Name: Santino Rice
Where We Met: One of Project Runway‘s most memorable “characters,” Santino competed on the second season of the fashion competition show, coming in third place after showing his collection at New York Fashion Week in the finale. His talent is undeniable, though likely when you think of Santino, you’re apt to recall his brash, cocky, personality, monotone voice, and spot on impressions of Tim Gunn (more on that later). He won two challenges along the way including the very first working with muslin, and later, for a dress that caught the eye of socialite Nicky Hilton. “I think a lot of people will have any eye-opening experience once they’ve seen it and realize it’s not that I’m an a**hole. It’s that I’m honest. And it’s not that I’m an egomaniac; it’s that I’m passionate. And it’s also a competition,” he told AOL.
Memorable Moments: Perhaps Santino should have tried out for American Idol. How can we forget his musical ambitions with hits like “Lighten Up It’s Just Fashion!” where he and fellow contestant Andrae twirled around the workroom singing and serenading mannequins? Then, of course, there was the more somber, “Daniel Franco, Where Did You Go? (See You in Season Three!),” following Franco’s departure from the competition (his second time on the series). But it was his one liners that made phrases like “Make it Work” become synonymous with the designing competition. And Tim Gunn of course. Santino was the first to point out Gunn’s overuse of the phrase and performed dead on impersonations of their mentor for the group – and the viewing public. Highlights included (in Tim’s voice) “Andrae, where’s Andrae?” “Andrae, you embarrassed me in front of my friends at Red Lobster!” And then the sing-song, “Tim Gunn, Tim Gunn, if he calls your name, you’re done, what happened to Andraaeee?” which, technically, is both a one liner and a song!
Runway Life: “It’s definitely opened a lot more doors for me. It’s incredible to have the response that I have now when I meet people in the industry — whether it’s fashion or photography or celebrities I come across living here in L.A. I run into a couple every day, and before I can even say anything to them, they’re like, “Oh my God, can you make a dress for me? Or can we work on something together?” So it’s as if the whole world knows me now, they know me as being a talented creative designer with a personality, and all the right people are calling me. It’s just been great,” he’s said.
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So…Where’s the Line? “I’m still working on custom one-of-a-kind pieces. I’m in no hurry to try to put on fashion shows. I’m in no hurry to take out huge loans with the bank. I’m still looking for the right deal financially. Still talking to potential investors. I understand viewers see designers on the show and then when the show’s over, they’re expecting everyone to magically have a dream career and have stores around the world carrying their clothes. Unfortunately for all of the designers on the show it doesn’t work that way. The designer’s who have been able to do so are fortunate enough to have the means by which to do it, ie: have family money, or took out loans. I recently read an article in New York Magazine about Jeffrey Sebelia and the reporter makes all these ridiculous comments about how “unfortunate” Jeffrey’s life is and I’m thinking Jeffrey has more sh*t going on then anyone from the show! Yeah, yeah, Chloe and Emmett have stores, but Jeffrey has a legitimate fashion brand that was off the ground prior to Project Runway. Jeffrey’s famous now, but it doesn’t mean you become a millionaire because you were on TV! I realized long before that maybe I’d sell a few more dresses because I’m famous but any headway I’d make would be because of me. Having done the show has enabled me a certain amount of freedom as a designer. I’m still very happy of having made the choice to participate on the show. I don’t live in the Hollywood Hills yet, but that’s really unrealistic to have thought in the first place,” he said in an interview.
Famous Fans: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly may be macho stars but they were also not above chasing down Santino at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards.” “Santino! Santino! We like how you made those clothes out of plants and sh*t!” They told him. “And, you know, they are in their full uniforms for their movie Talladega Nights and they had watched every episode. It’s amazing,” he said of the run-in. That same night he had also designed the dress worn my MTV host SuChin Pak.
Return to TV: Santino returned to TV this year as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality competition pitting drag queens against each other on LoGo. “I am so excited, I am a judge on every episode. There is always a panel of specialist judges on each episode that really lend their eye and their point of view to judging these performers and the art of drag. It does spoof on a lot of other reality competitions. In every episode the contestants have to compete with some kind of exercise that usually involves a photo shoot or performance. [And the bottom two] have to lip-sync for their lives. I think that they chose me for my point of view. All the aesthetics that I hold true, as far as what makes something creative, imaginative, and beautiful, all come into play here in this competition. This is one of those things that gives me a lot of inspiration,” he said of the project.
What’s Next: In addition to his gig with RuPaul, Santino has also appeared as a judge for the Miss Universe 2006 pageant, and is currently designing new packs of Camel cigarettes, dressing A-List private clients, and working on a forthcoming clothing company. “The brand I’m building is based on luxury and exclusivity,” he told TV Guide. As for where he’s headed, Santino writes on his blog that, “Staying true to myself, only taking on projects that inspire me, and going to bed happy have been major guidelines for my life after the show. It’s in my nature to never be satisfied, to never be content, but I also know that anything worth having the right way, is worth waiting for the time it takes to make it happen as well.”