Jay Nicolas Sario: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

I was surprised to find out that, despite watching the show for many years, I've never interviewed a Project Runway contestant for Oasis before. This year, I was interested to talk with Jay Nicholas Sario, who lives in San Francisco, works for The Gap, and as of this writing, is still going strong on the show. We set up the interview recently through the show's publicist, only to discover that we work within a block of one another. Jay jumped on the phone call just as my automated corporate teleconference voice announced that the call was being recorded. He immediately jumped in.

Oh no... I'm nervous!

But there's no video?! They video'd you on Project Runway. This is just audio and it's not even going to be broadcast.

OK.

So, we were interested in getting you in Oasis. It's a gay youth site, if you checked it out. It's been around since 1995, and we already featured Tim Gunn before, but I think you're the first Project Runway contestant that we've had.

Is it OK if I'm straight? I'm not gay.

Uhh... you might want to talk to the Lifetime people, because their site seems to think you're gay, with a male partner, who wants kids in 10 years. So there's a little confusion there.

(laughs)

So, is this a dream of yours to be on the show? Have you been wanting to be on it since season one, season two?

It's funny, because when it first came out I didn't have cable, and one of my roommates was talking about the show when season one aired. He kept talking about Project Runway, and I was like, 'What is he talking about?' So, I finally got to see the first episode. It was a rerun, and I went to my friend's house, and I watched it and thought, 'Wow, this is a really interesting show.'

The fact that designers are competing against each other, and whoever's going to win wins $100,000 and a chance to show his or her collection at Bryant Park. That was so attractive to me, and appetizing. I was like, 'I want to be on that show. How do I get on that show?'

So, I started to work on my designs, because I never really worked as a fashion designer. I've always been sort of a stylist for The Gap, and I've been doing this job for nine years now. So, I made a few pieces, and I found out they were doing tryouts for the third season, so I flew to New York.

I made it as far as the second round, which is like 1 out of 10 people, and you go to the judging panel with Tim Gunn, Daniel Vosovic, and a representative for Elle Magazine, which is the magazine Nina Garcia worked for at that time.

I made it through the door, got to meet Tim Gunn and Daniel Vosovic, but they ended up hating my pieces, and I felt so devastated. I was like, 'I don't think I deserve to be in this show.'

They gave me very little feedback, but it meant a lot to me. They basically told me that my work looked unfinished, and like it was done very fast, in a rush. And I took that feedback and thought, 'Maybe they're right.' I gave myself two weeks to work on the portfolio I brought with me, and I thought of it very deeply and said to myself, 'One day, I'll make it on to that show.' I went back for tryouts for Season 7, and that's when they finally fell in love with the pieces I brought with me. They just gave me amazing praise and it felt good.

On your bio, it says you knew you wanted to be involved in fashion at age 11. How does that manifest itself at age 11?

I think when you're gay in the Philippines, you automatically get into things... you can be a hairstylist, an actor or actress, or a designer. And, at 11, I had this passion for fashion. I remember drawing fashion illustrations, and they were not that great. They were like stick figures with garments that did not make sense on them, and I just continued to do that and I got really, really good at it, as I drew very often.

At 11, that was probably sixth or fifth grade, back home in the Philippines, and I just sketched and sketched. And then when I went to high school, in my junior or senior year, I ended up designing the whole entire campus's prom dress, like all the girls came up to me and asked me to design their prom dress. It was kind of this entire collection that I created, but I didn't sew it. I sent the girls to a seamstress I know, and she sewed all the pieces I designed.