Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Season 17 finale of Project Runway.
The winner of Project Runway Season 17 is here!
On Thursday night, viewers of the fashion design series watched as fan-favorite, Sebastian Grey, 32, was named the winner of this season’s re-vamped Project Runway – beating out contestants Hester Sunshine and Garo Sparo in the final runway show.
The Colombian native, who has since made a home in Florida upon moving to the states, took the crown after debuting his whimsical and elegantly-made, Colombian-inspired collection that made the judges swoon.
Famed fashion designer Diana von Furstenberg served as the guest judge for the final runway challenge while the show’s weekly judges, Brandon Maxwell, Nina Garcia, Elaine Welteroth and Karlie Kloss and mentor, Christian Siriano, also worked together to help choice the series winner.
And while Grey described his winning moment as an “unreal,” the designer confessed that he never once thought that he would ever be in this reality series-winning position.
“The moment Karlie Kloss said you are the winner – I died for two seconds and then came back alive and then I started crying,” he tells PEOPLE. “It was an unreal moment.”
Grey reveals that prior to being a contestant on the show, he watched earlier seasons with his friends and family members while living in Columbia. And though his mother always said that he had the potential to be on the competition series, the designer thought the idea was “impossible” from his home country.
Prior to Project Runway, the 32-year-old winner owned two stores in Colombia that “didn’t work,” and decided to pack his bags and make his dreams true come true in the United States. Grey settled in Florida before realizing that the sunshine state wasn’t exactly the fashion inspiration he was looking for.
“It was super hard to try and find a job in fashion, so I had to do whatever I could to start making money,” Grey says before explaining that he took on a number of jobs from catering, cleaning bar tables and then house keeping – all to make ends meet.
Though his pre-Project Runway life was full of ups and downs, the reality star revealed that his last job as a hotel house keeper is how he met his husband, who ultimately encouraged him to do the show.
“He started doing the application for me behind my back,” Grey tells PEOPLE, adding that he had initially told his husband that the cut-throat reality series may be “too much” for him.
“I was a little angry, but I said, ‘okay’ – we’re going to fill out the application and we tried to send it a couple of times but the internet failed and on the last day … I finally did it. I sent the application and 20 minutes later, they called me.”
Luck may have been on Grey’s side the entire time. The designer was a full-season front runner, won two challenges and was never in the bottom of the judge’s worst looks.
Grey also said he credits ELLE’s Editor-In-Chief for her “tough love” feedback when it came to improving his designs.
“Sometimes Nina would let me, ‘you have to be more careful,’ in how you choose your accessories, how you edit your collection, so that helped me a lot,” he says of Garcia. “She was always on point with everything she said to me.”
And while Grey was the designer who came out on top, the winner says he still keeps in contact with everyone from the show and revealed that the Bravo crew has an active group chat despite the past competitiveness.
“The biggest challenge of Project Runway is that you have a limited time to come with a design and make it real,” he admits. But now, with the all the time in the world, Grey aspires to create a women’s ready-to-wear line and hopes to one-day dress celebrity trend-setters such as Lady Gaga, just like his fellow Project Runway judge, Maxwell.
“I could be her favorite fashion designer, I would be very happy because she is like the dream muse right now,” the designer, whose talents got a nod of approval from rap-artist, Cardi B, when she was a guest judge on show, gushes. “She doesn’t have fears, she always breaks the boundaries – so Lady Gaga if you listen to this – I want to dress you.”
As winner of Project Runway, the former house keeper and bus boy, has received the largest prize in the show’s history— $250,000 furnished by the Pilot’s FriXion Erasable Gel Ink Pen —a feature in ELLE, and his or her own featured role in a Bluprint digital series as well as $50,000 to put toward their own design studio also courtesy of Bluprint, and the first time ever, a one-on-one mentorship with the CFDA, including all the tools and connections to create, grow, and sustain a business in fashion.
In one episode prior to the show’s finale, Grey found himself so down about his creation that he almost went home. But the future winner knew that he had come too far to give up.
“In the end I said, Sebastian, you’re fighting for your dreams and your life,” he says. “So let’s see what’s going happen.”
And happen it did.