I wish I could say that interviewing this week’s Design Star castoff Nina Ferrer was a revelation, but it wasn’t. Every narcissistic, ego-maniacal impression I had of her turned out—in my experience—to be well-founded. Unlike other normal human beings, Nina won’t cop to a single failing and never takes responsibility for anything that goes south. Basically, I get the distinct impression that, like Danielle Staub or Kelly Bensimon of Real Housewives fame, she’s incapable of seeing what the rest of the world sees. I feel robbed of thirty minutes of my life after hanging up the phone with her…
You’ve taken quite the beating from Design Star viewers. How do you handle that?
When I view and read the blogs—if I even get to it—I know who I am, my friends and family know who I am, and I just kind of laugh it off. I would never go on a blog and write hateful things about someone. I have a blog and I haven’t written any hateful things about any of the other designers. I choose to take the high road and not do that. When I see other people doing it, I look at it as, boo on them, that they need to write bad things about other people to make them feel good about themselves. Even on the show and in my interviews, I never say bad things about anyone. It just shows that I’m a bigger person than them.
You’ve written bad things about Emily Henderson.
I wrote nothing bad about Emily.
You posted a comment about her on Design Blahg.
Oh, that was in defense, because Emily has written a lot of bad things about me on her blog. In her interviews, she’s literally called me a bitch, as well as written on other people’s blogs negative things about me and for me, that was one too many. What I wrote was, “Emily is not nice. She’s not cute. She’s actually very annoying to work with.” That’s what I wrote. It wasn’t a nasty thing. It was a comment in response. It was a reaction to her action.
Some people might define that as “writing bad things about people.”
It was one bad thing. In the scheme of five episodes and all the bad things that everyone–including yourself–have been writing about me, it was one bad thing and it was a reaction.
Did you anticipate being cast as the villain?
I kind of knew that happened from the beginning. In life, when you have a certain amount of things—you know, it’s like a recipe—for me, it was all of the elements. I’m much taller than everyone else, I have very strong features, I have a way that I speak. I’m used to dealing with contractors onsite and the way that you speak to contractors isn’t the way that you speak to most people. Anyone who is in the construction field and the architecture field knows this. I’m very well-liked on my construction sites. I do get the job done and it’s partially the way I speak to people that is my success. In the beginning, I knew they’d cast me as the villain because in all of my interviews I kept being asked, “Do you think that you’re hot? Do you think that you’re sexy? Do you think that, because of the way that you look, it has gotten you far?” The other castmates told me as well that they were repeatedly asked about my physical appearance—whether they thought I looked sexy and this and that—and I think it set me up to be the person to watch out for. Everyone was repeatedly asked if I was a force to be reckoned with and if they viewed me as design competition.
Do you think you were misunderstood or misrepresented?
No. Not at all. I think everything that you see—I definitely said all of those things at some point, but maybe if you would see the whole sentence instead of a piece of it, it would be construed a little bit differently. The Design Star Nina is very different from Regular Nina.
Do you think that TV persona will adversely affect your business?
No, not at all, because I have a lot of clients and I’m very well-respected in my neighborhood and in my profession–from all my past jobs to my friends—it’s only gonna grow from here. And I have to tell you, I’ve been recognized, in New York—I only wrote about a few recognitions on my blog–I’ve been recognized by many people in New York and many places. If you’re from New York or you’re from Brooklyn, you absolutely get my personality. You have to understand that. I don’t know where you’re from, but I know you’re not from New York. You’re from Texas or something, right?
Yes, but I lived in New York for eight years.
Maybe eight years was long enough or not long enough, but when you’re from New York, you get it—it’s about my personality. If I was in a house with twelve other New Yorkers and I would’ve said the things that I said or my deliverance would’ve been my deliverance, a New Yorker would’ve come back at me with the same thing and it would’ve been a level playing field. People from Oregon or Arkansas—they’re a very different breed.
Is it really true that you’d never seen the show before?
I really never saw the show before. During the time when I was at Ralph Lauren, we didn’t have access to YouTube or videos, I would just Google and the only thing I could read was Antonio Ballatore. The only thing that came up was the winner of last season. I read a bunch of interviews and I said to myself, “Crap, I’m never going to win this season because I’m exactly like this guy but I’m a girl.” (Except that he was considered likable by a sizable piece of the viewership pie.)
What inspired you to audition?
My family is avid HGTV watchers. Probably two or three weeks before the open casting call, my cousin said, “You should audition for this show.” We looked on the Internet and there happened to be an open call a week later and I went and it just snowballed from there. I left Polo and two days later, I was on a reality show.
You told the judges in the first challenge that your style was bohemian chic, after telling Courtland Bascon something completely different. Were you setting him up?
Courtland, I think, had an impression of me based on the way that I dressed or something. He just had an impression that I was a nightlife socialite and I think that no matter what I said to him, he would’ve still designed that room. He could’ve asked me any amount of questions and his questions were, “do you like to go out at night? Do you like to socialize?” He took that as making a room for me that was a nightlife room with a lot of glasses and wine glasses and bar paraphernalia as if I was an alcoholic. He didn’t ask the right questions and that’s on him.
Why all the squiggly murals?
I happen to actually be an artist. I paint lots of oil paintings and I like to paint lines. My line look is very good–it’s very positively received in the art community. If you notice, I painted my murals with a stain sponge—not a paintbrush. We didn’t have any brushes. We didn’t have the proper tools for me to do a proper mural, for one.
Why didn’t you tap into your photography skills?
We had no cameras. We didn’t have access to as much as you think we had access to.
You had an opportunity to go super bohemian in the fourth challenge but instead, you created more rigid design elements. Why didn’t you play up your bohemian tendencies?
Because I chose the orchid and the orchid is not bohemian.
But you had every opportunity to tap into that bohemian side of yourself (if it exists) for the room, because the style that was set was supposedly bohemian, loose, romantic. The elements you created weren’t any of those things.
Emily said her flower was bohemian, so she kept the bedroom bohemian. But my flower was the orchid, so it was elegant and elevated–not bohemian. I think you also ridiculed me on your blog, accusing me of being a one-trick pony—why would I do bohemian in every challenge? (Actually, I said your “squiggly murals are a redundant bore.” If you prefer “one-trick-pony,” I’m fine with that.)
I’m not asking you that.
If I have a client and they want elegant and elevated, why would I give them bohemian? (If a home and garden network were looking for a likable, approachable TV designer, why would you give them an arrogant beyotch?)
Judge Vern Yip said that anyone using the color of their flower would go home, but you used the color of your orchid in the space and were not eliminated for it. What do you think saved your bacon in that challenge?
I think you see my presence in that room more so than anyone’s. Like I said, I selected the sofa and I selected the majority of the fabrics we used. Like, I selected the fabric we used for the headboard, the wainscoting on the walls—yes, it was elevated, it was elegant—and as well, the swing was a great idea. I didn’t say the artwork above the dining table was my “moment.” I didn’t attach myself to anything that was pink that I directly interpreted the orchid into.
Let’s talk about the last challenge. Your team didn’t really deliver much of a transformation. It didn’t look all that different from before to after. What was the rationale behind the paint selection and keeping the existing flooring throughout?
We have limited time and limited tools. As you can see, Courtland and Tom (Vecchione) took on very large tasks and that room was very, very small. While Tom was ripping down the ceiling and Courtland was cutting and constructing that wall, there would’ve been no way for us to kind of patch up that floor or paint it or do anything with it because we were working in that space. (And yet the blue team pulled off a new floor under similar circumstances.) The furniture that we ordered, that Vern ridiculed me for not measuring? Everyone on the team approved the furniture. We all checked the dimensions. It was a team effort. It shouldn’t have been put on me. (Except for the part where you asked for this element and said you were better than the rest of your team.) In terms of the furniture not fitting in that room, the desk was put in the room at the last minute. Had it and Stacey’s (Cohen) lamp not been put in the room, there would’ve been more room for everything. The recliner kind of would have been able to open and it would’ve been a more spacious room, as it was originally intended.
What did the mural queen think about Alex Sanchez’s mural?
I actually thought Alex’s mural was great. I thought it was probably better than Casey’s.
Do you want to talk about some of the stuff that Emily’s said about you?
No, I don’t want to. That’s on her. That’s a reflection of her character and her personality. Not me.
Do you think you have an oversized ego?
No, I think that I am a very talented person. I’m very confident. I’ve been working in the field for twelve years professionally. Ego is something you don’t give yourself—it’s given to you. I’ve been praised for doing really, really well. Do I come off as maybe aggressive or as being egotistical? Yeah, maybe I do. I’m very used to speaking. I’m a good speaker. I’m used to being a project manager. I’m used to having people listen to me. The way that you get people to listen to you is you have to have a kind of authoritative attitude. If we were hanging out and we were friends, this is not the way that I speak to my friends and family. It’s one facet of my personality.
What is The Nina Show and what network would it appear on?
I don’t know. I haven’t looked into that yet.
You said that you were “on The Nina Show.” Tell me about that…why would you say that?
We’re five episodes into the show and every blogger—whether it’s positive things or negative things—people just can’t stop talking about Nina. You may look at that as a negative, but I look at it as a positive. Out of twelve people, I’m the person that everyone remembers. I’m the person that everybody is talking about. I’m getting the most recognition when I’m walking outside. People know who I am. I would think that in some way, shape or form, that’s a success. It’s something to be noticeable.
So you believe that any publicity is good publicity?
Listen, when you get into this industry, you have to believe that. If I read those comments, I mean, some people are writing really horrible, horrible things. As a blogger, I don’t know, when you read other people’s blogs, maybe it’s funny. When you write things about people and you say, “this person’s this or this person’s that”—I wasn’t raised that way. I don’t think that’s funny. I don’t think it’s cute to spend your time sitting behind the computer writing nasty things about people. It’s not nice. I don’t do it, I made that one comment in defense, but you know what? I had enough. That’s not a nice way to be. I may come off as being arrogant or egotistical about my work, but when you write about people in such a nasty light again and again and spend all your days writing nasty things about people, it says a lot about your character—about where you are and where you come from and your insecurities. (And some people display their insecurities by using manipulation to get ahead instead of succeeding based on merit.)
Who do you think is the strongest contender and who do you think is going to win?
I won’t say anything about that because I don’t want to give anything away. People should just continue to watch the show and see for themselves.
What’s up with the dead deer photoshoot?
A friend of mine, Thomas Bugarin, is a wonderful photographer. We went to Pratt together. He has been wanting to photograph me for a while. We photographed in his studio and he actually did a photoshoot for a friend of his who has a taxidermy business and it happened to be hanging on the wall and he said, “Would you like to take a photograph with it?” and it was just a creative thing. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to art school or whatever, but it’s about creativity. Art is meant to evoke emotion, it’s meant to be shocking, It’s meant to make you feel something. Obviously, that photograph was a success, so good for Thomas.
Do you like to stir the pot?
Oh, absolutely. One-hundred percent.
For the record, I am pleased as punch to say nice things while sitting behind my computer, provided there are nice things to comment upon, wrongs to right…that sort of thing. I am a design practioner and enthusiast, and bullsh*t caller-out-er. If you fall within the boundaries of bullsh*t in the design world, I’m liable to write about it. Don’t act like all publicity is good publicity and stoke the fires of arrogance and ego without backing it up with onscreen proof of your talents/abilities and then act like we bloggers are the ones to blame for your hurt feelings. A little preemptive damage control would’ve been prudent. If you hadn’t acted “nasty” on national television, no one would have anything “nasty” to say about you.