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Fan Favorite Anya Reveals Her Plans for Her Prize — Sharing With Anthony Ryan

By CaitlinB Fri., Oct. 28, 2011 ,5:48 pm EDT

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."

Anthony Ryan Auld and Anya Ayoung Chee share the Fan Favorite prize moneyA: 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!