Stories Of Sexuality: My 1-On-1 With Out Project Runway Designer Alicia Hardesty


I had the privilege of interviewing a great designer who is changing the fashion industry. She also happened to appear on a television show you may have heard of, “Project Runway.”

Photo courtesy of Original Tom Boy.

Alicia Hardesty appeared on season 10 of the popular fashion show “Project Runway” and lasted until she was eliminated on episode?eight. Since then, she has been working on her brand and clothing line “Original X Tomboy.” This line seeks to blur the lines between masculine and feminine, whereas much of the fashion industry falls directly into one category or the other. Hardesty hopes to create clothes that are comfortable, yet people still feel proud?to wear.

I asked her a few questions that have been on my mind ever since I saw her on the first episode of season 10.

Me:?Where are you from? Where do you live now?
Alicia: I grew up in Brandenburg, KY.? I currently live in Fort Worth, TX.
?Me:??What do you identify as sexually? Or do you not prefer labels?
Alicia: Honestly, I don’t prefer labels, but there’s no question that I’m gay. I’m a lesbian, and that’s as far as I go with labels really. ?They serve a purpose, but I don’t like to get caught up in them.
?Me:?When did you know you were “different” and describe your coming out process.
Alicia: I have always known I was different.? I really started to see that in high school. Then in my first year of college I realized how I was different.?I’ll never forget the moment I realized that I was gay.? I was sitting in my car, and it was one of the biggest ah-ha moments I think I’ve ever had. ?It was like something clicked in my brain after trying to figure out what my problem was for so long.? There was no turning back once I accepted it myself. Then it was on to admitting it to my closest friends & family.? I started slow, no question.? In some ways, it’s easier to become a part of a new culture with people you don’t know than it is to tell the people who’ve known you the longest.? People who think they know you the best are the ones that can be the most judgmental. It might take them longer to accept or comprehend.? Sometimes they know you so well they know before you do.? It just depends.? I didn’t receive any backlash at first, but I think it did take people a while to get used to the idea.? I have family that I think are still getting used to it, but?they never treated me any differently.? But along the way, no matter what, I never really had to hide who I was.? People generally see me for me, and me being gay doesn’t define my character to them.? For me personally, being gay, coming out (which is a regular occurrence when you think about it), was a great character building process.?It?is a big part of what has shaped me over the years.? I’ve learned so much about myself in having the strength to be myself.
Me:??When did you decide you wanted to be on “Project Runway”? Did you have any concerns about being on the show because of your sexuality?
Alicia: It was a last minute decision to try out for the show.? Ironically, I always thought “Project Runway” was something I would never do.? As far as me being gay, I thought it would at the very least make my story even?more interesting.
Photo courtesy of Go To Glamour Girl and Lifetime TV.
?Me:??Many view the fashion industry as an open and tolerant of the LGBT community specifically. However, most of the contestants we have seen on Project Runway are gay men and many of the most esteemed designers are gay men as well. How do you think LGBT women are accepted within this large and ever-changing industry?
Alicia: I think that the fashion industry doesn’t have a choice but to be open. Because of the nature of the industry, where being different & unique is celebrated, being gay is not a taboo for the most part.? Where we run into issues is from the outside community looking in.? Fashion is eccentric in and of itself, but men have been the most visible gay icons in fashion and the most widely accepted.? Gay women are making their own way in the fashion world, both in womenswear & menswear, and we don’t have to be limited by stereotypes.
Me:?Have you had any personal stories or examples of backlash you have received? Whether from within the industry or outside of it in your family, friends etc.?
Alicia: When I was in college, I received some backlash from colleagues for my work, but I’ve seen time and time again that when people don’t understand what you’re doing, if it’s too different, if?it scares them in any way, or makes them uncomfortable, they react negatively.? I’ve seen it from family members within my personal life, colleagues in my work, etc.? Over time, I got the hang of taking the bad with the good, and I?always keep moving forward.? At the same time, I’ve received tons of support from friends, family,?and strangers.
Me:??How did stereotypes affect your passions? Frequently, LGBT women are steered into a direction away from the arts, entertainment and fashion, and into things like sports. This is obviously very generalized, but did you feel pressure to pursue a different career path because of your orientation? If so, how did you overcome this?
Alicia: My career choice came before I figured out what my sexual orientation was.? I decided in high school that I loved fashion and wanted to?pursue it without a doubt.? My orientation is one part of who I am but so is my career.? I’ve always been into sports. I love the outdoors. I love exercising. I love fixing things, working with tools. Above all though, I love being creative.? All of which are important parts of who I am. For me, my orientation has shaped my style over the years, but I don’t know if that’s the case for everyone.
Me:??Do you think there is a growing amount of LGBT women in the fashion industry, either as designers or models? Or do you think you are still a very, very small amount of the people getting recognition?
Alicia: LGBT women are definitely?up and coming in the industry–opening their own brands, as models, as designers, ?style icons, etc.? It’s very good to see!

Me:??Is there one person you would really want to work with from within the LGBT community? And is there someone you are dying to work with in general, LGBT or not?
Alicia: I like to do collaborations with people/brands that are?a little unexpected, out of the box.? For example, in 2013 I partnered with a Quantum Mechanics Physicist from Cal-tech?to create a capsule of designer clothing for the??nerd? community.? It was called Project X Squared (based on the X logo for Original Tomboy), and combined my androgynous design aesthetic with some very cool technical & nerdy fabrics (heat-reactive, waterproof silk, super lightweight nylons).
Right now, in addition to my brand Original Tomboy, I design knits for a DFW-based label called Rock & Roll Cowgirl/Cowboy.? It’s probably not what you would expect given my previous work, but one thing about me as a designer is that I like to be challenged.? It?keeps things interesting for me–I get to learn so much more and?work with a lot of different & amazing people that way.
I thank Alicia Hardesty so much for her time and her honesty!
To see Alicia’s collections, go to her official site here.
Make sure to follow Alicia on Instagram and Twitter.
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edited by hl

I was born on January 13, 1990. I was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. I moved up north and attended the University of CT from 2008 to 2012. I currently also work at a law firm in Uptown Charlotte and have been helping with this organization entitled the National Independent Voter Coalition. My interests include: Politics (obviously), Basketball (playing and watching) and watching almost any sport, movies, reading, the law, human rights, entertainment, mostly Angelina Jolie and Beyonce. I am fun, caring, passionate, intelligent, and unique!