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Fan Favorite Anya Reveals Her Plans for Her Prize — Sharing With Anthony Ryan
Daniel Vosovic, Mychael Knight, Christian Siriano. Anya Ayoung-Chee is the latest in a line of standout "Project Runway" contestants who have taken home the title of Fan Favorite designer. This year, Lifetime reinstated the voting process with Twitter, and in the process, reinvigorated a tiny Caribbean country's national pride. Anya reveals her surprising plans for her $10,000 prize — sharing it with a fellow designer.
Caitlin: It was a close race for Season 9 Fan Favorite up until the very end between you and Anthony Ryan. You received an overwhelming amount of hometown love.
Anya: It was literally people who had never been on Twitter before were signing up to support me. They were running it on the news. It was such an incredible, incredible experience. I heard that 11,000 people were voting nonstop. It was insane. It's easier to understand when you know what it's like to come from a small place. It meant the absolute world to them ... And it wasn't just Trinidad and Tobago, it was pretty much across the Caribbean. Crazy amounts of loyalty.
C: There were many tweets in support of you that said, "This isn't just Anya winning Fan Favorite, this unified a country."
A: I'm so glad people were able to witness that. I have to be honest, I got a little not sure how to handle things towards the end, because Anthony Ryan and I are very good friends. I stayed out of it until the very end until I realized that it was bigger than me. Trinidad is currently in a state of emergency because crime has escalated, which means there's a curfew every night. It's been like this for months now. This whole thing, Fan Favorite, became about Trinidadians feeling proud. It lifted people's spirits. I can't downplay how much of an impact this has had. Because we are currently in a bad state and people are quite upset about it, voting for me as Fan Favorite became a shining light amidst of all of the depression.
C: What will you do with the $10,000 Fan Favorite prize?
A: I decided to use the money to set up a microfinance loan program for young creatives in Trinidad and Tobago. I'd like the fund to grow to be across the Caribbean. I grew up in a way that really didn't encourage creative careers as a viable way of making a living. I grew up thinking I should become a doctor, or something more "conventional." I'm very lucky to have parents who supported my real desire to become a designer, but a lot of young people grow up thinking that they can't do a creative job for a "real" living. So I want to bridge the gap between the people who want to do something in a creative field and provide a way for people to make a viable career. I didn't really win this. Trinidad and Tobago did, and the money should go back to them.
I am also giving half to Anthony Ryan's Rock One campaign fund. We were so close the whole time; if it wasn't because Fan Favorite became such a national and regional effort, Anthony was winning. His cause is equally important.
C: It's admirable that you both had plans to do something charitable with the money. No one else stood a chance once you two took the lead.
A Young men with cancer doesn't receive the attention in the media it deserves, and I really admire him. He's amazing. He was there for me at important times throughout the competition, and I love him as a person. Beyond all that, testicular cancer was pushed into the limelight when he discussed it on the show. I'm happy to share it with him.
C: Fan Favorite really broke down the "fourth wall" between the designers and their fans this season in particular because it was done via Twitter and you and Anthony Ryan were so active in promoting it.
A: It's true. People really develop relationships with us. We're in people's homes once a week, and this is a big part of the whole experience. I'm glad Lifetime brought Fan Favorite back!