Anya Ayoung-Chee dishes on Project Runway, her passion for design & overcoming a scandal!



In this recently posted interview with Anya she shares about Project Runway, the Miss Universe sex tape scandal and her feelings about beauty pageants in general. You can read the full transcript at the sauce but I've snipped the key parts :)


JB: Did you really learn to sew four months before Project Runway Season 9?


Anya: Fuh real, fuh real, fuh real. Delia Alleyne from Tobago taught me.


JB: Other than yourself, who are your favorite designers from PR season 9?


Anya: Um…Well that’s a really hard question because we really made friends with each other, so it would be easier to say that I really became friends with Joshua M., even though he was labeled as quite a bully on the show, but we really got along. Laura, Kathleen and I were like besties and in terms or design skills, Viktor was an excellent designer, esthetic wise I really loved Olivier’s work.

JB: Other than Meiling, who has been a staple in your life, who are some of the other major designers that inspire you?

Anya: Meiling is like my second mom. (smiles) But um…the late Alexander McQueen, who is sort of everyone’s God in some ways, moreso now that he’s not here. I’ve always loved him. He’s a a genius and outside of the realm of design, he was an artist. The Classics – Chanel. I have more recent love for designers like Isabel Marant and Mara Hoffman, who has a very similar esthetic to me, so I am always aware of what she does. The list goes on and on, I can list many for so many reasons.


JB: You’ve studied design in fashion capitals London and New York. Tell us more.


Anya: I studied communication design which is basically graphic design. I got my degree from Parsons and Central Saint Martins in London. And once I graduated, I worked as a graphic designer for a couple of years, until I went home and I did the pageant. And from that point on, I’ve been in fashion.


JB: You are the longest reigning Miss Trinidad and Tobago. How was your crown experience?


Anya: (Laughter) Longest reigning by default. You know…my experience as Miss Trinidad and Tobago was at once very, very rewarding for me. Personally and career-wise because I was able to launch my fashion design off of that and then also work on the TallMan Foundation charity which I care a lot about. It is always nice to have a platform for those sort of things.

But the beauty queen side of things, I never felt comfortable about and it’s odd that I would choose to do it, knowing that, but there was some sort out of curiousity about what it would be like. I guess I knew it would be whatever I made it. But when it comes to the beauty queen thing, I am still very uncomfortable about it and what it says about women. But it gave me a platform and it is one of the few platforms that young women have, particularly in the developing world. You take what you have and you run with it.


JB: In an interview with the late Allyson Hennessy for Gayelle’s THE BOX, you stated you are “so much more than a sex tape scandal.” Do you feel somewhat vindicated through your recent success as a designer and now an international tv star?


Anya: Words can’t really expressed how Project Runway has allowed me to really be myself publicly and regain a sense of my own inner peace. That entire scandal ran me ragged. You know? I felt so devastated by the version of me that people saw. Each human being is made up of so many different layers, so many aspects. To imagine that anyone should be labeled one thing, is not only unfair, it’s just untrue. I mean nobody is one-dimensional. But it is what it is and I’ve reconciled so much within myself that people’s opinions are their opinions and everyone’s entitled to it but I’m just happy their opinion is what it is now.


JB: What do you think their opinion of you is now?


Anya: Well, I think for sure they know now that I am a designer, I’m a fashion designer. I’m very passionate about it and I’ve been for a while. This is not a new thing. And that I am human. And in humanity there are highs and there are lows. I am grateful to have re-found a high and to be riding it.

JB: Project Runway is definitely acting as an international springboard for your own design label, what’s next for Pilar?

Anya: Well my intention from the inception, from the first time I showed the line in Trinidad was and is to build it into a full-on brand. I always wanted to branch out from clothes, to accessories, to just about anything. I really feel that what I have going for me is an entire lifestyle. The Caribbean is something that everyone wants a piece of and we are blessed enough to own it. I want this to be an international Caribbean brand.


JB: When is Pilar coming to stores worldwide?


Anya: The boutique is coming soon to Trinidad and very soon Pilar will be in outlets in the US. I will have a new collection between upcoming Christmas and Carnival time.

JB: You are grace personified. What advice would you give to any person who has been the victim of a public and salacious scandal?

Anya: That’s a good question, because I have noticed very early in my journey through my scandal that mine may have been relatively big but so many women suffer from some sort of persecution within their peers, friends, families, communities. It is devastating to realize how many of us, on an every day basis, deal with these things and are not given much credit for how difficult it is to deal with and overcome. In terms of being graceful, I think everything in life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. So in that vein, when you look at every experience as a lesson, then you are never the victim and you are always in a position to learn and that’s a very powerful place to be.

JB: To all the Caribbean youths looking up to you and dreaming to be a designer, or just wanting to pursue a dream, despite the odds; what piece of advice would you give them?


Anya: One thing I always say, risk being yourself fully. There is something very simple about that yet very challenging. It is sort of having this home to go back to within yourself. Come hell or high water, as I am testimony to, there is only one way to be really be successful and that is to only be yourself.




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