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''Runway'' exit Q&A: Ricky

The lingerie designer talks about his losing WWE outfit, his distinctive hats, and all that crying

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Going into a tricky challenge on last week’s Project Runway — creating a look for the diva-wrestlers of the WWE — lingerie designer Ricky Lizalde had mixed feelings: He’d just won the challenge the previous week (his first victory), but because of the show’s rising stakes, wasn’t granted immunity. Plus, he had the distinct feeling that no one wanted him on the show anyway. Alas, the judges did end up auf’ing him. We checked in with Runway‘s resident crier to get his side of the story.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Heading onto the runway with your diva that evening, how were you feeling?
RICKY LIZALDE: Well, I was nervous. I was nervous to see how they were going to put it all together and what the outcome was going to be. And, of course, the outcome was what it was. I was sad to see myself go.

Do you think Sweet P should have gone before you?
In that challenge, yeah, I do think she should have gone before me. It’s funny because I think she [thought that], too.

What do you think went wrong?
Maybe mine wasn’t as sparkly as everyone else’s. If it was, like, Hulk Hogan or somebody that told me that my outfit wasn’t appropriate for the ring, then I can swallow that, but I just can’t swallow it from a bunch of fashion designers. I gave my client what she wanted, and she loved it.

Yeah, that’s the sense that I got…. Did she like that tunic overlay? It seems like the judges were harsh about that, in addition to the swimsuit.
She liked the whole idea — she doesn’t like a lot of flash, so I was like, ”All right, let’s just do something hot and sexy and sparkly, and show them who you are.” She’s gorgeous, and I wanted to accentuate her best parts. She was hot, and I would have loved to see her wrestle in that.

Did you think you’d be voted off going into it? You sort of alluded to that.
I was trying to balance the idea of fashion and costume and this weird challenge we had. I thought this challenge was kind of a joke…. I came on the show to do a runway show and things that dealt with fashion, and to be told you didn’t make the right costume but you made something fashionable was a little bit of an oxymoron to me. That whole episode was…I just haven’t swallowed it.

How do you go from winning one week to leaving the next? Because this was the first challenge where no one was safe — no immunity was granted last week.
[The denim challenge the week before] was such a great challenge to win and such a great opportunity, and to not be given immunity… It was so difficult that I think it warranted immunity, so to speak. But you know, it’s Project Runway and the rules are…you never know.

I’ve got to ask about Spandex House, where you all bought fabrics for this challenge. We didn’t see much of it on screen. Is there really an all-spandex store here in New York City?
It’s a store [where] you buy any kind of fabric that stretches. A lot of drag queens go there. It’s tailor-made for swimwear or costume-wear or tranny-wear, all that stuff. If you want anything that stretches, sparkly or not, it’s there.

NEXT PAGE: ”I internalized a lot and I think by kind of doing that the frustration turned to tears. It’s better tears than me blowing up and being an a–hole.”

You made comments that your competitors didn’t want you there. Did they make that apparent?
For me, my journey was a real personal journey. I made friends with a couple of people that were real in the sense that it was like, ”Okay, you’re not putting up a front.” But then you have the kind of people that think that the world is entitled to them. When you are around those kind of personalities, you go with what you think is right and what in your heart feels good to you. No one really said, ”You don’t deserve to be here,” but when you’re on the bottom for so long it’s hard not to doubt yourself.

The blogosphere has been eating you up over the multiple times you cried. Some people are just criers — are you? Or do you think the producers played that up?
If you know me as a person, you know it takes a lot for me to cry. I grew some really thick skin. But when you’re exposed to certain things and are really putting yourself out there — not only creatively but also emotionally and, I guess, sexually — it was kind of exploiting myself to the people that I love and care for. I didn’t want that to impose on them, and I didn’t want it to be ugly for them. I felt like at times I was disappointing them by my actions.

But they’re proud of what you did?
Oh, yeah. That’s my perception when I went into it. But coming out of it and seeing all this and hearing from my family how great it all is, it’s just the best thing I could have done. There is no hiding who I am and denying who I am, not only to my country but also to my family. I thought that was a nice bonus.

I didn’t feel like you hid who you were at all…but you mean you didn’t have to put it on display?
That’s my point. When I went on this show I told myself, I told everybody, ”I am going to be who I am and myself.” Whatever that means. I internalized a lot and I think by kind of doing that the frustration turned to tears. It’s better tears than me blowing up and being an a–hole. I’d rather do it to myself than make someone else feel horrible. I know there were opportunities to, but that’s just not me.

What are you up to now?
I’m building my website. I’m actually working on a photo shoot right now. I just finished my fall collection, Lizalde, my lingerie label. That will be on my website, coming very soon. My line is retailing at Neiman Marcus, select Nordstrom stores, and little specialty boutiques across the country.

What’s the idea behind your lingerie?
I like pretty things, obviously, whatever form of pretty they may be. I want the woman, whoever is putting on my lingerie at the end of the day, to feel sexy if she wants to, comfortable if she wants to, pretty. At the same time, lingerie serves a purpose: to make the women feel great about herself or to entice her partner. That’s what I think my purpose is with my lingerie. It’s a high-end line, but it’s for your special moments, so to speak. That’s the best way to put it: My lingerie is for those special moments.

What about a line of hats? They’re your personal trademark.
Yeah, I’m working on putting my hats on the market. All the hats you see on the show are mine, except for the trucker hat. I’m also in the works on doing a swimwear line. It’s so similar to lingerie, and it’s also that sexy thing… I said to somebody else, ”If you can’t go to bed in it, you can go to the pool in it.”