Project Runway Junior's first-ever winner speaks about her finale collection
Just hours after celebrating her Project Runway Junior win with friends and family in Ohio — and months after filming the finale — 14-year-old Maya is still processing her victory. “It’s surreal,” she tells EW.
In Thursday’s finale, Maya competed with three other designers — Samantha, Peytie, and Zachary — in the first-ever Project Runway Junior finale show. (You can read the full episode recap here.) Although the judges were wowed by all four collections (judge Christian Siriano showed in the same building for Fashion Week just two days before and said the teen designers “gave me a run for my money”), it was Maya’s “female warrior in a field of flowers” collection that landed her the win.
So how does someone so young create such a stunning collection? Lots and lots of YouTube videos. Maya says neither of her parents knew how to sew, but she wanted to learn. So as a third-grader, she watched videos to acquire the skills needed. And clearly that time on the web paid off.
Throughout the season, Maya designed impressive looks that made her a fan and judge favorite. She says the first look in her finale runway collection as well as the look she and Peytie made for the red-carpet challenge are among her favorites. And though she did have a couple of missteps on the show (she was twice in the bottom three), she wouldn’t “redo” any of her looks; she might, however, “improve” the look she created for the client challenge, because it was too simple for the client’s New Year’s Eve request.
Maya says watching all of these challenges back home, knowing the world was watching, was a new experience for her. “Having all of my classmates see me on TV was both a little bit great and a little bit weird,” she says. But overall she received plenty of support, she says.
For Maya and the other teens, Project Runway Junior offered a chance for the young designers to be around peers who shared a love of fashion. “It was beyond cool to be around other people who have the same passion as I do,” she says, “and I think that made us all have a really close bond.” Maya says they all got along well on and off camera, and they still text now.
Perhaps the young designers can share some advice with the future adult designers of Project Runway original and All Stars because they always seem to have problems working together: “I would definitely tell the adult designers that if they get frustrated, do not take their anger out on their teammates. No matter what, it won’t get you out of that challenge.” But she also goes on to say that sticking up for yourself and staying true to your own aesthetic — a lesson she learned throughout her time on the show — is important. “Don’t be afraid to express your opinions, but do so in a caring and calm manner.”
As for what we can expect to see from Maya next, she’s hoping to launch an online store and begin rolling out her next collection. How will she do that with school? “Very little sleep.”