Everyone is born with some kind of talent. Whether or not they choose to acknowledge their gifts, or have the courage to do something with them is a whole other story.
I have always known who I am and what gifts I have. I refuse to give up on living my life as an artistic creator. It can be rough at times, especially when I am around people who are convinced that the mundane schedule of working a stable 9-to-5 job that they hate is the only way to live.
My brother always told me I was stupid to think that I can live off my dreams, that I must work at a miserable job (as he does) in order to "get ahead" in life. I am sad for him. All I want to do is make art and fashion share with the world. I hope that the efforts of my heart and dreams can somehow bring happiness to others, and inspire them to think outside the box.
I came to New York as an artist, and it is in this city that my inner designer has fully emerged. I have made and styled looks for my friends and myself over the years… ranging from t-shirts and accessories to baby clothes and handbags. I have worked as a costume designer for a handful of dance companies. Since I came from a dance and figure drawing background, it has all been a natural evolution.
I wore the first evening dress I ever made to one of my gallery openings. Never having had any technical sewing classes, I shocked myself with the success of the fit and look of the gown. It was exciting to see that there was a sort of a synchronistic conversation between the dress and my paintings. Designing was a way for me to further bring my imagination to life, and I have been hooked ever since.
I got my first apprenticeship with Craig Robinson by bringing in an armful of garments to his Fifth Avenue atelier. He took my spunky attitude under his hardcore wing. I was immediately humbled by his precision and old-world tailoring techniques. "Josana! What the fuck are you doing?" he’d say. I remember trembling with the needle in my hand. His words were like a whip, and I was his worker-slave. Craig is a supremely talented designer and tailor, and it was a huge honor to work with him. I still consider him a friend and design mentor.
I fell upon my second apprenticeship while walking in the Lower East Side. I was walking down Ludlow Street when the prettiest girly dresses I had ever seen in the window of a shop caught my eye. I walked in and met an awkwardly sweet lady named Mary Adams. Her store was full of ruffles, corsets and petticoats. I told her that I loved her dresses and I wanted to work there. Sure enough, she hired me immediately. I sat in her store hand sewing and chit chatting the days away.
Mary would talk about how cool New York was in the 80’s and how we "newbies" don’t know anything. We had moments of silence where we just enjoyed being in the same room together sewing. I studied her dresses and the lady-like angle of design. We went on to co-run a program at the Lower East Side Girls Club called "Couture Camp", teaching young girls to sew, and the basic principles of design. Mary is still a friend and design mentor.
So here I am now, hustling like never before, working night jobs to pay the bills and designing during the day. I have been banging out a lot of street and band wear for inspiring musicians, and I have been creating one of a kind dresses and style looks for girls all over the city. I have been selling paintings and I just recorded my first music single.
I have had people ask me for the past couple of years, "Why aren’t you on Project Runway?" I saw the show for the first time in April of this year and knew immediately that I would be on that show someday, and that I could win it!
Sure enough, I got a call from a friend letting me know that auditions were in May. So I got my portfolio organized, put on my racecar suit and a giant feather in my hair, threw some dresses into a garment bag, and marched right over to the auditions for Season 5. It was intense and my knees knocked for the first time in my life. I can assure you that I was the only designer rocking a racecar suit and Christian did tell me "Josana, girl, you are fierce!" And then I heard nothing for a month.
I got a call on Thursday, July 3rd in the middle of the day from someone casting Project Runway 6. They told me that I was perfect for the show, and wanted me to get an audition video in their hands by Tuesday July 8th!
So I did. This is the video – type in the password blueberry to watch:
I got a call from that same casting person an hour after the video was viewed. I was invited to meet Tim Gunn for an interview as part of the Season 6 semi finals. I rolled into the Empire Hotel in NYC with my 3 gorgeous models only to hear "What’s up, Josana Blue!" The casting director was calling my name and welcoming me with a huge grin and a high-five.
I had made an awesome Josi original the day before to wear to the audition. It turned out fantastic. I styled my look with a giant feather, purple and pink hair flowers that matched the ruffles around the bottom of my bright yellow backless, quasi-cancan-dancer-meets-cindy- lauper-freaky-1950’s-housewife dress. And the casting people loved me!
I had the honor of sharing my moment with 3 of my favorite beautiful and friends…Erin wearing "Lady Chello", Megan in "oopsie" and Little Miss Sonya in "Lady Catherine". They all looked totally hot and wore my dresses like no one else could have. It was great to be backed by such a lovely team! The mimosa’s we shared before entering the room took the edge off. I swear we were having more fun then any other of the hopeful contestants.
There was definitely no other Josi Blue in the place.
Tim Gunn gave his customary critique about the fit and refining edges…while the other judges (prior contestants from Season 1 & 2) did not have much to add.
I was able to charm them into cracking a few smiles and eventually give me some encouraging commentary, though.
I am sure that I made an impact and I know that Tim will not forget me anytime soon. If you don’t see me pop up on Season 6, have no fear because I am pretty sure that I will be on one of the seasons very soon! After a very long Q&A, I exited with a curtsy. I turned back to see a mini bleacher full of casting people grinning at me.
I love nothing more than living everyday as an artistic creator. No matter what happens, I am the star of my own show and the champion princess of my own land. I will forever rule my creative empire with confidence in my abilities.
Josana Blue’s website is at josanablue.com
Photos by Elizabeth Secrist.