EW exclusive! Q&A with the 'Project Runway' contestant who quit the show tonight. 'I didn't want to be a one-hit wonder.'

SPOILER ALERT! If you have yet to watch tonight’s episode of Project Runway, do not read any further. You will find nothing but spoilers ahead. And that will likely make you mad. 

Project Runway’s Maya Luz had an excellent shot at making the Bryant Park top three. This season’s most consistent designer, she earned high scores six times and never landed in the bottom. But as we all witnessed on tonight’s episode, the 22-year-old New Yorker opted to leave Runway altogether. EW was the first to speak to Maya about her controversial choice. In fact, we spoke to her before she’d even watched the episode herself.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, how are you feeling about your decision all these months later?
Maya Luz:
I feel good. From the very beginning, I had reservations about doing [the show], just because I didn’t know if it was really me, the whole TV thing. But it was amazing to be offered this opportunity, so I decided to take it. In the very beginning, I really did want to win and I wanted to go to Bryant Park. But as time went on, I decided it just wasn’t my time yet to go all the way. I’d just graduated from school this past May. I did an internship with another designer, but I haven’t had a full-time design job yet. Those kinds of thoughts were wearing down on me during the show, so I decided one morning, out of the blue. That’s what felt right to me.

How long did it take you to make the decision?
I really only started thinking about it the day before, after the print challenge. When I thought of having my life back, it seemed appealing to me. I didn’t talk to anybody about it because I wanted to stay strong and not get emotional. I talked to Tim first and he understood what I was saying. When I said, “I think I’m still searching for who am I as a designer, I’ve just graduated, and I have a lot to learn about this industry,” he agreed with me. He said, “I can see that. And I think it’s very brave of you.”

But you had such a strong chance of making it to the top three.
We’ll never know, but I have a pretty good feeling that I might have made it to the final three. But that’s why I decided not to go through with it. There’s so much at stake. When I come out with a line, I want it to be something dignified, something that I’ve had time to work on in a way that I didn’t through these circumstances [on Project Runway]. I didn’t want to bottom out. If I won, I didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder and fade away slowly. I felt like I would be getting into [the industry] in a naïve way, not really knowing what I was doing, not being able to handle the business aspect of it.

Tim asked you if you if you could stick it for out one last challenge. Have you had any pangs of regret — like, maybe I should have hung on?
I don’t regret anything because it felt right at the time. It still feels right. Certainly I wonder what could have happened had I gone all the way. But I still feel like, I’m a baby. I have a lot to learn. Later down the line, I would love to see myself on the show again, competing at an older age at a higher level, with more experience under my belt. I think I have what it takes — the talent and the drive.

At the end of last week’s episode, you seemed disappointed that you didn’t win. A lot of people were wondering, what does she have to do to win? Did that influence your decision to leave?
I think subconsciously it did on some level because I had been in the top so many times at that point. It was going pretty well. It was making me wonder, what is it that I’m missing? I’m almost there, but there’s always something that’s not quite right for the judges. And on the same note, they’re just three eyes—or four, whatever, counting the guest judge. [Laughs] There’s a lot of other people in the world.

And it is just a TV show, after all.

Exactly. That’s the other part of it, too. It is about fashion, but it’s also about making a show and having a story. That turned me off initially. There have to be people who are really attractive, or really quirky or really funny, or all those things. But in the fashion industry, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how cool your personality is. If you make good work and if you can sell it, then you’re gonna do well.

In tonight’s episode, there was a flashback to Nina telling you that your work was too referential. Did that critique influence your decision? The editing made it seem like it did.
Mmm… Well, that’s unfortunate to hear. That is not the reason. It’s an extremely ridiculous thing to say. Not that I don’t respect Nina’s opinion, ’cause certainly I respect it. She gave me a lot of good feedback. But you could say that about every single person on the show — most specifically, the print challenge with Emilio. His print was Louis Vuitton, who’s done [a similar monogram pattern] for several seasons. The only reason why Nina said that [to me] was because Jay had said it in the workroom, which I don’t think they showed on the episode. He said [about my open-weave jacket], “Oh that looks like Yves Saint Laurent.” Because Yves Saint Laurent did these shoes — they were shoes, not a jacket — which had the same cage effect. So he said that and then all of a sudden it turns up on the runway. It was magic!

A case of a producer slipping something to the judges?
Yeah, a little man behind the curtain. I didn’t say any of that on the runway because I felt like, What’s the point? Sometimes I wish I had. But it’s just not worth battling it. I always like to be respectful on camera, especially to the judges.

How do you feel about your departure allowing Anthony to come back?
Well, honestly, it just refuels that kindling flame I had about [the show] being about personality. Obviously I love Anthony — who doesn’t? He’s hilarious. I couldn’t even write the things that he comes up with. I think he will be successful because he’s got this really charming charisma, but his dresses — he did make a lot of the same type of thing over and over. That’s what he’s good at. He’s a dressmaker. He can do that and be successful at it.

Seth Aaron and Emilo had very different reactions to your departure. Seth Aaron defended you, while Emilio called you a quitter.
People are going to say a lot of things and I can’t let that get to me. I never thought Emilio was ever very warm and fuzzy. I think he was there from the very beginning to just bang it out and win and not worry about anybody else. But when you’re not around anybody else, you need some human compassion, so we all kind of became friends with each other. I didn’t see a lot of that from Emilio, really. He had his moments, but for the most part, he really stuck to himself, in no-b.s. mode. So it doesn’t surprise me that he would say something like that. You can call it what you want. I wouldn’t call it quitting.

Who are you rooting for now?
I’m rooting for Mila. I really liked Jonathan too. They were my good buddies. And Amy. But I’m definitely rooting for Mila. Go girls!

What was your favorite design of the season?
My favorite design was [my outfit from] the hardware challenge, definitely. The necklace was probably my favorite piece because it is totally me: it’s beautiful and classic but also a little punk rock.

What’s next for you?
Right now, I am working on my handbag line — the spiky stuff, the ball-and-chains, all that stuff. I’m working on orders for boutiques and personal orders. Then I’m working on a collection for StyleWeek Providence in June. Jonathan and I are both showing. My collection is called Creature and it’s inspired by monsters. I’m also looking for a job in the design field and applying for my masters in London. I just want to gain more experience. You’ll be seeing more of me. [Laughs] Project Runway is just one little notch in the resumé, one little thing. I’ll be back.

Comments (87 total) Add your comment
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  • Lemon

    I would’ve loved to see her in the Final 3 with Seth Aaron and Emilio. But, I completely understand and respect her reasons for leaving.

    • London

      Welcome back Anthony and goodbye Jonathan!! All is right with the world again.

      • TEXBOY88

        amen to that, Anthony is true fresh air, true to himself. Jonathen is just a little weak eye’d, and did not seem to know a dress from a table cloth. He give me chill’s and not the good kind.Anthony is a fun reason for watching, plus cn anyone see why his designs are always the same. Chanel did it , her style was her own and it remains. Anthony did not design to the beat of PR’S drum, he designed to his own beat, and look where those dresses are at.

    • huh

      I see why she left. I also understand why she ripped Emilio. Jealous much. Yeah Louis V did a monogram, so do plenty of people. It’s not like I never saw your print before. And I love Anthony. Those two dresses last night were perfect!!

      • Lu

        Emilio’s print WAS Louis Vuitton!

      • llevinso

        I HATED Emilio’s print. I could not understand the judge’s love for it AT ALL. Then again, I hate those kind of prints in general, the whole branding craze, ugh! I refuse to wear that kind of crap. And he totally ripped it off! Whatever. I don’t understand why the judges seem to worship him so much.

      • Eduardo

        If you look at Emilio’s print, it was very very similar to the Stephen Sprouse print for LV, and yet he didnt get called out for being a ‘copier’ while Maya and past contestants like Kenley did… it just seems inconsistent. Maya rocks.

      • anna

        yeah but mia is mistaken. on the runway show they referenced with nina saying she was referential it wasn’t the jacket. it was the grey dress with the wavy sleves, which mia said was inspired by another designer on the runway. then nina said she was referential as a response. and the guest judge agreed.

      • jennrae

        I hate wearing logos. It’s like YOU are paying out the nose to give free advertising. Pass. I think Emilio thinks about what will make him money and not necessarily about what is more creative. But I loved Maya and was sad to see her go.

      • D

        @anna-excellent recall!

  • Reege

    I was hoping she would win it all..I was completely shocked by tonight’s episode. I just sat there like “what just happened?”

  • starsweeper

    Wow, fascinating interview. I respect her decision, but I do wish that someone had had the guts to stand up to the judges and point out that Emilio’s print from last week was not as original as the judges were making it out to be. The way they gushed about it was over-the-top. I liked him at first, but his smugness is rubbing me the wrong way.

    • Terri

      That would have been completely classless. I can’t stand Emilio’s personality, I think he should have been eliminated for his washer bikini, but I agree with his disdain over her quitting.

    • AcaseofGeo

      I also liked him at first. His first dress was astonishing. Then his nasty attitude soured me. And by the time he put that “So- slutty- even- a -self-respecting -Hooker- in- Vegas- wouldn’t- wear- it” Pink string and washer THING(after saying he’s not up for a hardware challenge cuz he makes ‘sophisticated’ clothes), I totally disliked him. He was allowed to continue and that ONE challenge PROVES the show is rigged by either the producers or the judges and has lessened the credibility of the whole competition.

    • huh

      This is a design show. Snippets do not show the true personality. Too many of you are raised on TV.

      • Hannah

        Well, yes, we understand that. But many of us will never meet any of these designers in real life, so of course we’re going to judge them by their “TV personalities”. And there are plenty of other designers who portray themselves as good people on TV, because they know not to say stupid sh*t like Emilio does.

  • Katja

    I have to say, I kind of was thinking “Why would you waste this opportunity???” and judging Maya….but Seth Aaron set me straight! I love him (and Anthony). I guess I can understand Maya’s reasoning. I shall now f*ck off!

    • llevinso

      Seth Aaron was right. None of us can judge because we have no idea how we’d handle a situation like that. He’s really proving what a stand up kind of guy he is. Made me really like him even more after last night.

      • Terri

        Seth Aaron is a kind man. Maya is a Luz-er and a quitter. Always will be. 25 years from now, when/if we hear about her again, we will be reminded that she’s a quitter. It’s now her brand.

  • Scobes

    She seems at peace with her decision, so more power to her. She’s very talented. But I don’t like her comment on Anthony too much… refuels the kindling flame of the show being about personality?? Sure, that probably is why he made it on the show to begin with (as with all the designers) but he was brought back this week because he was the last to go. It was the only fair thing to do.

    • Val

      I agree with you Scobes 100%. Why say that comment about Anthony when Heidi stated that it is their policy for the last person to come back. It not be fair to have someone who left week two come back. And it was her choice to leave, not the shows.

    • Tarc

      But it *is* a TV show, and personality plays a great part. Can anyone legitimate say otherwise? It’s why the producers DO have input in the runways results each week. In the end, the show is to make $$$ for the producers, and any benefit for the contestants is a happy coincidence.

    • Laura

      Agree 100%! It was unnecessary and just seemed catty.

    • JD

      The “personality” comment doesn’t make sense. It would if they had hand picked someone who was let go earlier in the season. But it makes perfect sense to bring back the last one to leave. He just happens to have a personality.

  • barbara

    Not sure “spoiler alert!” helps when there’s her picture right there!

    • BruceMpls

      You’re certainly right about that! One would think they could hold off posting the interview a few more hours until the west coast had seen the show. It’s not like the information was time sensitive and who really cares if they were the “first” out with the story? No one except the money mongers at ew.com who have shown in the past they aren’t really concerned about the views of the readers.

      • westcoastfan

        It’s all about being first to get the interview.

  • Terri

    She was scared and panicked. End of story. I judge, Seth Aaron, I judge. She’s a quitter.

    That line about Anthony returning b/c of his personality is utter crap. It was the rules, end of story. Unless she was forced to quit so Anthony could come back? No, I didn’t think so.

    There were two challenges left. TWO. She has no fortitude. She’s in a really tough business and got the break of a lifetime and quit in front of her entire peer group. She showed them, and us, what she’s got. ZERO.

    I hate her spiky handbags and wasn’t expecting much from her. My respect and admiration for her talent grew week by week. That’s all gone now.

    • Mike

      What a nasty thing to say. Grow up, lady.

      • Terri

        I am grown up, dude. She quit because she was afraid, and then in this interview dismisses Anthony and his return, pointing to his personality? Her quitting and Anthony’s return is all about her personality and FEAR. You could probably toss in a fair amount of hubris, since she was likely expecting to be in the final three, which is what caused her panic about the final two challenges.

        There are thousands of designers that tried out for the show, and I’ll bet they are more incredulous and disdainful of Maya than me.

      • hc

        Actually, I’m sure most of the designers that apply for the show understand her decision. If they’re knowledgeable about the design business then they know that all the major designers in the big European houses have done stints as behind-the-office designers before they work there way up. She’s 22. She should be applauded for having a well-thought out plan about her future career. So many of these designers off PR burst out of the box with all this exposure and then fade to nothing. Basically all of them with a handful of exceptions.

    • westcoastfan

      Was that the rule they used to bring back Chris March?

      • Terri


  • Jule

    @barbara – cmon now! her picture does not show up until AFTER the jump. Some people are never happy!

    • barbara

      I’m in California and just happened to see the show tonight at 7:00 at a friend’s house on Direct TV. The show has yet to air here on regular cable and her picture is right under the headline.

      • Ash

        Oh, how ridiculous. The picture isn’t shown until after you click on the headline on the main page. Don’t read the article people! It’s as simple as that!

      • Tarc

        Then don’t be silly enough to read a news and spoiler site. That should be obvious…

  • her rooting for mila + being kind of catty toward anthony = a no go for me…i liked her designs, but she was a snore to watch. i’m glad she’s at peace with her decision, though.

    • Coyote

      I value ability over personality. I’ll miss Maya.

      • huh

        Which is why I value Emilio over Mila.

    • TEXBOY88

      mila is a designer, but has no personality ,or group fun. She is in her own world, and it is I guess a good world yet she act’s as if the design room belongs to her and only her. Anthony is the reason i watched. Maybe personality is 99% of my watching. KORS SURE IS NOT-

  • mtuffy359

    I respect her decision and think most of the other designers are professional and had authentic reactions, except Emilio. He screwed over his model who dressed in his pink swimsuit/stripper get-up and I noticed he was the only designer who didn’t seem to really welcome back Anthony. After Maya’s insight into his personality, it all makes sense. Also (although this is a little snide), he doesn’t enunciate and it is painful to watch his confessional-type footage with dead, glassy stare and newsboy hat in tow. Personality-wise, Seth Aaron and Anthony are my favorites. Although not my personal style, Seth Aaron is the best designer.

  • Tarc

    At 22, I think Maya made a good choice. She certainly has the talent, but as anyone knows, experience, connections, and a little maturity goes a long, long way way to improving changes of long-term success. PR was a great platform that will open some doors, and maybe in a few years, she’ll get her Bryant Park show.

  • Corran

    I was rooting for Maya and Seth Aaron!! Now I guess I have to settle for Seth Aaron. I HATE Emilio even though tonight I actually felt his design was merit for accolades. Hope Seth Aaron wins it all!

  • Suzie

    I know it’s policy to bring back the last “loser” but I never liked Anthony, he’s so stereotype of what a person thinks a gay designer should be and he is painful to watch. I hate people who refer to themselves in 3rd person too. Now I have many gay friends, so don’t say I am against gays, I’m against any annoying person who acts like him.

    good luck Maya, and I can’t wait to see who wins.

    • wWoWw

      I agree. I also really dislike what Anthony has been saying about Heidi Klum in his exit interviews. Ungrateful. It really turned me off to him.

    • westcoastfan

      I totally agree. Tonight I just hit mute when he was talking.

  • tofutodd

    Quitting is the new winning! Always the best choice when things get rough. Good calculation: better to be remembered as the person who quit,then making a good line for fashion week. Makes sense.

    • mac

      Yes, but would you want to be remembered for a crappy collection at Fashion Week? I think I’d rather wait until I could put together something great than do something bad.

      • ChicChic

        Yes, but WILL she ever get another opportunity to show at NY Fashion Week? The finalists(and also the decoys)are given free money to create a collection. I think Maya missed a big opportunity because I think she would have sent a thoughtful and well designed colletion down the runway. I did love her purses, though. Maybe her strength lies in accessories.

  • Kaiulani

    I’m just glad Anthony is back. I’m glad that she called out Emilio for his tacky LV copy print.

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