“Hey, girl, hey!” So begins every conversation with Jason Champion, the latest designer to get the boot from HGTV’s Design Star. I have eagerly awaited this interview, because I got the distinct impression that he was the type of guy who wouldn’t take criticism personally, but would just have fun with me. I was not disappointed.
Did you have another viewing party last night? I saw on your blog that you do that every once in a while. Yeah, we do it every Sunday night at Burns Court Theatre which is a little independent theater showing foreign films and things like that. Typically I have between 35 and 45 people come. We’ve done it every week, and we’re going to continue to do it throughout the rest of the show too.
Were you surprised to go home this episode? You know, it wasn’t that I was surprised. I just knew I was coming close. There’s a group of four very talented designers left. I did fit in there. My room just fell apart. I mean, it was embarrassing. I hate that I left on that note. I felt that my hosting abilities might have redeemed me somewhat there.
Your first carpenter looked a little out of it. Was he stoned or hopped up on Thorazine or something? I don’t know how they pick those guys. The first one, I mean, he was a nice guy, but he was in mortuary school. He was studying to become a mortician! It’s one thing to cut on a body and another to cut a piece of wood! (Yeah, I think I’d rather prefer working with someone who was unfamiliar with cutting bodies.)
Tell me about the placemats. The placemats were totally a last-ditch effort, Robin, because when I first met with the carpenter, I was going to cut out Baroque patterns and back-light them from the wall. The placemats were supposed to be behind that on the wall and reflect a shimmer. The carpenter never got around to being able to do anything…that piece got left out, the window piece got left out. I happened to have the placemats and had to use them somehow. It’s not his fault I got kicked off–there were multiple reasons. I should have picked up more stuff to do myself and not handed over so much to him. Damn–the first time we got a carpenter! I was like “Yay! I’m gonna use him!”
You were also talking at the beginning of the episode about using a bunch of hot pink and incorporating more fuchsia into the room. I don’t remember seeing that at the end. Sears– where we had to buy our bedding and stuff–didn’t have anything in hot pink, like I wanted. That’s why I went with the gray pattern. The backrest was the only thing pink I could find at Sears that wasn’t bubble-gum pink.
They made you do all of your shopping at Sears? Yes. Anything – paint, tools, exercise equipment, bedding, picture frames … all of that stuff, that had to come from Sears.
But you also shopped at Crate & Barrel (I knows me some Crate & Barrel, just by seeing the merch in the background). Yes, I got a rug from Crate & Barrel, because Sears doesn’t sell rugs.
Oh, so everything that you could get from Sears you had to get from Sears. Yep. Exactly.
Is that the case for every episode? Yeah. It’s weird how all of the product placement deals play out.
They should be a little more transparent about that, because I think viewers and even judges should bear that in mind a little bit. Everybody’s been to Sears. You know that the selection’s a bit limited. Even if you could only shop in Crate & Barrel, every store has its limits. Right. Exactly. Normally, when I design a room, I start with fabric. I find a fabric that I like, and I build off of that, with the colors, the furniture, the rug. I’ve never really shopped and bought a sofa from the floor and then had to make it work. That’s backwards for me.
I totally agree. Speaking of how you work, there’s a huge gulf between the work that I’ve seen in your online portfolio and what you are able to do on Design Star. Huge, huge, huge difference! I know. It’s weird, because plenty of my friends have watched the show and said, “That is so not you! Where were you? What were you doing?” I’m like, “I don’t know! I was out of it.” It was hard to shop with the pressure and limitations. A lot of the game is time management.
Were you consciously channeling 80’s Madonna on the bed while you were doing your hosting bit? Yes, actually that’s funny because I started singing, “Like a virrrrgin …” on the bed! I’m an idiot.
Who was the giddiest over meeting (Season 1 winner) David Bromstad? Oh, Torie, hands down. When we walked on the set the first day, she said she wanted to meet him and Carter (Oosterhouse) . That was the only thing she talked about the whole show! I had to tell her, “You do realize David’s on my team!” She said, “Well, I don’t care. I just want that man. I have got to talk to him!” She went on and on and on with her little Southern accent!
She really lit up when he walked into the room! That was a true, natural reaction, I can tell you. I overheard somebody talking to Dan, and Dan’s all, “Hey! How are you?” Then I heard Torie scream and I thought, “Oh my gawd, it must be David Bromstad!” For two days, Robin, Torie had the most permeating grin that you could possibly have!
Did you just die when Candice called you a cream puff that she wanted to put in her lunchbox so she could snack on you? What you didn’t hear me say after that was, “Thank you for finally saying something nice to me in this entire show!”
What was your true opinion of the other designers’ rooms? I liked Antonio’s room, but I was disappointed it didn’t have more work in it. He had graphics blown up, but other than that, he just kind of built a bed. So I was kind of disappointed, but the look was great–it all came together. Lonni’s was just blah to me. It was so monochromatic. It was all baseball, and I hate baseball. I guess that’s why I don’t like that room. Torie’s room? I wasn’t really sure what was going on in there. She was initially going to basket-weave fabric for the wall, and then got stuck hanging it straight down, due to time limitations. Here’s a funny note: that dresser that she used in that room? She shut down production time for three hours because it got stuck in the hallway and nobody could get in or out of the house!
Three hours!? Yes. It didn’t count against us, but it was a comedy of errors, I’m telling you! Between my first carpenter and her getting that thing stuck in the stairway, it was hilarious!
So what did you think of Dan’s room? It was okay. It was very bold. The colors translated like neon. It was really bold in the room, but when it hit the camera, it was neon!
It was actually my favorite. Really? I liked the repurposing of the furniture and the bubble gum light is probably one of the most creative things out of anything that’s been done on the show besides his white- wall challenge. Dan is a very good designer, and he came into this show prepared. He was ready. The rest of us were just worried about what we were going to wear! I took 175 pounds of clothes! I was more concerned about how I was going to look than what I was doing. That just tells you something right there—I should’ve paid more attention!
All the rest of you had design experience, and he doesn’t really, right? Right. Exactly.
Certainly Antonio didn’t give a crap about what he was going to wear, but I think if you have that confidence level based on experience designing, then you think you’re going to do fine. Somebody like Dan, without that experience, might be more worried. Right.
Anyway, I thought Lonni should have been down there with you, getting in trouble. Well, she should have been getting the boot after I was gone! I should have been sitting on one of those green room sofas! Excuse me, the red room sofas–we didn’t have a green room, we had a red room!
So who would you have sent home this week? Torie’s and my room were equally awful. For all of the stuff that didn’t show up in my room, I was definitely the one who should have gone home.
Who do you think will be the final two? To put it together in reality show theory of what would happen … you can see Torie in the promos of the next show crying, so she’s probably going home. Then Lonni, well, they had girls win the past two times (Season 2: Kim Myles, Season 3: Jennifer Bertrand), so I’m sure they’re kind of wanting a guy to win. That leaves Dan and Antonio.
Why do you think the judges seem so in love with Lonni? Lonni’s a talented designer. She has some very high-profile clients, and she’s 49. I mean, look at her. She looks amazing. She’s soft on the camera. She’s good like that. Really, Lonni has a personality that has not come through on this show, kind of like how mine hasn’t. I think my personality’s come across as more arrogant and cocky–which I am–but with a funny side to it, so that makes it okay.
As a viewer, it seemed like there was a specific plan in place for eliminating designers based on who HGTV wanted to do a show with and less on who did particularly poorly that week. What’s your take on the situation? I agree with that. We’re all great designers and I think everybody has an equal opportunity to do well on this show, but when we were cast, we obviously fit some kind of something the network wanted. There’s a lot of focus groups and science that goes into it. (Which would only be natural, but then don’t call it a competition, and for gawd’s sake, pay these poor people.)
Does Dan wear eyeliner? I don’t know. We’re all trying to figure that out. We don’t know. He’s gonna kill me when I say this–but I think he had his eyelashes dyed. You know, speaking from experience–I’ve only done that once or twice. I would say that that is probably what happened.
Or he’s taking Latisse! Oh my gawd, okay, and Brooke Shields, too. Go for it, girl!
Looking back on all seasons of the show, who’s the dishiest Design Star competitor? Who’s the bitchiest Design Star competitor? You know, I have to be honest, I watched the show briefly on and off (What’s with all these people being cast who don’t watch the damn show?!), but I’ll pick the villain like everyone else has–Tracee Dore. I mean, the two episodes that I saw with her last year she was just mad. (And she didn’t earn the moniker Crazee Tracee for nothin’.)
I actually said ‘dishiest’, but I let you go ahead and answer the ‘bitchiest’. Oh, the dishiest! I thought you said the bitchiest.
I didn’t correct you because I was curious! I see now. I need to listen more! So, who is the dishiest? Explain what you mean by the “dishiest.”
If you weren’t married, who would you have been all freaked out over? You know, you’re gonna flip when I say this…but Antonio.
Really?! Uh huh, Antonio. Look…he is Mr. Baddass straight man. And you know, David is cute, but he’s not my type of guy.
So, is Antonio anything like Jim (Jason’s hubby)? Masculinity-wise, yeah. Size-wise and tattoos, no. I like Antonio’s attitude–don’t know if I’d actually say that he’s hot and pretty, but I like his swagger, let’s put it that way.
Getting back to the farewell you posted on your blog last night, you mentioned something about Vern wearing horrible shoes. Why are they horrible and what would you pick out for him to wear? Girl, have you ever seen his shoes?
I haven’t noticed. Oh my god, he only wears stupid hiking boots. They give him another three inches, I know–but for gosh sakes! Everybody talks about Vern’s shoes. In front or behind the camera, there are always comments about Vern’s shoes! I swear to gawd, they’re awful.
Your company website mentions you appearing on Trading Spaces. What’s the story behind that? Back in the day when I started my design career, Trading Spaces had just started, so it was Vern, Hildie, Doug, and I guess Genevieve. I worked as a PA on a couple of episodes.
Interesting! So did you meet Vern while you were doing that? I met him a long time ago, when he was just a little baby-baby. Then he found those shoes and now he’s a big boy! (OMG, I’m gonna pee my pants.)