No offense to winner Chloe Dao, or even to host Heidi Klum, but the name Santino Rice has become practically synonymous with Project Runway's Season 2. So naturally, with the DVD set of Bravo's cutthroat fashion competition about to hit shelves Tuesday, we took the opportunity to catch up with the larger-than-life Los Angeles-based designer. Despite those extended scenes of his battles with judge Nina Garcia and his harsh criticisms of his peers that appear on the DVD, Santino is confident that he remains the show's undisputed winner, prize money be damned. And he has a few words of advice for the contestants of Season 3, which premieres Wednesday, July 12, at 10 pm/ET.
TVGuide.com: What's it like for you to watch yourself on the DVD?
Santino Rice: There's a part of me that watches it and remembers just how tired I was and how much real stress was in the room. Even though I was having a good time, I was only getting like four or five hours of sleep each night. My hair was falling out. I assumed it was just stress-related, but it's really apparent. I'm looking at the show, and it's like, "Oh my god, I'm going bald on camera!" My hair was falling out in clumps. Luckily my hair is growing back, and I think I've learned to deal with the stress of the whole thing.
TVGuide.com: Do you still feel like the show was edited to make you into a villain?
Santino: There is no doubt about it. Every time you edit a scene or cut into someone's flow of how they're talking, you're telling little white lies.... I'm a villain [on the show] because I was passionate, and I was speaking my mind and I was argumentative when people weren't understanding my point of view.
TVGuide.com: Has anyone reacted to you negatively in person because of the way you were portrayed?
Santino: Not even after the first or second episode. I thought it was funny that people were loving me for something that I wasn't. I had fans who recognized that TV is TV and there's editing involved, and I also had fans who liked me for the wrong reasons. Most people I meet are like, "Oh my god, Santino, you should have won!" And I did win. It's obvious that I did win. I don't need the big shiny crown of Project Runway to validate me as a designer. People ask me all the time, "What happened to whats-her-name?" And I'm like, "I don't know who you're talking about."
TVGuide.com: Have you spoken to other reality-TV stars about being a sudden celebrity?
Santino: In next month's issue of Details, fashion photographer Michael Thompson shot me and a handful of other reality stars for a special TV issue of the magazine. I met Trishelle from The Real World, and Omarosa, who was very nice. There was Dr. 90210 and the Bachelor... some couple from The Biggest Loser. I really felt out of place while I was there with them. I felt like everyone else was kind of jockeying for the next TV thing that they were going to do.
TVGuide.com: Are you considering doing more TV?
Santino: I get offers like that all the time. If it involves fashion, then I'll at least look at it. If it doesn't, then I don't really have time for it right now.
TVGuide.com: I saw the dress you did for SuChin Pak for the MTV Movie Awards. It was gorgeous.
Santino: Thank you. I did the red carpet at the [MTV] Movie Awards, and I met everyone who was there. Before I could even geek out about somebody, somebody was geeking out about me. Even John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell were fans. They were dressed in their Talladega Nights NASCAR jumpsuits, and they were like [in fake Southern accents] "Santino! Santino! We love you! We love how you made that s--- out of those plants and s---!"
TVGuide.com: Have you talked to Nicky Hilton since you won the challenge to design a dress for her?
Santino: I run into her. The last time I saw her, she's like, "I want that dress." But this is a whole 'nother contractual ball of wax. I am not allowed to make her that dress. I can make her anything else.... And I've got plenty of people who want dresses from me who want to pay for them, too. We live in an era in which the huge fashion houses are giving away dresses and paying people to wear them. When people want to wear Santino, then they have to pay, and when you get me involved, you're going to look beautiful.
TVGuide.com: Are you working on your own line?
Santino: I'm still talking with investors, getting all the business paperwork together to build the brand. It probably won't come out this year, due to the fact that I am taking it a little bit slow. I've had so many false starts in my career. When I put out a line in my own name, it's going to be forever even after I die, somebody will be designing in my own name.
TVGuide.com: Would all that have been easier if you'd won?
Santino: It may or may not have been. Definitely the $100,000 would have been nice. However, in the scheme of things, $100,000 wouldn't even last you one season. The only thing is, with $100,000 I could have bought property in Missouri and flipped it, maybe tried to turn that $100,000 into $600,000. That would have been a quicker way to get the capital that I need to start my business.... Does the star of the show need to be the winner of the show? I say no. I equate it to peaking in high school. I've yet to peak. No, I'm not the prom queen this year, but I'm going on to bigger and better things.
TVGuide.com: Were you involved in Season 3 at all?
Santino: You'll get a sneak peek on the DVD. There's one segment of the casting for Season 3 that shows me doing the casting [in L.A.]. I saw a lot of crap. I saw something like 700 designers. There were four or five that I knew for sure were able to make it to the next level. I'm really happy that there was a greater level of talent trying out for the show than what I experienced on the show.
TVGuide.com: Do you have any advice for future Runway contestants?
Santino: Not only do you need to be on point with all the technical aspects of draping, pattern-making, creating fashion from scratch, but you should also have a definite point of view. You should know who your favorite painters are, you should know what your favorite period of furniture is, and you should actually read.