As some of you know, I recently drove up to Dallas (and got 34 mpg in my 1-day old Fit!) to participate in open casting for Bravo TV’s Top Design, their interior-design version of Project Runway. What an interesting experience that was.

First of all, I think I could tear down on this show. I’m a big Jonathan Adler fan and all, but this show exemplifies everything I’m fighting against in the world of interior design…the judges are so stiff and formal, the contestants are sent shopping with $50,000 budgets for a single room when most Americans wouldn’t spend that chunk of change on the decor for their entire house, and it just flat out seems like a non-challenge to me to decorate and critique theoretical spaces, as opposed to rooms that have to withstand the test of actual use by live human beings. I know there are plenty of people out there with deep pockets supporting the industry as a whole so I’m not denying that the show is representative of an existing market…it’s just not representing the majority of mine. I would love the opportunity to inject a dose of reality into that mix. After all, anyone can make $50K look good. (Some people can even make fifty grand look b-a-a-a-a-d.) To me, the bigger creative challenge is making $2,000 or $10,000 look like $50,000.

So back to the auditions…interviews…whatever you want to call them. I only found out about the open call 4 days prior to the scheduled date, when someone in Dallas emailed a bunch of Austin designers. I didn’t even think about auditioning at first. I forwarded it to Jeb as an FYI and he immediately responded with, “you’re gonna do it, right?”

Oh. Right.

I tied up my projects’ loose ends as quickly as possible and dragged my application everywhere I went those four days so I could take advantage of unexpected idle time to answer their behemoth of a questionnaire. As with all things TV, they required a video, which I shot in the last five minutes before I got in the car. I didn’t want to agonize over it for hours like I’d done when I tried out for HGTV’s Design Star, Season 2. For this attempt I just wanted to be myself and not try to figure out what the producers were looking for. I’m willing to lay odds that what they ended up watching was a sweaty, nervous, freak because I’d just spent 15 minutes trying to do a 2-hr cleaning job on my living-room-slash-backdrop and I was anxious to get out of Dodge. I think I said something about being a designer who has stains on her rug (*gasp*, clutch pearls), introduced my three-year old to the camera and then yelled at her when she started running around screaming about what she wanted to show Daddy while I was taping. Looking back on it now, is it any wonder they didn’t sign me up?

Oops, I let the cat out of the bag before I finished my story.

Things weren’t supposed to start at the Dallas Market Center until 1:00 in the afternoon on the day of the casting call, but I had no idea what to expect in terms of turnout. When I polled a couple of clients, one said she’d get there the night before and camp out…the other said she’d plan to be there by 5 am at the latest. I couldn’t hang with either of those options and settled on a 7 am arrival time.

I was the first dork in line.

All of the Top Design signage led to a darkened hallway, so I headed to the information desk to make sure I was waiting in the right spot. This matronly woman looked over her glasses at me and said, “they’re not set up yet, I don’t think they’re starting until this afternoon.” There was an unspoken emphasis on the idea that six hours early was about six too many. I said, “I know, I just wanted to make sure I had a decent place in line.”

“Well, aren’t you the early bird,” she snidely remarked, still literally looking down her nose at me.

Yes, Snide Matronly Lady sitting behind your little podium/pedestal thingy, with your teased 1950s hairdo and your unfashionable glasses, I’m the one who’s a dork in our little scenario.

I’m not saying I’m above Snide Matronly Lady, I’m just saying she’s definitely not cooler than me and I’m already feeling fragile enough, what with the impending Judgement coming. She didn’t have to make me feel like you-know-what because I showed some initiative.

So I sat in my little empty hallway with my Evian and my allotment of two Fiber One bars to get me through the day and waited for someone else to show up. I started debating whether or not I actually wanted to be first…was that a good thing or a bad thing? Would they mentally toss out the first applicant because there was no one to compare them to yet?

Thirty minutes later…just me.

An hour later…still, just me.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, two women unlocked the room and gave me another jab about being there so early. “I keep saying, it’s not like American Idol, people,” the blonde one muttered. As if being first in line was equivalent to waving my Crazy flag, screamin’ and cryin’ to get on TV.

Just as I started to take Blondie’s advice and head over to the Starbucks kiosk, some pixie-ish woman showed up in vintage chic and my whole inner debate about whether or not I wanted to be first was tossed out the window. After waiting solo for nearly an hour and a half, could I allow this woman to be that cute AND first in line? But I already felt like a huge dork…wouldn’t I clinch the doofus title by running after her and reclaiming my #1 spot?

Fortunately, the hallway was still bare when I returned with my chai. Pixie reappeared a few minutes later, and then there were two.

Applicant number 3 arrived about a half hour after Pixie Girl…a very average-looking woman from Denver who commented that it was unrealistic for them to send Season 1’s designers to a garage sale or to Target–something that would “never happen in real life.”

When I told her I was just as likely to shop at Target for my clients than anywhere else, she put on her nice face, when it was obvious she was thinking, “ew.”

But I was also thinking, “ew,” so we were even on that score.

It was at that moment I felt especially fortunate to work with the clients I have. I’m not saying I don’t adore the jobs I get where money’s not an object, because it’s fun to run wild and live vicariously through that experience. But I find it infinitely more rewarding to break down the stereotype that hiring an interior designer is only for people who’d never buy home decor products from Target.

So no, you won’t see me on Bravo this fall. But it was worth a shot, right?