Chelsea Ma Is the Chillest Reality TV Winner Ever
When you think about who thrives on reality show competitions, you might think of villains who throw drinks in each other’s faces and proclaim, “I’m not here to make friends!”
But on “Project Runway Junior,” that’s not the case — especially not with Chelsea Ma, the show’s 15-year-old winner.
Chelsea is so fun and chilled out, it’s clear she’s from California. We caught up with her to have a lit convo about fashion and the future!
How did you find out about “Project Runway Junior” and what was the audition process like?
I heard about it from my teacher who was at Mood and saw a poster that said they were looking for people to audition for Project Runway Jr Season 2. I thought she was crazy! I didn’t want to do it this year; I wanted to do it next year because the deadline was two weeks later, and I didn’t know if I had enough experience for the show. They needed a portfolio, a video and all these other things. I stayed up all night for the next two weeks sewing and preparing my audition materials.
Then, I was invited to the semi-finals. I was intimidated AF! Everyone was older and knew what they were doing. Most of them had auditioned the year before so it stressed me out. I went in thinking YOLO and then I just had fun! At that moment, in front of the judges, I decided to do a cartwheel and a split so the judges would remember me. They remembered me, and I moved to the next round, and I waited about a month before they called to tell me I was going to be on the show.
What kind of sewing background do you have?
I had two and a half before the show, and now I have been sewing for three years. That’s why I was worried that I didn’t have enough sewing experience for the show. I started sewing at Jo-Ann’s. Then I went to a private teacher once I started getting really into it and I have been with her ever since.
What was your reaction when you realized you were going to be on Project Runway Junior?
I told my mom first because she was downstairs. You are not supposed to tell anybody you got in. It is similar to when you know you have to fart, but you have to keep it in. It was hard to keep it a secret. I told one of my close friends, so she knew about it but everyone else was in the dark.
What is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about that experience? Did you get any kind words of wisdom?
I always think of Heidi Klum or Tim Gunn. I got the best advice from Tim when he was super honest with me. The judges also had inspiring things to say. Aya Kanai told me to “never apologize for my work.” [As in,] never apologize for making something that you love. I always say, “Stick to your gut because it’s usually right.” People are going to criticize you no matter what you do so you may as well do whatever you want.
What are your favorite and least favorite materials to work with?
Favorite is leather and organza, but they are the bitchiest fabrics. I hate them, but I love them at the same time. My least favorite material is the easiest to work with which is cotton. I hate it. I don’t like how it looks, but it is so easy to work with.
What is your favorite look from the entire season?
My favorite look would have to be the red dress from the finale or my Italy look. The one I think is the most significant (but not my fav!) is the star dress. It is when I totally went outside of my box in designing.
Where does your inspiration come from?
On the show, people exaggerated the fact that I use anime. That is not that true. I did get some of my inspiration from it earlier on, but now, I make up a concept in my mind and roll with it.
What were your thoughts in the final moments before you won?
We had some off-screen time before they announced the winner so they could re-adjust things, so Chris and I were like whatever happens happens. We were holding hands. I was sweating. When they told me my first reaction was that Chris was so supportive of everything and we hugged.
Now that you have won, what are your plans for the future?
I am getting things manufactured, and they are coming out in June. I am going to be shooting a campaign for my clothes. I am going to rebrand my brand: not as someone off Project Runway, but instead as an actual clothing brand. I do not want people to see me as a kid winning a TV show; I want them to see me as an actual designer brand.
What designers do you admire and who would you like to do a collab with?
Aesthetically really close to Alexander Wang and Vera Wang but maybe the creative director of Alexander McQueen or Raf Simons. I want to talk to Anna Wintour.
What is your go to look?
An oversized t-shirt worn as a dress.
What staple pieces should everyone have in their wardrobe?
A good pair of jeans and a good white t-shirt. They are the most basic pieces. I always tell people to also have a nice pair of booties. I think that’s good. Right now my staple piece is an oversized t-shirt dress. They fill half my closet.
What retro look would you want to make a comeback? Which would you not want to?
I liked the sparkly belts. They are gross, and I would never wear them again, but I want them to come back just because it was part of my childhood. What I never want to come back is sparkly tie dye shirts.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t worry, you’re going to be slightly famous and win a show. No, I would probably tell myself just to keep doing what you’re doing.
If you had a song to describe you, what would your anthem be?
That’s a hard one. Do you know how every superhero has an opening theme? That would be mine.
What is your binge TV show and what snack goes with it?
The Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones. I’m pretty healthy, Haha JK I’ll have a cheesecake on one side and a bunch of fruit on the other.
What music do you like?
I listen to everything from Disney Channel to Mozart to Justin Bieber. Even Rap. I don’t listen to Alternative Rap or Indie songs.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
Have you ever seen Teen Titans? There is a character in Teen Titans; her name is Jinx. She has this purple power that she can use to destroy things. I would want that power or plant magic to make things grow but not just with plants, with everything. That would be so cool!