"Project Runway" Season 8 fan favorite Andy South is back — with a new name and a new look.
Now known as Ari South, the Hawaii native is competing on "Project Runway: All Stars" as a woman after completing a gender transition.
A lot has changed for South since finishing in third place on Season 8 of the reality series but one thing hasn't changed: Her skill and taste as a designer. She chatted with Yahoo TV about the very competitive season, the cast's reaction to her transformation, and the two celebrities she'd love to dress.
Did you feel any trepidation about coming back to the show after such big changes in your life?
I think I just wanted to be prepared. I know what a new season on reality TV brings. I just needed to make sure I was ready for that again, because I've been so focused on the business and focused on getting my line established and growing it that I kind of hadn't kept up with a lot of reality TV things. So, for me to go back was more of making sure I was prepared for what comes along with the territory — with all the criticism and all the comments and stuff. And I was.
What was the reaction to your gender transition from cast members and judges?
Everything was very positive. It couldn't have been better. I was really fortunate that that's the kind of environment I entered. I also didn't want it to become the focus — like, "Oh, look at who we brought back" and get too much into that topic. It truly was about my talent and my skill as a designer.
Have your fans and other people on Twitter and social media been supportive as well?
Very, very, very. I've been really lucky to have those kind of fans that follow me. And I think it's because I've been so open, which is why I choose to live visibly. I want people to realize that it's not my entire life, but it's a part of my life. And I still have other goals and other dreams that I'm still accomplishing and really striving for, aside from my personal choices.
Is "All Stars" your way of trying to rewrite Season 8?
I didn't so much want to rewrite what happened in Season 8. I do think they got it wrong (laughs), but I looked at this competition as something completely different, because I was competing with the best of the best. I've always said that with my luck, the season I'm invited to go back is going to be the season where it's the best of the best. And it truly was.
What lessons from Season 8 did you apply to "All Stars"?
I went with my gut, even more strongly than I did the first season. After two years of being in business, I've really established who the Andy South girl is and who my customer is and what my look is. I really, really went back with a strong idea of who I am as a designer and a sense of my work and what I represent in the world of fashion.
Is there an outfit from Season 8 that people still talk to you about?
The black ribbon dress. I'm glad it's still ticking. Everyone is still completely in love with it.
Is there a challenge from your season that you wish you could redo?
The Jackie Kennedy challenge, designing for an American icon. That, I would've redone. It was one of the few times I was in the bottom and almost went home. Those moments really stick with you.
Were you excited to see who else had returned?
I was excited, really really excited. And maybe because I saw my old favorites — they're the reasons why I became a fan of the show, like Korto [Momolu, Season 5] and Mychael [Knight, Season 3]. So I was actually really excited to compete with them. To think I was selected to compete alongside these designers was really great.
How is your label doing?
The business is going really well. In fact, we're carried at Neiman Marcus. This is going to be our third season with the Neiman Marcus in Honolulu. You know, we got off to a really strong start and it's only gotten better.
["Project Runway"] has been the best starting point, actually. I've always said it's what you make of it and what you do with the opportunity afterwards that really counts. I haven't stopped running that's for sure. I don't think I've stopped running since I got cast in Season 8. It's been an ongoing journey and an ongoing marathon, but an exciting one.
How would you describe your line?
For Andy South, we still keep some of the edginess. It's also confirmation of what people saw of me on the show — this really extreme hard-edge perspective, and also this really feminine and ladylike perspective. I think I've found a really good combination and a good mix of the two. What we bring with the Andy South label is that feminine woman who still has that bite to her, she still has that edge to her.
Are there any celebrities you'd like to dress?
I would love to dress Nicole Scherzinger, she's another local girl from the same side of the island I'm from. She's also one of the artists that has a good demeanor about herself and she still maintains ties to local roots [in Hawaii]. I connect to that personally. Who else? Oprah, for sure (laughs). My selections are based on people who inspire me, because that's what I connect with the most.
So, what can fans expect from "All Stars" Season 3?
They can expect a throwdown. Honestly, there's no filler this season. Everyone on this cast is supertalented. When I did meet all the cast, I looked around and said, "There's no filler here." There's nobody brought on just for character that you can expect to go early. From Day 1, it was compteitive and truly an all-star experience. The talent is completely there.
Watch a preview of the new season of "Project Runway: All Stars":
"Project Runway: All Stars" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.