We’re all guilty of binge-watching now and then, but what happens when you get so inspired by a television show that you actually end up being ON it? That’s the story of 18-year-old designer and beauty guru Matt Sarafa. After stumbling upon the hit show Project Runway when he was younger, it was like a door opened for him. Years later, for the first time, Lifetime introduced Project Runway: Junior and Sarafa was one of the selected individuals to be on the show. With this remarkable talent of putting together fabulous pieces, it’s no wonder he was chosen to be a designer. Although he didn’t win the competition, we’re sure we haven’t seen the last of him.
Cliché: What was it like being on Project Runway: Junior, and what are your plans now since that chapter is over?
Matt Sarafa: Being on Project Runway: Junior was undoubtedly the best experience of my life so far. I love fashion so much, and I’m so happy I was able to show my passion to the world. I have so many projects in the works, including a fashion line, which I’m super excited about. Kelly Osbourne has been seen wearing my “Hot Mess” leather jacket, and even posted it on her social media to her millions of followers! Right now I’m just working on getting the line out as soon as possible, but the whole process is a lot more complicated than it seems!
Knowing what you know now after being on the show, what would you have done differently from the beginning?
Time management was something I definitely struggled with on the show, especially in the beginning. At home, I’m used to spending days, weeks, or even months sometimes perfecting my outfits and making sure every little detail is absolutely perfect. Obviously, in the competition, I didn’t have that kind of time, so it took some getting used to.
After years of binge-watching the original Project Runway, what’s your takeaway after being on Project Runway: Junior? Was it everything you imagined and more?
Actually getting to be part of the show is so surreal. I’ve seen that exact workroom on TV for years, but it was crazy actually getting to experience it in real life. The journey as a whole was so amazing. The judges were great and the other 11 designers are so talented and I’m so glad I got to meet other kids my age who love fashion as much as I do.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is constantly evolving. I’ve always stuck with a darker, edgier vibe, but my inspirations are always changing, and so does my work.
Some people may or may not know that you have your own YouTube channel, too! How did that start?
I’ve always been a fan of YouTube, and especially the beauty gurus who post makeup tutorials. When I had my very first fashion show, I did all the makeup for the models and I taught myself entirely through watching videos. Two years ago, two of my friends and I decided to make beauty channels, but I was the only one who really stuck with it. Now, my channel MakeupByMatt has over 18,000 subscribers and a collective 300,000 views, and I couldn’t be more proud. I put in so much time and effort into each one of my videos, and I’m so glad that my subscribers and fans can learn from them and enjoy them.
When did you know makeup and fashion were your calling? Do you have a preference on one over the other?
I started out with fashion at age 7 after stumbling across a Project Runway marathon. I’ve always felt that beauty and fashion go hand-in-hand, so I always styled my own fashion shows from head to toe. Being only like 10 years old, I had absolutely no idea about makeup, so I turned to YouTube to learn. My main priority is fashion, because I know that’s what I want to do as a career, but I think makeup is so fun, so it’s something I do on the side.
You’re undoubtedly fierce and majorly confident. What advice would you give someone who is trying his or her best to be confident in who they are?
When I was younger, I was nowhere near as confident in myself as I am now. I was a super shy little wallflower with some Justin Bieber-esque bangs. As I got older, I started growing into myself more and more. Even though it’s hard, I had to stop caring about what people thought about me. I learned to love myself and to me that’s the most important thing.
What was the very first piece of clothing you created?
The first dress I ever created was this blue satin gown I made for my mom at age 7. It was a hot mess, but my mom didn’t care and she still has it to this day!
Do you ever see yourself going back to Project Runway in the future? If not, where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
My Project Runway: Junior experience was so amazing and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But ultimately, I hope to have not just my own fashion line, but my own fashion empire. I want to follow in the footsteps of designers like Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs, where I also have a cosmetic line as well, since I’m so passionate about makeup and beauty.
You have a HUGE and crazy busy schedule—more than most teens your age. Do you find yourself overwhelmed at times?
My schedule is pretty hectic, but I think I handle it pretty well. Sometimes it can be a little tough balancing schoolwork with fashion, while still leaving time to hang out with my friends and do all the normal teen stuff.
When you’re not busy working and designing, what do you do to unwind?
My guilty pleasure is definitely reality TV. I am obsessed. I love shows like Love & Hip Hop and Bad Girls Club. I love seeing all the drama and I think it’s so entertaining to follow all these characters’ crazy lives!
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Matt Sarafa is Making It Work: Photographed by Peter Svenson