Runway's Queen of the Catwalk
By Jeffrey Epstein
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 didn't believe it. I was like, 'Are you sure?' I really didn't think I was going to win. She kept complimenting Daniel. I thought, Holy crap, I'm definitely not going to win this thing. So when she said 'Chloe,' I was expecting, 'Chloe, you're 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 don't understand why Jay [McCarroll, the first Runway winner] turned it down. For me, it's 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 they're 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 hadn't 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 we'd gone that far, it was the last step. And it was so hot under those spotlights. I had a little sweater on. I thought I'm dying, but I've 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 wasn't because I really didn't think I'd won. I was still in shock. I had to make myself believe it every few seconds. I didn't absorb [it] until today when everyone knows and is congratulating me.
Who is this mystery boyfriend that we hadn't heard of until two episodes ago? He's hot!
Because it's 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, you're a really cute girl, but your boyfriend's hot so you'd better be careful.' I was like 'Dude! We're 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. I'm a lucky girl that he waited around for me. And we've 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 don't realize that it's ugly or that it's all wrong. Then he comes around and he slaps your face with some words. He's, in a sense, a rude awakening sometimes, and if you don't listen to him, you're in trouble.
Was everyone really afraid of Zulema?
It is true. Well, I wasn't afraid of Zulema. I was afraid of Shatangi [the name Zulema gave to her 'alter ego']. Shatangi is definitely someone you don't want to tangle with. When we did the 13th challenge, I turned to Nick, I said, 'Maybe I should have another personality too,' because it's nice to blame it on another person. I should call myself Mewah. It's a good excuse because when you're a bitch, it's Mewah, not me.
How does one spell Mewah?
I don't know, but it actually means something in Chinese or Korean. So I'm 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 he's a very, very, very creative person. As much as I thought he should have been eliminated after the ice skating competition because he didn't stick to any of the rules and he survived'if Sasha Cohen had ever worn that, she would never have gotten off the ice, you can't 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. That's a bigger pull than his character. And he did apologize about the things he said, so I'm over it. I wish him the best in the future.
Was there a moment of the final runway show that you are glad they didn't 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, that's 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 it's really accurate. A lot of other contestants say 'You think it's accurate because you came out OK.' No, I cried three times on national TV like a baby with my hands in my face. That's a baby cry. It's hilarious that I cried with both hands on my face because I don't even do that normally.
It's more dramatic.
It's 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 don't ever see that on TV. And me, I'm a raging gay guy, but you never see that.
The Associated Press quoted you as saying 'People are going to hate me, but I'm really happy with my life and I'm really happy I'm the winner and I'm really going to try to make something out of it, but am I going to be the next Vera Wang or Ralph Lauren? I don't know.' It kinda comes across like you don't really want to be the next big thing. Is that true?
I'll be honest. I'm not sure that I want that. I really want to be a balanced person. I'm happy with what I'm doing right now. My dream job is my business right now. I worked very hard to be where I'm 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 don't 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 don't want to name. I left because I didn't want to become a bitter, single New Yorker with tons of money but no love life. There were so many I was meeting. I'm too fabulous for that! If people want to consider that doubt, that's different, but don't ever underestimate my determination. I'm successful because I'm doing what I love.
What celebrity would you love to dress?
Michelle Williams. I think she knows what she's doing. She's not tall. She's not skinny. But everything she's worn is perfection. It's stylish. I loved the [Vera Wang] dress she wore at the Oscars. It's exciting to me to watch what she'll wear next.
Any chance you'd try a men's line?
I don't know. I'm not going to try something I don't have that much experience in'really, I have none. But everything is a possibility. I never thought I'd be on Project Runway. I never thought I'd 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 assigned'Chloe had a small dress and a jacket]. I thought that was the best. It was a real hardcore challenge. If you're short like me, you have issues because Grace [Chloe's 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 you'll 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 I'll 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. That's why I was single forever. At my 27th birthday party, which my gay best friend set up for me, he forgot to mention he didn't invite any straight boys. That was the moment where I went 'Lord have mercy. Now I know why I'm single.' So when I moved back home I'm like 'I'm sorry, gay people, I'm going to try to have a boyfriend so I can't hang out with you! It's too much fun!' Sometimes when you go out with straight guys, they're 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. I'm like a magnet. I can't help it.