?
There really was a breaking point. I was like 13
or so. I basically just went crazy. I had a rebellious
period where I would start making up crazy things for
myself to wear and dyed my hair and wore false eyelashes to
school. I would have to change on the way to school or in
the bathroom, because my mother would never, ever let
me out of the house in some of the things I would
wear. And then I got in trouble with the principal on
the other hand. It was sort of like dodging between the
principal and my parents. No one wanted me to be this
way and I did it on my own anyway, and I managed to
not get expelled.

You really seem to have strong sense of who you are and
your place in the world. Where do you think that
comes from?
I don’t know. I figure we’re all
here on this planet once, so I might as well do things
my way.

Did you come out early or late?It was probably when I was around 13 or so, though I
really didn’t tell my parents until just before
college. I certainly have been acting out my whole
life. [Laughs]

Though most reality shows focus on the conflict, I liked
how most of you guys helped each other out and
really seemed to be pulling for each other.
That was true, even up till the end. With the exception
of Wendy, we could go to one another for an honest

At first I thought they were sort of editing to make
Wendy seem more evil than she was, but by the end,
I thought she deserved her villain status. She
wasn’t very nice.
And I don’t think a lot of us realized it
at first. She definitely had me fooled into thinking
she was my friend for quite a while. She would come
with all these wonderful things, like “Oh, Austin,
you’re the best and la-di-da” and then
she totally stabbed me in the back. After that I could
sort of see that she had been doing the same thing to
everyone. None of us knew the extent of it until the
show came out and her private interviews came out.
When she eliminated Kevin, that was pure evil and it
was not edited at all. She was really that evil.

Have you stayed friends with any of the other contestants?Most all of them. Whenever Vanessa and Alexandra come to
New York, they stay in my apartment. I went to
Kevin’s fashion show just the other day. Of
course, I talk to Jay. Kara Saun’s been in L.A. the
whole time, so I don’t really talk to her that

You filled in for Jay’s missing model one week and
walked the runway. What was that like?
It was definitely fun. I was honored that he
would even consider me. And I really liked the

Did Jay have to alter it to fit you?Not at all. Julie, the original model, and I have the
exact same measurements.

The Bravo Web site says that you have the smallest waist
in three counties. How small is it exactly?
I don’t know the exact measurement, but
it’s small enough that a stranger could put his
hands around it. Hopefully.

Speaking of which, are you seeing anybody? I’m single. I haven’t had a chance
to meet anybody. Now that the show’s almost all
over, I’m looking forward to getting a chance to go
out to clubs and sort of enjoy my fleeting moments of

I noticed that Robert, the sexy straight guy from New
York, left you and Jay an encouraging note on the
house blackboard after he was eliminated.

Has the show opened doors for you professionally? It did a little bit. I’m working on
putting my Web site together -- --
and I’ve made a few different connections. I got to
do Heidi Klum’s Halloween costume last year. It was
this fabulous red, sort of sexy witch, low cut, with
this huge hat and a broom. It was really fun to work
with her.

So I take it you got along well with Miss Klum? Yeah. She’s fabulous. I sort of worked
with her once or twice before, but I don’t
think she remembered me. I used to make the wings for
Victoria’s Secret’s fashion shows. That
was one of my old jobs. On the show she was really,
really sweet and definitely beautiful in person, even more
than on television.

What’s your dream career? I have a million dream careers. I would love to
do couture fashion one day. I know I’m not at
that point now, but maybe one day. I would love to do
theater design.

What did the experience of being on Project Runway
mean to you in your life?
A lot of people, when they see me, don’t
know quite what I’m about or what to think of
me. The show really helped to establish who I am for the
world out there. And it was such a fun time, it really

What would you like to see happen on season 2,
assuming there is one?


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