Ricky Lizalde isn’t crying about being eliminated from Bravo’s Project Runway. He’s instead moving forward. In fact, he talks to us from his basement while preparing to headline a fashion event in his hometown of Escondido, Ca, the city where he and his 13 brothers and sisters grew up with their Mexican – and strict Catholic – parents. The 35-year-old reveals that this heritage is reflected in his creations, from his clothing to his personally-designed tattoos, the most noticeable of these being a Virgen de Guadalupe image permanently engraved on his shoulder. Lizalde even designs his own hats, an accessory he was never without while on the show.
Long before competing on the fourth season of the hit reality show, Lizalde moved to New York in the hopes of becoming a dancer. He made it to the stage, and also became his dance company’s costume designer in the process. From there he landed jobs with the high-profile design houses Valentino, Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang, and he became skilled at the art of lingerie.
Read on to get the inside scoop on Project Runway and find out why Ricky was so prone to shedding tears under the harsh lights of reality television.
You were eliminated after creating an outfit for a WWE female wrestler. Do you feel like you got gypped for being sent home after a challenge like that?
Yeah, I really did. It had nothing to do with fashion. I thought what a poor choice of challenges to have right before they decide who’s going to fashion week. It should have been more related to fashion than, you know, a joke. If it was another wrestler who was judging it, then I could swallow what they said, but come on, those wrestlers, what do they wear? They get some bathing suits and some panty hose and bedazzle them. For me it was like, oh whatever.
If you had made it to Bryant Park, what would your collection look like?
It would definitely be very Ricky. It would be strongly influenced by lingerie details, lingerie lines, and definitely built from lace. I design all my laces. It would be a unique fabric, because I would play with ways of using lace that you just don’t see out there. It would just be very sexy. Not vulgar sexy, but just breathtakingly sexy. Like Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts. That kind of a moment. You can’t not like it.
What Hispanic celebrity would you like to design a gown for?
I would have to say Salma Hayek. I’ve loved her since she first came on the scene. I think she’s gorgeous and a very intelligent woman. I respect what she does for my people (laughs). She came with a lot of obstacles to Hollywood so to speak, and look where she’s at, and with a thick accent. You gotta love her more for that.
Overall, how would you describe your experience on reality TV?
Well, you’re talking to the guy that cried every freaking episode (laughs). It just really turns up parts of your personality. Instead of it being at a 4 or a 5, it’s at a 10. And for the people who aren’t so happy about how they were portrayed, they need to check themselves. I knew that being on TV was going to be another way for the world to see who I am and what I represent as a Latino. I really felt like I had a sense of responsibility to Latinos everywhere, just to say we’re out here, I’m creative, I’m gay, and accept it. I’m proud of it. To me it was that kind of a journey, and that’s what made it so emotional.
How does being Latino affect your perspective as a designer?
Who I am as a designer has a lot to do with the Chicano in me. I grew up with my sisters – a couple of my sisters are cholas. All of that is going to play a part in my life. I love bright colors; I love prints, things that are emotional for me. If I approach something and it grabs me right away and says something to me emotionally, I run with that. Being Latino, you grow up with the Virgin Mary and Jesus and all these people in framed pictures as if they were your family. The colors, the paintings and all that energy definitely played a part in growing up and my craft.
What’s life been like for you post-Project Runway?
It’s strange. The weirdest experience I’ve had yet was a Danny DeVito experience. I was at the airport and he saw me and said, ‘I really liked you on the show.’ He ended up asking me for my autograph for his daughter. I was like ‘I can’t believe this.’ It’s like wow, you go from being anonymous to everyone knowing you. It’s weird.
So how long does a Project Runway judging really last?
The judgings last hours. Sometimes seven hours. It’s painful. And you’re talking to one of the persons who was up there a lot (laughs).
Are you happy that Victoria went home before you?
Yeah, I really am. You’re the first person that ever asked that, but yeah. We don’t talk. I’ve approached her, I’ve said hi to her, but if you’re going to get snubbed for being a nice person, it’s not worth it.
Who’s your favorite to win?
Either Jillian or Rami. Their work is worthy. I also say that with reluctance because you never know with the judges.