On Thursday night, the Project Runway finale followed for the first time four female finalists on their journey to New York Fashion Week. With an out-of-the-norm 19th season, Coral Castillo, Kristina Kharlashkina, Shantall Lacayo, and Chasity Sereal competed for a grand prize of $250,000, and Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) mentorship. In the end, Nicaraguan-designer, Shantall Lacayo impressed judges Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell, and guest judge Tommy Hilfiger landing her the big win.
“How did I achieve this!” Lacayo says about feeling like this 2-year journey, from casting to filming and watching the finale, is finally coming to an end. While considered a fan-favorite, Lacayo’s journey on the show came with some challenges, almost going home early on in the competition. Thanks to Christian Siriano’s prestige “Siriano Save” it gave Lacayo one more chance. “After seeing that you can leave tomorrow, I knew I had to push,” Lacayo says about choosing at that moment to no longer play it safe and explore her range in design and technique.
For the finale, Lacayo used the important platform to draw inspiration from her Nicaraguan roots. Her final collection influenced by Quetzalcoatl, also known as the feathered serpent, incorporated snake-like textures infused in elegant silhouettes.
Looking back at her journey on the show, Lacayo jokes that it felt like graduation from self-discovery. Sharing, “I discovered there is no reason to be afraid, whatever comes in life, you are going to be ready,” she feels the opportunity came at a time when there was a lot of emotional stress whether from what was happening in the world with COVID, adversities of being a Latina designer, and the natural hardships of life. In the end, Lacayo feels the show helped her find the confidence within to empower herself and others.
In addition to an exciting runway show, the finale made history featuring four diverse women finalists for the first time. Lacayo doesn’t recall acknowledging the impact of that moment sharing, “everything goes so fast, you don’t even have a chance to think about it.” Crediting the focus on their craft as a reason for why all the women made it to the end and thinks that for many of them “it’s just hitting us now.”
Looking ahead, Lacayo looks to make the big move from Florida to New York sharing, “life is a journey, it’s an adventure and when am I going to have the New York experience if it is not now.” Recognizing this next chapter comes with a lot of pressure by having the title of a winner, Lacayo wants to remind others that, “dreams come true, you must struggle but you are going to get there.”
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