Jason Champion and Nathan Galui are playing for the same team, but only one can win the prize. As the two openly gay finalists on the fourth season of Home & Garden Television's HGTV Design Star , they'll compete against nine others, and inevitably one another, to land the grand prize of their own show on the network.
Born in Mississippi and based in Sarasota, Fla., Champion, 33, is a stylist and product designer with a penchant for reupholstering indoor furniture with outdoor fabrics. He married his partner of six years, Jim, in Wooster, Mass., two years ago and has two stepsons (ages 18 and 15) and two pooches. The show's youngest competitor at 25, Palm Beach, Fla., native Galui earned a bachelor's degree in interior design at Philadelphia's Drexel University and is a "single and ready to mingle" freelance furniture designer and artist boasting a youthful style and edgy graphic-arts eye.
While both finalists share similarities -- they live in Florida, agree on big design no-nos, and prove effervescent during telephone interviews -- plenty sets them apart. A DVD screener of the first episode, in which the finalists are tasked with designing their own digs, proved addictively entertaining, with plenty of sleep deprivation for the finalists, fab deco work, and a few design disasters for judges Vern Yip, Candice Olson, and Genevieve Gorder to cluck about.
Interviewed by telephone, Champion and Galui remained vague when pressed for specifics regarding this season's challenges and hijinks -- especially Galui, who frequently responded "wait and see" and "who knows" -- but were much more forthcoming about personal life and opinions.
In the spirit of the show, and to see how they passed muster as would-be design gurus, it seemed prudent to prod them for advice and tips.
Advocate.com:What is the number 1 design no-no for gays to keep in mind when decorating a new living space?Nathan Galui: No, no, no synthetic flowers! Would you carry a fake Gucci messenger bag? Same thing goes with accessorizing with plant life. Real plants and flowers bring great energy and life into a space. Fake ones kill it. Jason Champion: Fake plants. Come on, guys. If you can't keep a plant alive how will you ever get a man?
Ikea. Yea or nay?Champion: Yea, but this is only for certain pieces. Lighting, flatware, and bedding can be inexpensive and easy to change with the seasons or events. Galui: My life -- Ikea by day, club by night! Yea all the way. The designs are fannnnntastic and you really can't beat the prices, especially when it comes to hardware, accessories and window treatments. Beware though -- some of the furniture is wiggity-whack, but as Vida Boheme [from Too Wong Foo ] would say, "It comes down to that age-old decision -- style or substance?" Hmm?