Hot off her win, the super-sassy Chloe Dao took a few minutes to chat with us from her home in Houston. The delightful designer, 34, already has her own store, Lot 8 (named because she is one of eight sisters), and a super-cute boyfriend. Now she gets $100,000 to start her own line and a mentorship from the Banana Republic design team too. Does this girl have everything or what?
What ran through your mind when Heidi Klum said Congratulations?
I didnt believe it. I was like, Are you sure? I really didnt think I was going to win. She kept complimenting Daniel. I thought, Holy crap, Im definitely not going to win this thing. So when she said Chloe, I was expecting, Chloe, youre out. When she said Congratulations, I was really, really shocked. You can see it on my face.
Will you do the Banana Republic mentorship gig?
Yeah. I dont understand why Jay [McCarroll, the first Runway winner] turned it down. For me, its sitting down and talking to people who are really experienced in what they have done. It would be great to have that connection, just to listen to people who know what theyre doing.
How much time was there between the show and the results?
We were shuffled right from the fashion show. We talked to some reporters and literally right after we were taken to Parsons and found out who was the winner, like three hours later.
You hadnt slept in how long?
For me and Santino, it was two and a half days. For Daniel, it was three days. My eyes were going down. I was getting really kinky.
I was surprised you were all able to keep it together when they were grilling you on the catwalk.
We were surprised too. Believe me! At that point it was Just let me sleep! But wed gone that far, it was the last step. And it was so hot under those spotlights. I had a little sweater on. I thought Im dying, but Ive got to look cute. It was important because I knew my mom was going to say something about it later on.
Was it hard keeping it a secret the past few weeks?
Actually it really wasnt because I really didnt think Id won. I was still in shock. I had to make myself believe it every few seconds. I didnt absorb [it] until today when everyone knows and is congratulating me.
Who is this mystery boyfriend that we hadnt heard of until two episodes ago? Hes hot!
Because its all about the outfits, not our love lives! [Laughs]
OK, but he was hot.
I went out with my gay boys yesterday and they said Chloe, youre a really cute girl, but your boyfriends hot so youd better be careful. I was like Dude! Were going home, honey. I met Ken 11 days before going on Project Runway and I was gone for a complete month and I only spoke to him twice. Im a lucky girl that he waited around for me. And weve been together for nine months through all this crazy stuff.
Kara also showed at Fashion Week [to keep the identities of the final four a secret]. How did they work that in?
It actually went Daniel, Kara, me, Santino. They just cut her out when they aired it. I was so happy that she had the chance to show.
How was it having Tim around?
It was really good. Sometimes you get so frigging focused in your garment you dont realize that its ugly or that its all wrong. Then he comes around and he slaps your face with some words. Hes, in a sense, a rude awakening sometimes, and if you dont listen to him, youre in trouble.
Was everyone really afraid of Zulema?
It is true. Well, I wasnt afraid of Zulema. I was afraid of Shatangi [the name Zulema gave to her alter ego]. Shatangi is definitely someone you dont want to tangle with. When we did the 13th challenge, I turned to Nick, I said, Maybe I should have another personality too, because its nice to blame it on another person. I should call myself Mewah. Its a good excuse because when youre a bitch, its Mewah, not me.
How does one spell Mewah?
I dont know, but it actually means something in Chinese or Korean. So Im going to get totally slammed.
OK, once and for all. How do you really feel about Santino?
I really feel for him. I do think hes a very, very, very creative person. As much as I thought he should have been eliminated after the ice skating competition because he didnt stick to any of the rules and he survivedif Sasha Cohen had ever worn that, she would never have gotten off the ice, you cant jump in that thing! But you still wonder what he would do next. And that creative power is so strong, I think it pulled him through the competition. Was it fair? He played the game really well. He was great television but he was also an interesting designer. Thats a bigger pull than his character. And he did apologize about the things he said, so Im over it. I wish him the best in the future.
Was there a moment of the final runway show that you are glad they didnt show on TV?
Last night I thought I saw my butt crack. I wear low-riding pants and I was afraid I was showing butt crack. If it did make it, thats the only thing I regret!
Do you feel the series represented you (and everyone) well? Were some people edited to look nicer or more bitchy than they really were?
I think its really accurate. A lot of other contestants say You think its accurate because you came out OK. No, I cried three times on national TV like a baby with my hands in my face. Thats a baby cry. Its hilarious that I cried with both hands on my face because I dont even do that normally.
Its more dramatic.
Its really dramatic! There are other components to our personalities. Santino is a jerk, but he is also a nice guy and very talented. Emmett is extremely funny but you dont ever see that on TV. And me, Im a raging gay guy, but you never see that.
The Associated Press quoted you as saying People are going to hate me, but Im really happy with my life and Im really happy Im the winner and Im really going to try to make something out of it, but am I going to be the next Vera Wang or Ralph Lauren? I dont know. It kinda comes across like you dont really want to be the next big thing. Is that true?
Ill be honest. Im not sure that I want that. I really want to be a balanced person. Im happy with what Im doing right now. My dream job is my business right now. I worked very hard to be where Im at right now. And I do have to question if I want to be the next Vera Wang, because it would take me 15 years to get there. I dont think people realize what it takes to get to that next level. I lived and worked in New York in fashion for eight years. I want to hang out with my hot boyfriend. When I was living in New York City, I was working for a very successful lady, who I dont want to name. I left because I didnt want to become a bitter, single New Yorker with tons of money but no love life. There were so many I was meeting. Im too fabulous for that! If people want to consider that doubt, thats different, but dont ever underestimate my determination. Im successful because Im doing what I love.
What celebrity would you love to dress?
Michelle Williams. I think she knows what shes doing. Shes not tall. Shes not skinny. But everything shes worn is perfection. Its stylish. I loved the [Vera Wang] dress she wore at the Oscars. Its exciting to me to watch what shell wear next.
Any chance youd try a mens line?
I dont know. Im not going to try something I dont have that much experience inreally, I have none. But everything is a possibility. I never thought Id be on Project Runway. I never thought Id win. So never say never.
What was your favorite challenge?
The Clothes Off Your Back [where the designers had to make an outfit using the clothes they were wearing at the time the challenge was assignedChloe had a small dress and a jacket]. I thought that was the best. It was a real hardcore challenge. If youre short like me, you have issues because Grace [Chloes model] was six feet tall! Some people even washed their underwear just in case they would use it. And that day I had a thong on, so I got nothing!
Think youll keep in touch with any of the contestants?
I do already! I talk to Emmett almost every day and Diana all the time. And I talk to Kara. Once in a while Ill talk to Daniel V. and Mr. Nick.
So do you have a posse of gay boys who you hang out with?
I was trying to avoid it because I had such a huge posse in New York. Thats why I was single forever. At my 27th birthday party, which my gay best friend set up for me, he forgot to mention he didnt invite any straight boys. That was the moment where I went Lord have mercy. Now I know why Im single. So when I moved back home Im like Im sorry, gay people, Im going to try to have a boyfriend so I cant hang out with you! Its too much fun! Sometimes when you go out with straight guys, theyre not as funny or as complimentary and you go Now I know why I want to hang out with my gay boys. But now I have a posse again. Im like a magnet. I cant help it.