By Emily Hopkins
Kellie Clements isn’t afraid of standing out. Though she’s just under 5-feet tall, her infectious energy and competitive nature, as well as her funkiness and vibrant use of color in her design work, are certainly big enough to get her noticed.
And noticed she was. After a lengthy audition process with multiple callbacks, interviews and try-out tapes, the 33-year-old Edmond resident was chosen as one of 12 finalists on HGTV’s “Design Star,” a reality competition in which the winner gets his or her own show on the cable network. “Design Star” airs at 8 p.m. Mondays.
Clements was only one of two contestants not from a big city like New York or Chicago, cities she said are looked at as being cutting-edge in the design world.
“I was thinking, maybe I’m behind the curve,” she said. “You really have no idea who you’re going to be put up against.”
Knowing there was a good chance of the other contestants underestimating her, Clements knew she had to do something that would get her noticed.
In the first minutes of the first episode of Season 6, the ex-cheerleader in her emerged in full force.
When David Bromstad, winner of Design Star Season 1 and host of “Color Splash, was announced as the cast mentor, Clements couldn’t contain her excitement – she broke out with a high-kick and a giant smile.
“We had all just met each other on the rooftop – we’d only known each other a few minutes,” she said. “I knew they probably thought I wasn’t tough. So it just fit, and I just said I wasn’t going to hold anything back.”
Her fearlessness obviously paid off. After deliberation between judges and HGTV design veterans Vern Yip, Genevieve Gorder and Candice Olson, it was announced that she and her partner in the season premiere, Karl Sponholtz, won the first challenge.
“I felt really good about my ability, and I know what I’m capable of, I’m confident with who I am as a designer and who I am as a person, but you just don’t know when you get there,” she said. “It confirmed that I was supposed to be there.”
THE ROAD TO DESIGN STARDOM
The past two years have been a whirlwind for Clements, she said, with an exciting high and a frightening low.
In 2009, she was in a four-wheeling accident that left her with a shattered pelvis. She could’ve died or been left unable to walk again, but, luckily, she survived.
Her near-death experience spurred an inner drive. Her extended family had been hounding her for years to try out for Design Star, but Clements said she wasn’t sure it was the right time. After the accident and her miraculous survival, however, she knew she had to go for it.
“I just decided I’m going to do what I want,” she said. “You can live your life any way you want, but you only get to live it one time. So with my husband’s support, I was just like, you know, I’m going to do everything I want to do and hopefully I’ll be an inspiration to someone else.”
Clements drove to an open casting call in Dallas. After auditioning, she received a callback and returned to submit an audition tape. She got a second callback and was flown to New York for a final interview. Not long later, she received the phone call that changed her life: she had been chosen as a contestant on Season 6 of Design Star.
“My life has changed so much in the past few years,” she said. “First with the accident – I didn’t know if I was going to be walking – then to a few years later, getting a phone call saying we want to invest in you, we believe in you. So it was very emotional for me. I did cry.”
The interview process went so well from the very beginning, she said, that, deep down, she knew she would get the call.
“You never really know for sure, but everything about the audition process was smooth, easy,” Clements said, “I didn’t second-guess anything I said or did. I felt really good about the whole process, and I told my husband, ‘If they don’t pick me, I don’t know what they want. Because I’m totally right for this.’”
A GLIMPSE OF THINGS TO COME
Being away from home and her family for up to eight weeks (depending on how long she was kept on the show) was difficult in itself. But saying goodbye to Design Star, she said, was tough as well.
“It’s been hard coming home a little bit,” Clements said. “I have a family adjustment and then also the career adjustment. So my whole world has kind of changed.”
Though she’s unable to disclose how far she made it in the competition, Clements can say she’s happy with the way things are currently going.
“I love to work,” she said. “I don’t care a whole lot about being well-known or being on TV. I just want to share what I know with people.”
Clements said the competition taught her to “go bigger” in her design work, to push boundaries and take chances.
“There is no limit when it comes to design,” she said. “If you can create it in your mind, there is a way to manifest it. You see a lot of that through the challenges. Basically the designers come up with these ideas, and in a matter of hours they’re put together.”
In the end, Clements said, she hopes her time on the show was an inspiration to others trying to pursue their dreams.
“There’s no harm in trying, but there is harm in not trying,” she said. “When you put yourself out there like I did, there’s really nothing to lose. I get to take the fact that I did my best to my grave. Nobody can take that from me. So I want other people to feel the same way about themselves that I feel about the experience.”
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