Empowerment Series: 2021 Winner of Season 19, Bravo’s Project Runway, Fashion Designer, Shantall Lacayo Shares her Win with AW
Shantall Lacayo is living the American Dream. The girl from Nicaragua was taught to sew at the early age of 4. By the time she was 13, Shantall started her first business selling her own brand of t-shirts. Although her dream was to have a career in fashion, it would not be possible, so she went into marketing, instead. Fashion careers did not exist in her country but she continued to hold on to her dreams. Shantall’s passion did not fade, she held on to the idea that one day she would be able to create her own designs. As an adult, she moved to Miami with her husband to flee Nicaragua’s political violence. The move helped her gain the freedom to follow her dreams full time and begin her own brand.
In 2010, she came in the first runner-up in Project Runway: Latin America.
In 2020, the designer began to sell her clothes, masks, and jewelry on social media.
Most recently, in 2021, Shantall won Season 19 of Bravo’s Project Runway!
AW had the amazing opportunity to interview the designer. We sat down over Zoom to have an inspiring conversation about her dreams, designs, and what it meant to win this competition.
I read your interview in Elle Magazine, where you said “Hell no! I’m not doing this, again. It’s too hard,” referring to the prospect of doing Season19: Project Runway, after coming to the first runner-up spot on Project Runway: Latin America in 2010. What was going on in your head during the moment you were trying to decide if you wanted to take on this challenge? You were being given a chance at the American Dream. Why was it important for you to do this season? It is the American Dream but behind the scenes, it’s also all about stress and anxiety. Eleven years ago, I competed on a similar platform. This is about fighting the demons from the past, being almost there then seeing your dreams fall apart at the time. But I have learned that everything happens for a reason. Jorge Duque, an amazing designer won that completion. He was the age, I am now when he won. It was a big disappointment but I knocked on doors, got sponsors, and took the experience as a lesson. I realized it when the opportunity for Season 19’s Project Runway came around. My husband helped me realize this is was a major opportunity. When you have a family and your own business, you have to remove the ego. This was such an amazing opportunity and I had to do it.
You’ve said this competition is “as much about mental strength, as it is about talent.” Viewers were on the edge of their seats during the episode you almost left. Thank you Christian Soriano for the save! You came back with even more determination! How did that moment affect your mental strength? When Christian gave me the Siriano save, I decided to do my best. I knew, I needed as much exposure as possible, so I had to give this 200%. I realized this was a game and moved forward with that mindset. Television time is not the same as real-time. There was a lot of work to do in fewer hours, so much stress. The biggest prize I got from the show, especially after 2020 and going through all the emotional crises of the past year has been emotional and mental growth. We have to be strong, accept the moment and what’s happening, not let the wall of emotions get the best of us.
As a designer, you create elegant and unique pieces for the modern woman, many of which reflect a touch of the culture. As a Latina, how do you hope to impact the fashion world and inspire younger generations? There is so much happening in the world, everything is happening so fast. There’s metaverse and everyone focusing on the future, so we have to remind ourselves where we come from. Life is changing, now America is looking to Latin America for a different perspective. Having a balance between the American market and Latino DNA is amazing.
Project Runway is a platform that offers designers many opportunities to build their brand. What would you like your brand to say to the world or 3 words that describe your brand? Sustainability and consciousness, artistic and sophistication is a perfect balance. Having something couture but wearable is what the brand is about.
I like to end all our interviews with a positive message or advice that can help inspire, empower our encourage, listeners. As women, we tend to put our dreams on hold to take care of others. Why did you decide to go for it? As Latinas, we are very close to our kids, they are the focus of our lives. But we have to be happy, on our own. The most important thing in my life is my son but if I’m not happy, I won’t have the strength to do all the things, needed from me. I am learning to fight the guilt that came when I became a mother. We make sacrifices to give our loved ones a better life. Even though my son gives me every happiness, I had to do this to give him better opportunities, too.
Why should we go for our dreams at any age? It is normal to feel guilt. We should try as much as we can to do something that makes us happy. Whether it is a business, personal space, having a moment for yourself, take the time to do it. Stop living your dreams through your kids. The moment to figure out what makes you happy is now.
Shantall is a wonderful mother, wife, and designer. Like you and me, she is a woman who loves her family but understands the power of individuality. We don’t lose our identity because we agree to be part of a relationship or motherhood. Her passion for creating beautiful designs gives her purpose. The happiness she consumes from the power of the love around her transcends in her work. Her designs are exquisite and one-of-a-kind pieces tailored for the confident and modern woman who stands in her own power.
The Latina is as strong and real as they come. The world is waiting to see what she does next but she is proof that dreams do come true, so never give up!
You can watch the full interview with Shantall on the AW YouTube channel or listen to our chat on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Anchor, and anywhere you find your podcasts.
You can find out more about Shantall Lacayo by visiting shantalllacayo.com, Instagram@shantalllacayo, and BravoTV – Project Runway.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.*
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