My dread meter was a tad on the high side today, in anticipation of talking to eliminated Design Star contestant Tashica Morgan. While it might appear that I’m a confrontational person, I was not looking forward to the possibility of a hostile interviewee. As my mama said yesterday, if there was anyone who had a reason to be mad about something I wrote, it’d be Tashica.

I could not have been more off base.

From the get-go, Tashica was warm and bubbly and felt instantly familiar. I can see why the other cast members appeared to have been drawn to her in the beginning and why, despite her lack of experience in the design field, HGTV thought she might make a good Design Star.

My anticipation of a fight was balanced by a huge amount of curiosity. So many questions!

I’ll start with the last episode. How did your team manage to finish their garage with so much remaining work and only two hours to do it? Oh my gosh, it was crazy! Somehow, when you have four people who are desperate–not only to finish a challenge but also to satisfy a client–it gets done. I don’t know how we did it, but it was miraculous. Every single moment, we were picking, cleaning, wiping, staining, nailing, gluing! You watch these shows and you think, “No way! They so had twenty more minutes or two more hours after the cameras went off!” That was the reality part of reality TV. You’d be amazed what you’ll do under pressure and how far the adrenaline will take you.

You mentioned that if your team had listened to your ideas, they might not have been so crazed at the end. What ideas are you referring to? We had $3,000 of our budget left over because we built all of our pieces. I said in the beginning, “We don’t have to build everything,” but Dan was definitely pushing toward that. He thought it would be nice if we could give them a one-of-a-kind piece. I admired his idea but I thought we could buy something just as nice and then we wouldn’t have been dying at the end, pushing and struggling. (Looks like Dan was more concerned about laying the groundwork for The Dan Show and less about what might have been right for this particular challenge.)

What did you think of Nathan’s mural? It was a really good effort. Unfortunately it didn’t come across the way that we’d envisioned it, because we were short on time. In hindsight, it probably would’ve worked out better to use artwork in there, but that was something that fell on all of us.

It appeared that there were three dining spaces in the area. Why so many? When we were creating the layout, Mrs. Lang kept saying, “We love to entertain and we never have enough serving space,” so it was more about providing enough surface area to lay out a spread. Obviously, it didn’t work well or we wouldn’t have had to explain it. Genevieve made a good point that you should never have to explain your design–it should speak for itself. This was one example where we weren’t successful with that.

Even with the freaky timetable that day, your team’s space was fully accessorized. Do you think everybody learned a big lesson from the kitchen challenge and made that a priority? Yes, especially Lonni—she rocks! She definitely took the lead on that. It was so nicely laid out, with different layers and textures.

If you trolled the Internets after those first couple of episodes, you had to notice the bull’s eye on your back. Did that surprise you? No, it’s human nature. After the first challenge, you see who does well and who fails in the judges’ eyes and from there it’s kind of like, “that’s the stinky girl!” Or, “I don’t want to work with her, she doesn’t know how to do anything!” You come with this stigma every time you do a challenge after that. I ended up with this bull’s eye on my back and they just couldn’t wait to get rid of me!

Overwhelmingly, people commenting on the Design Star blog think Vern was rude to instigate the whispering that led to your elimination. Do you think your elimination was handled poorly by the judges? Honestly, yes. I really do. There’s no way of sugar coating it. It reflected badly on everyone. At the end of the day, the procedure should’ve stayed the same and it didn’t. Why it was taken in that direction, I will never know. If they were going for “good TV” or drama, it backfired.

It actually came off fake. Did it feel fake? Didn’t it? It was very fake! It was like, cue the cameras! Cue Vern whispering! It just seemed so staged. It would’ve been different if it was very natural and in the moment. But no–it was wack!

To what do you attribute your Teflon quality the first couple of times you were up for elimination? I think it was beyond HGTV, beyond judges. I’m spiritual enough to know that what’s going to happen is going to happen. Whoever’s supposed to be the Design Star–no matter how poorly they do, no matter if they finish a room or if they got away with something–it happens for a reason. I just really believe God wanted me to make it through to that fourth episode where Vern and them staged that little chopping block moment. Everything that happens just happens and I really feel that’s how it is in life, period–TV or not. (While I respect that, I find it hard to imagine a god being concerned with football games or reality television.)

Matt Locke assumed I would be interviewing you yesterday and called me specifically to find out what you might have said. No one’s asked me, “What did Jany say?” They’ve only asked me, “What did Tashica say?” Why do you think people are so curious about you? It’s eerie in a nice way! I’m honored, I just hope it was a good reason why he was calling and not a bad one! When people say, “That Tashica, she’s such a bad designer,” I just want to say, “Guys, can you just mentor me and tell me what I need to work on?” And you can tell Matt Locke I said, “Hi!” Now I’m going to go look at all his design ideas! (I happen to know Matt would be thrilled if you all looked at his design ideas.)

Do you take issue with anything that anyone’s written about you? (Especially some loudmouth designer from Austin, TX?) No, not at all. People are entitled to their opinions. If people think I suck, I’m just sorry they feel that way. I’ve never been in this type of position before. Everything I do is very well-planned and executed with the help of a team. I do the design and assure that it’s done with quality. I realize now that being a Design Star, you have to be able to do all of that and more. As far as people with their feedback, God bless them, I understand! If I was a viewer, I probably would’ve had a couple of comments about me too!

It seemed like you were trying to create a branding element for yourself with your trademark flower lapel pins. Was that a strategic move so viewers would remember you or something you’ve always done? It’s the silliest ritual that I started when I got married a year ago. I wore a flower on my wedding day and all the wo
men in my wedding wore flowers. After that, when I saw a flower, it reminded me of my wedding day. I wasn’t like, “I’m gonna leave a mark!” This was just my way of saying, “My husband’s with me, I remember the happy moment.” It was a good thing I did that on the show, because in the middle of the night when you’re sitting there with strangers and cameras, you’re not thinking about the competition. You’re thinking about home and love and that support system that you’re used to. You think, I’m sure they’ll let us write a letter or get pictures, but there was none of that.

It intrigues me that you started out with a law career because I have a ton of lady lawyer clients and they consistently admit they don’t have a creative bone in their bodies. How do you think you’ve managed to bridge the gap between the right and left sides of the brain? I’ve a got a bit of borderline psychotic in me! I think the design portion was always there but I didn’t know what an interior designer was until I got into college. At that point I was on my way to law school and the Air Force—I wanted to be a JAG. I worked for one for seven years. The whole time, if I was moving into a different apartment or if I had a friend who was moving, I would sketch out their floor plan and design the whole thing. One day I was in a law office here in DC, and I swear I had a breakdown inside. I thought, “I hate this.” So I quit. I moved to Miami and started over. I thought it was my calling. People might’ve thought it was weird that I’d already started law school and took my LSAT’s and changed my mind.

I don’t think it’s ever too late to make a change like that. Nothing’s wasted, so why not? I think that’s true. You have to go through it to see what you like or don’t like, what you’re willing to deal with. It’s the same with TV. Being on that show, I now know what I like and don’t like about being on TV. Now I’m so beyond content just designing. I don’t need a camera around me. I don’t need viewers and all that going on. I actually like this part of design because it’s more fulfilling. You’re just pleasing that one client. (And no snarky bloggers bitching and moaning about every little thing!)

The judging process seemed somewhat arbitrary the first few weeks. Do you think they had preordained ideas about who they wanted to end up in the final episode? I really wouldn’t put it past them, because of what I saw and what I experienced. The way they eliminated me seemed so staged too. I’m not saying that they already know the winner, but from the beginning, I thought, “They’re gonna make Dan the next Design Star!” They really like him. Everything’s just so peachy keen with him and he can’t do anything wrong. He seems to be the frontrunner for the show right now.

I’m not sure I want him to win. You know who I want to win? I want Antonio or Nathan. Nathan has so much heart and so much energy. He has a lot of creative ideas but he has a little abstract part of him that HGTV may be ready for. Historically, HGTV has been very conventional as far as design goes. Nathan’s willing to push it to the limit. I think Dan is more of a David-Bromstad-fourth-time-around. There’s something about Dan that’s not unique enough to bring new viewers and a new element to the Design Star legacy.

I totally agree. What about Antonio makes you think he’d be good on his own show? Antonio’s so raw. He’s a freakin’ rock star! I love him. He would so be the bad boy that we need on HGTV. Not to knock any of the other guys on HGTV, but he’s more of a guy-guy. He’s someone who’s going to tell it like it is and at the same time, still have a passion and respect for design that HGTV viewers could appreciate. Antonio’s like the oldest young guy. He can build, he can paint, he can design, he can create, he can do anything he wants. I admire that. I think HGTV admires that too.

When will you finish your degree? I’m getting ready to start back up in the fall and I’ll be done in a year and a half. Then I might take a break because I’m thinking of taking an apprenticeship class for carpentry at a trade school. After being on Design Star, I realized just how much power you have as a designer when you have those skills. It’s a little funky and crazy but after Design Star, what else am I gonna do? I’m nervous but really excited about it.

Does the faculty or student body at Marymount treat you differently now? The faculty has been treating me like a little star, which is really weird because I thought I would get more heat than love! There’s one professor that I know I’m gonna get heat from when I see him. He said, “HGTV’s not real design!” He thinks HGTV minimalized the field. (I checked out his company web site and don’t see why he thinks he’s turning out anything more innovative than what we’ve seen on HGTV, but whatever.)

I think that’s one thing that’s great about HGTV. They’ve humanized interior design and made it less pretentious. I’m so right there with you. That particular professor is an architect, so that’s a whole other story! He’s a true square and dork about the matter. I tell him that too!

Check back tomorrow for my interview with the other designer eliminated this week, Dallas’ Jany Lee. Find out what prompted her to throw Torie under the bus! Maybe by then, stupid might be working properly and allow me to FTP some dang photos!