Reality shows don’t always tell the real story.
Priscilla Barroso’s recent run on Fashion Star laser-focused on her quirky personality. Creative editing portrayed the Texas designer as something of a ‘sad clown’ character, nursing lonely feelings as she labored over cheerful, vintage-inspired frocks. Then, four episodes into the NBC series, she was eliminated – along with her chance of landing a lucrative deal with Macy’s, Express, or Saks Fifth Avenue.
Viewers learned little of Priscilla’s true vision and background, nor of the drama behind the Fashion Star scenes. And, really, there’s a whole lot more to this designer than beanies, bows, and polka dots.
We sat down with the newly-minted star earlier this week, and Priscilla shared much over café au lait with DFW Style Daily. Read on for Fashion Star intel, details on her new line, Crowned Bird, and much more.
DFW Style Daily: First, tell us a little about yourself and your path to becoming a designer.
Priscilla Barroso: “I wanted to study industrial design – I wanted to make door knobs. I really did! That was my goal. …How come we can’t take the everyday things that we see and make them special? Bringing back novelty and nostalgia was always a part of me, something I always wanted to do creatively.
“I was going to the Art Institute, and they didn’t really have a great program [for industrial design]. My only other option was fashion design. So, really, it was definitely ‘plan b’ in terms of where I thought I’d be right now.”
So, your love of vintage nostalgia isn’t just ‘made for television’?
“I’ve always been that way, for sure. I mean, I remember that in junior high I was definitely the first kid to wear bell-bottoms – way before it was cool! It makes me so happy. It comes from a really happy place. I just want to gather all the sweet novelties of life, take little details from the past, and throw them in there.
“But not everybody gets the references. …I spend a lot of time educating my retailers, more than anything, on the price points and on the inspiration itself.”
Speaking of inspiration, you launched your line, Crowned Bird, just last year. What sparked you to take the leap and strike out on your own?
“It was a regular Monday and I was like, I’m going to change my life today. …I got on a plane to Panama and saw my family. I missed my flight coming back, so I had time to go to the free trade zone and buy fabric and go meet with Kuna Indians and watch them make prints.
“…It was just amazing, and it was totally fate. It’s like my guiding force in my life. Things just happen as they should. I left all my clothes in Panama, packed three suitcases full of fabric, came back to the States, and started the line. Crowned Bird, for me, means being the queen of your own universe, to fly free. I built this to be an international brand. I want it to be a household name.”
Shortly after launching Crowned Bird, Fashion Star came on the scene. How were you selected to compete on the show?
“I went to the L.A. market and had a booth where I showed for the first time to wholesalers and I got scouted when I was there. …I was going to be back in Dallas the same week of the auditions, and I sat on my friend’s rooftop that same night – didn’t even waste a day – and for three hours went through the protocol and cut up a video.
“We started filming in September, so from June to September was the entire casting process. It’s a really long process. Anybody that gets on a reality show went through some hell to get there. Even if they want you, it’s not easy.”
The design and execution process on Fashion Star differs from that on Project Runway. How does it affect the competition?
“You guys, as viewers, you don’t get any of it, really – what we’re going through with our pattern maker and sewer. I felt like that was the real drama.
“I would sketch the design and then hand it over to the pattern maker. I had a pattern maker who was a guy, and he did menswear before. He didn’t really understand the female shape, I don’t think, as well as some of the other pattern makers. I had a lot of issues with him that weren’t seen. In fact, he walked off the show – not because of me, but because he was giving one of the directors ‘attitude.’ That was the real drama for me. I actually didn’t have any drama with my teammates at all.”
You received several critiques on the fit of your garments from celebrity mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos. Was this situation a factor?
“Exactly. When I would tell [the pattern maker] to do something, he would go against me because he thought I was this little girl that didn’t know anything. Not that he was trying to be vindictive; he was just really bull-headed and thought he was right about everything. I want people to know that I didn’t actually make [some of the clothing], because if had, it would have been better.”
Much was also made of the fact that the retailers viewed your designs as very ‘specific.’ What does that word mean to you today?
“I fast-forwarded through a lot of those scenes. …I am specific, but that’s not a bad thing! I feel like they chose me because of that. Out of thousands of people who auditioned for the show, they picked me, someone nobody knows. …The fact that I was even selected was amazing. I am so grateful for that.”
Do you feel that you would have more successful on the show with a different mix of retailers?
“I wanted to do the show so that I could inspire young girls to go for it, to do it themselves – and also because I thought H&M was on the show. I did not know that [H&M was not participating] until I got to the set. A lot of things are last minute in reality TV. …I was like, Oh my gosh! They’re going to hate me! I feel like I cater so much to the H&M client that I would have been more in my comfort zone every week.”
Were you ultimately able to connect with any of the retailers or buyers?
“I think Macy’s was definitely my gal and my store, in terms of what I’m catering to. Their Bar III line is incredible. I would wear everything in that collection. …Maybe, hopefully, in the future, there will be a new game plan and we can still keep on the Fashion Star train throughout the year.”
Do feel that the show was completely fair?
“It’s hard to tell. I don’t want to be one of those types to blame everybody else but me, but I felt like some moments were definitely more difficult for me than anybody else.”
Did you make any friends during filming?
“Cassandra is my girl. I love her, love her, love her! …She’s got a bright light around her, and we were magnets for each other right off the bat. And Daniel (pictured above) was so supportive.”
Do you think that being on television changes people?
“I think fame changes people. I don’t necessarily think that being on television changes people, even though reality is such a huge industry now.
“…I give it up for reality stars. To really withstand any hating online, stuff like that – you never had to worry about that before. These are things that I didn’t really consider or wonder if I was strong enough to handle until I had to deal with it. Fame can change you if you’re not strong enough to deal with it.”
Finally, if you had it to do over again, would you still compete on Fashion Star?
To explore Crowned Bird by Priscilla Barroso, visit CrownedBird.com. Shop online or click here for a list of stockists. Fashion Star images via NBC.com. Photographs of Priscilla Barroso by Heather Lettieri for DFW Style Daily.