TwoCents and FiveQuestions with Emily Henderson


Emily Henderson, Designer, HGTV Design Star

I knew it would happen. With the current tidal wave of reality television (excuse me… “Alternate Programming”), I knew one day I would recognize a face from my past up there on the television screen. I was just hoping it wasn’t on Cops. Thankfully, a family friend showed up this week on the newly-Burnett-icized HGTV Design Star. (Yes! A talent-based competition show! Thank goodness!)

Emily Henderson and I grew up in the “rural Oregon” setting mentioned in her bio on HGTV. Back then I knew, even as we played on the ridiculously life-threatening rope swing above her family’s home, that she would be something. She was far too snarky for her own good and came from an amazingly talented family. Therefore, I was not surprised when she announced a few weeks ago that she had filmed the new season Design Star.

So here I am using personal connections to snag TheTwoCents an EXCLUSIVE interview with the designer of the “prison cell for a monk.” Speaking of, she almost gave me heart attack watching the first episode. Of course I’m going to be overly biased when it comes to Miss Emily, but (sorry sister!) I didn’t like that room. Then again, neither did she. Next time, Emily, you better Bring. It. On to the interview…

TheTwoCents: Can you tell me a little about the process you went through to get on the show?

Emily Henderson: I was super surprised at the vetting process. Mark Burnett (Survivor) casting should go into politics because I swear that they were pickier with who they chose for the cast than most politicians are for their running mates. I went to the open call, got passed through. Did an on-camera interview, kept going. They looked at my portfolio, passed it along to others who looked it over again, checked my references, did a background check, a psychological test, (where I passed with flying colors, I’ll have you know, no crazy here… wait… can crazy people pass the crazy test???), some medical tests (healthy as a donkey) one more final huge interview, and finally I got the call that I was headed to New York. The whole process took 3 months. Kinda nuts to not know for so long, but obviously exciting.

TTC: In your blog, you’ve talked about how scared you were to see yourself and all your flaws on television (and in a competition, no less). Now that you’ve seen the first episode (and sufficiently freaked out) how are you feeling about the whole experience?

EH: I feel, like, 10,000,000,000 (is that billion?) times better after getting the first episode out of the way. I acted like myself – which was my biggest fear. Unfortunately I froze, and I paid for it. Note to all your readers – don’t freeze under pressure on national TV, it’s embarrassing and unbecoming. Do yourself a favor and just don’t panic. Ick. It was terrible. It was a nightmare that I was sure I would wake up from. But it’s over now, thank god. And I’m excited to watch the next episode.

TTC: You came dangerously close to being the ominous first-eliminated contestant, but your quirky humor and ease in front of the camera really saved you. What happened in that challenge and (without any spoilers!) how did your game change afterward?

EH: I have no idea what you are talking about. What challenge? I’ve pretty much blocked it from my memory. Besides the general ‘freezing-under-intense-pressure’ (see above), I was also too picky, didn’t buy enough, didn’t build any furniture (because I don’t know how, basically), and didn’t really start with a strong enough concept. I played it safe. And going forward I do try to not play it safe anymore. Do I play it dangerous??? Maybe, but you’ll have to watch.

TTC: I’ve always wondered about the nature of reality TV and how much of it is really reality. Does anything in the show thus-far stand out to you as different than you remember because of editing?

EH: Hmmmm. Nope, It all matched up. They had to take 2 days and condense it into 43 minutes, so there is A LOT you don’t see, but there was nothing that surprised me. So far the drama that was shown actually happened (Nina and Court) and it gets more dramatic, btdubs.

The biggest challenge/surprise of being on a reality show is not being able to talk while the cameras are repositioning. EVERYTHING has to be caught on camera in case it is necessary information to tell the story. For instance, if there was even slight tension or a sarcastic remark off camera that sparked drama, or any design ideas that changed the room that happened off camera, they can’t recapture it and the audience is left out in the cold. But staying quiet was super frustrating. I will say this, Mark Burnett producers are total pros and they didn’t try to manipulate situations, just tried to capture it. You take 12 designers that all think they deserve their own show and put them in a penthouse together and guess what you get? D.R.A.M.A. It doesn’t need to be produced, just captured. I can’t speak for other production companies though, on other shows. That was just my experience on Design Star.

TTC: So what can viewers expect from the show here on out?

EH: Tears, fires, nail-gun accidents, real friendships, serious rivalries, awesome designs, not-so-awesome designs, winners and losers. Of course it was the most interesting time in my life so I am biased, but I’m pretty sure its going to be a nail-biting edge-of-your-seat kinda show. Just my opinion.

Bonus Question:
TTC: In honor of your prop stylist background and TheTwoCents’ basis in television, what TV show would you want to be the prop stylist (or set designer) for and why?

EH: Easy – Gossip Girl. All of the sets/props are super fashiony, edgy, cool, young, hip. I think shopping for it would be a blast and styling it would be awesome because you are making such a stylized fantasy world.

You can catch HGTV Design Star every Sunday night at 10pm E/P. Then come back here the morning after for our Recap & Review of the episode!

You can also visit Emily’s blog, The Brass Petal, every Monday for her own take on the episodes and some behind-the-scenes shenanigans.

And while you are visiting all these sites, why not go to HGTV and vote for your favorite Design Star! You know who I just voted for…

Rachel, Senior Managing Editor

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