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2011 - Volume 2 Issue 2
Casas Bonitas
Remodeling a Home
Article: Wayne Hilton
Courtesy Photos: Wayne Hilton
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With the growing popularity of networks such as HGTV and DIY, the momentum behind designers becoming design "personalities" has grown with equal fervor. Being a person whose life has centered around design, I get the appeal. As much as I want to resist joining the masses of design aficionados caught up in the frenzy of this designer "reality" television, I'm hooked. Yes, I love the big reveal...the "tah-dah" moment exposing the result of the mega home makeover. There is also a part of me that has the idea that, "I could do that." Why not capitalize on my passion and enthusiasm for design as a TV personality?

    Photo Captions

1.) Wayne Hilton

Fine Wood Design

7410 Remcon Circle
El Paso, TX 79912
1570 W Picacho Ave.
Las Cruces NM 88005

HGTV Design Star
Top-rated reality interior design competition
It seems the universe, or at least my friends and colleagues, have a similar idea. ver the last several years, I continue to receive a flurry of emails with the latest designer casting call or show-host search information attached. As well-intentioned as these messages are, I always manage to put them aside or write off the possibility of being on television as somewhat unattainable. Wrong!

The epiphany hit one day on a very routine stop at Sher-Wood, a local cabinetry and design showroom. Owner Justin Sherwood and I were in the middle of a discussion over a recent project, when he said to me, "Wayne, my wife Amy and I watch HGTV Design Star religiously. YOU should be on that show." Admittedly...secretly, I had the dream of winning Design Star and becoming the host of my own program on HGTV. This was part of a plan to get my bigger-than-life design ideas to a larger audience. For some reason, Justin's words on this particular day stuck, and my motivation to be on Design Star went from "idea" to "action"!

The first step, on what I would discover was a long and arduous path of auditioning for the show, was to submit a portfolio of my design work, a five minute video about myself and my style, and responses to an 18-page questionnaire that poked and prodded at every aspect of my person EXCEPT design. No problem! The angle of my pitch was to capitalize on the diversity of my design background, as well as the passion and inspiration I draw from New Mexico and the southwest. The HGTV Dream Home that year was right outside of Albuquerque, so I was hoping my regional design angle would appeal to the producers.

Six days after submitting my application materials, I got my first phone call.

"Hi Wayne, this is Mindy Zemrak with Mark Burnett Productions...I'm the casting director for HGTV Design you have a few minutes?" My heart was RACING. "Absolutely," I responded. "We received your application materials, and we would like to schedule a phone interview." As Mindy continued to explain the next several steps in the audition process, my mind was racing ahead to visions of being on the show, the design challenges, meeting the other contestants, winning! I was roped back into reality when Mindy clearly explained that this call DID NOT mean I was on the show. That said, we scheduled the phone interview, and she did congratulate me for making the first cut.

The following week I received a call from Emily. She introduced herself as a casting agent for HGTV, and explained that she would be working on my "pitch" for Design Star. After this initial interview, she would submit a summary to the directors, and if I was selected, the process would continue. She also explained that I would only hear back from them if it was good news. I received the next call five days later.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Emily and I spoke in excess of five hours. She called two of my personal friends for perspective on my personality. There was a background check, a credit check, as well as a 27-page legal document stating that if I was selected for the show, basically, HGTV owned me! Finally, three weeks after her first call, I received another call from Mindy Zemrak. "Wayne, we are bringing you to LA!" It was official, I was a semi-finalist for Design Star, and I was going to LA for the final interview with the producers.

Once in LA, I was sequestered to my hotel room and could only leave under escort. You would have thought I was applying for the FBI rather then a design based reality show! It was the big day, and Emily met me at my room where she then escorted me to the Presidential Suite of the hotel where I would interview with the producers. We went through a series of waiting points, making sure to keep anonymity from the other contestants. We arrived at the marble landing in front of the French doors that opened into the suite. Mindy told me there would be 12 producers in the room and not to try to shake all their hands. Breath in...breath out. Doors opened.

The producers sat in a U-shaped configuration of chairs and sofas, and there was a single chair in the middle facing them. I sat down in the chair, smiling, keeping eye contact...what would in reality be a 20-minute interview, would feel like both an eternity and a split second. I remember how incredible the energy was. There was this amazing exchange of dialog. It felt like an interrogation scene from a movie, only on fast-forward. We discussed my background, ideas, design approach, what my show would be if I won Design Star! As I left the interview, I felt like I knew each and every one of them personally. It was a three-point shot from center court...SLAM DUNK.

Ironically, that was the end of my Design Star experience. I was cut after the interview with the producers. I did find out later that I was in fact one of the final 25 contestants of an unofficial number of applicants that was approaching five digits. I've decided the term "star" is both subjective and relevant. The idea of a Hollywood adventure into reality television is still appealing, and now I have a deeper understanding of the process. Assuming HGTV and reality television are going to be around for awhile, there is a good possibility I would try again. In the meantime, I will continue to design. As I continue to take inspiration from my peers and my community, I'm happy to say, "this is my reality." ///
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