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Project Runway Blog

Runway Redemption: Vote for Valerie Mayen, Season 8

By kim_messina 05/16/2013 12:00PM GMT

Valerie Mayen was eliminated during the textile challenge in Season 8, Episode 10. She is ready to lay it on the all on the runway...again!

1. Bring us up to speed! What have you been up to since you were eliminated?

There's been quite a lot going on in my life since PR8. The year following my season was a good one, filled with crazy schedules, speaking engagements, small endorsements and exciting opportunities for my brand, Yellowcake. I worked tirelessly to capitalize on the momentum and exposure I received from the show. I was met with such positive encouragement, affirmation and support from fans and clients. 2010 was a good year, but 2011 and 2012 were a bit darker with a major breakup from my boyfriend of nearly 2 years and losing my best friend/mentor/mother figure of nearly 8 years to cancer. I also lost touch with my parents and we have yet to speak since November of 2011. Needless to say, there have been good times and there have been bad.

I also traveled to India and Africa since filming PR8. I went to Africa with the HALO foundation to work with young girls in orphanages in Uganda. I taught sewing and textile arts to girls at 5 different homes. I was there for over 2 weeks and plan to return in 8 months to a year to pursue a social enterprise venture that involves sewing and creating educational opportunities for Ugandan women. With my company Yellowcake, we give 5% of our profits to the City mission, a local homeless shelter, and we also firmly believe in domestic production and employing local. It's always been my mission to marry creativity with humanitarianism. Working in Africa and other developing countries is just the start to continuing our mission in the states to countries abroad.

As far as my career is concerned, things couldn't be better! There have been some challenges along the way, but I’m still working as hard as I always have and continuing to grow and build my work and name. 2011 and 2012 were a bit dark and heavy, but 2013 is proving to be my silver lining. At the start of the year I was able to raise a bit of money from a new event I started here in Cleveland called "Hullabaloo"! It's my attempt to start a fun fashion centric event that occurs annually in Cleveland to showcase a more adventurous and theatrical collection of my work. Our first year sold out and was a huge success, allowing me to gain a bit of capital to renovate and expand my small store that i currently have in an urban/artsy neighborhood here in Cleveland. We just opened about a month ago, and though the process was hellish and trying, we have had a positive response and loyal support from patrons. I’ve won a few Cleveland artist grants as well and entered every competition locally that I can to earn/win money for my business. In 3 years I’ve been able to create 4 part time sewing jobs for local women to assist me in producing inventory for my small store, Yellowcake. I’ve also taken on 4-5 interns a year, helping several prepare for design school themselves. All in all, my goal is to make beautiful work, create sustainable jobs and teach others to do the same, but it’s not easy going at it alone. That’s where "Project Runway" comes in.

2. What garment from your season of "Runway" do fans compliment you on the most?
Fans compliment me most on my Marie Claire challenge dress or my dress from the party store challenge. I actually made a modified version of the dress I made for the Marie Claire challenge and it’s been my top seller online ever since! I also made a fabric version of the party store challenge garment for our first annual Hullabaloo event collection. It took me nearly a week and 400 squares of silk cotton and georgette to make the damned thing, but it looks great and was one of the top favorites of the event. Most women love the Marie Claire dress for its function and flattery. Others love the party store dress for its volume and whimsy. I like them both because they are the most indicative of my style and voice.

3. What are your strengths as a designer at this point in your career?
At this point in my career, I’d say my strengths are color and shape. I’ve spent the better part of the last 3 years learning what my client wants, what they’ll pay for certain colors and cuts and how to cater to a certain demographic while still maintaining my artistic vision. I use a lot of bold color and prints in my work and I LOVE using layers, pockets, shape and silhouette to flatter the figure, make a statement or serve a practical wearable need. Most of my clients love my use of stripes, chevrons, layering, pockets and color. Those are the things I focus on when designing and they are my favorite bases to use in my work.

4. How has your design aesthetic changed since your time on the show, if at all?
My design aesthetic has definitely "grown up" for lack of a better word (uh, phrase?). I think my work has become a bit more polished, confident and defined. Where before, perhaps the judges couldn’t see a clear vision or perhaps they felt I lacked a more refined design sense, now, after running my business full time, designing and sewing nearly EVERY day and indulging in the fashion of other cultures far and away, I’ve honed in on my voice. It’s fun, it’s clear, it’s crisp and it’s definitely more me. It’s me, just the grown up, developed, brighter, better, cleaner, more sophisticated, more "you can take me seriously now" me.

5. Why do you think you deserve a second chance?
Are you sitting down for this? It’s a long one…

I know some might think it’s unfair for me to have a second chance, for anyone to have a second chance for that matter. I know the other designers may be new and without any branding or business to their name, while others may be well-seasoned veterans with eons of experience and credentials out the wazoo. I know that some people may think I’m not good enough or capable, but that’s PRECISELY why I deserve a second chance, because I fall in that happy medium between "fresh out of design school student" and "big fashion label employee/freelance designer to the stars entrepreneur." I’m a simple girl, with a simple business and big dreams to do good things with fashion. I know that Heidi, Nina and Michael deep down want the same and I can only hope and pray that I can show them that in Season 12. I am capable, I am driven and I am ready. Ready (or crazy ) to do this all over again. To endure the sleepless nights, the long hours, the bubble guts, the humiliation and annihilation, the stress, the excitement, the uncertainty…I’m ready for all of it because my business, my staff, my friends and my sister depend on it.

I run a small fashion business, I employ 5 women part time, I have over $45,000 in student loans from art school, (Should’ve been a doctor?) I teach over 10-12 interns a year, my little sister just moved in with me from Texas nearly 6 months ago to make it as a pastry chef in Cleveland, my late best friend's children (all 8 of them) are chomping at the bit for me to win this thing for their mom, I just built my first brick and mortar store and now have $20G in loans to friends and the bank to repay AND my shady conman of a contractor swindled me out of nearly $5G in hidden costs and delays…so, that is ALSO why I deserve a second chance. Running a small business is hard enough without outside help and I need this to grow my business and support the people that depend on me everyday. My success is their success.

I’ve struggled all my life with feeling insignificant. Some theories point to middle child syndrome, others point to my parents lack of involvement in my personal and professional life once I left home at 17. When on PR8, I struggled with the same feelings of insignificant when I was never able to earn a challenge win. Several times I came so so close, but never a win. When I was eliminated and even after the show, I sometimes felt overlooked, forgotten or mistaken for someone else. When I was asked to be a part of Season 10's Emmy dress episode, my dress got little attention. I was never asked to write a blog for the show or design garments or products for events. I felt maybe I hadn’t made the impression on the judges and PR as a whole that I wanted to. I deserve a second chance for the sake of redemption. For the sake of a second look at what I can really do when looked at with a fresh pair of eyes. I really think everyone will be surprised.

People are always putting Cleveland down. Making assumptions and judgments based on what the media and Forbes tells them about our condition. But I love it, grit and all. It’s been my home for nearly 12 years and I wouldn’t change a thing about it (except the parking ticket fines). I still aim to prove to everyone that extraordinary things can come out of unexpected places. That the underdog can come out on top. In case you were wondering, I’m the underdog=))

All that to say, I think I could and would make the most of this opportunity. I have too, I need too, I want too. Not just for myself but for my city, my staff, my interns, my family, and for Lisa, my champion. I will fight as hard as I need to redeem myself from my elimination of my season. I have so much more to show (cliché as it may sound) and I think the judges and lifetime will be pleased to see what I’ve got. I've always rooted for the underdog, and honestly, I don't think the judges or some fans gave me the credit that I deserved for the work I did. I think it'd be great to show the world that the little guy can come out on top too. There's never been a Latin American female winner or a winner from Ohio much less. I'd love the opportunity to be the dark horse winner no one saw coming. To challenge the status quo and surprise everyone who thought otherwise. I started sewing on cinderblocks and plywood tables, and now I have a small store to call my own. To be on PR12 and really go the distance, that would be my dream!

View Valerie's recent work

Rate her "Project Runway" Season 8 designs

Watch Valerie's Season 8 Exit Interview:

More Valerie videos:
-Extended Judging of Valerie Mayen, Episode 10
-Valerie Mayen’s Birthday Party – A "Project Runway" Bonus Scene
-Tim Critiques Valerie Mayen: Episode 10
-Valerie Mayen’s Closet Tour
-Valerie Mayen’s Home Visit
-Valerie Mayen’s Casting Session