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Helen Manuell From Project Runway Australia – One Of The Great Reality TV Characters.

helen-manuellIf you missed Project Runway Australia the first time around don’t worry as now you can see it all again in one go on Australia Day on Arena TV.

One of the designers that made the show so memorable was the Frockmaker, Helen Manuell. She polarised people with her utter self confidence and her ‘I am here to win attitude”. She gave great reality TV.

Even though she finished sixth, being on the show has certainly increased her profile and business and this year she plans to launch a ready to wear collection.

Helen kindly agreed to be interviewed by Reality Raver.

Reality Raver:Helen I thought you were one of the designers on the show that made the Australian version of Project Runway so successful. You were a “˜character’ on the show that people either loved or hated. Were you surprised by the amount of screen time you received?

Helen Manuell: Initially I was horrified by the amount of air play that I got, but after the second episode I pretty quickly realised that it was going to be good for my bridal couture business, Manuell & Moore. And every time someone mentioned anything about the negativeness of the air play, I just reminded them that alot of it was editing.  I had a fair idea that I would be cast as the bitch, and blow me down, thats what happened!
 
RR: Was there anything you would have done differently whilst you were on the show?
 
HM: Not done the swim wear challenge …. oh my lordy, what was I thinking!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
RR: Do you think the way you were portrayed on the show was an accurate reflection on who you are?
HM: I dont think it was a completely true reflection of what I am like, but that is show biz, and my skin is pretty thick!  I was always up for it!  My friends were actually horrified to see how i was portrayed.  However, its pretty black and white with me.  I say it how I see it!  Sometimes that gets me in trouble, but so be it!
RR: What has happened to you since appearing on Project Runway Australia? Have any business or career opportunities eventuated? Has there been customers coming to you because of Project Runway? (By the way I loved the Women’s Day 60th anniversary dress you did.)
 
HM: Since the final episode of PRA things have been pretty hectic.  Business is going great guns and have had 2 trips to Bali in order to set up a production facility for my new ready to wear collection which is being sold under my own name.  It is a reasonably tight collection made up of 10 different styles.  Each style is only available in black or white.
Have done a couple of interviews with Grubby and Dee Dee on Gold 104.3 and also a few interviews with Channels 7 & 9.  Would love to do some further tv or radio work … will just have to see what opportunities present themselves.
Our business has increased significantly over the last couple of months, solely as a result of appearing on PRA.  I continually get recognised in the streets, and even in Bali!!!!!!!! Too funny!
I have been approached by Womans Day to do a number of jobs for them which is all good, as it heightens the profile of my label.
 
RR:You were unable to contact your daughter while you were on the show, which must have been extremely difficult. How do you juggle your job with your responsibilities of being a mother (funny how dad’s never get asked these questions!)?
 
HM: I work approx 6 days a week which makes it really difficult being a single mum.  On mondays I pick soph up straight after school but the rest of the time she goes into after school care …. AND  I FEEL SO BLOODY GUILTY!!!  But the reason I work this hard is so that soph and I can have regular holidays!  Soph is THE ‘bali-queen’, or at least, thats what she thinks!
RR:What was your favourite outfit you did on the show?
 
HM: My favourite piece was probably in episode 6 (which I won) … winter wonderland/tailoring ….. I love doing structured, pleated pieces … that suit totally reflected the design ethos of my work. The Brownlow challenge came a very close second!
 
RR: What was your least favourite outfit?
 
hmmmmmmm … let me guess …. oh thats right, the swimwear challenge!!!  If I ever apply for a job with TigerLily can someone please shoot me!!
 
RR: Any tips for any would be next season’s contestants
Expect the unexpected, because, trust me, it WILL happen.  Make sure that you have an adequate supply of blocks, that your sewing skills are impecable and that you have a cool head and a sense of humour.  Having days and days of 2-3 hours sleep a night can make anyone go nuts …. so expect the worst and you might be nicely surprised!   And, definitely have a game plan!
 
RR: If you could go on any other reality TV show, other then Project Runway, what would it be?
 
HM: If you had’ve asked me a couple of months back I would have said Biggest Loser, but I have lost 10kg since Oct, so hopefully will be able to shed the weight required without any external assistance!
 
RR: What are your plans for 2009?
 
HM: Start selling my new ready to wear collection, pick soph up straight after school 2 afternoons a week, work less hours on the sewing machine, bank more money and continue to lose more weight!  And hopefully engage myself in a healthy relationship, with lots of mental stimulation!!!
 
For more information on her designs go to Manuell and Moore.
For interviews with Project Runway Australia winner Juli Grbac click here,  with Lui Hon click here,  and Leigh Buchanan click here.

3 comments

1 Hilary RC { 01.23.09 at 3:24 pm }

Good on you Helen, I have to say.

I hope you are genuinely as zen about your experience as you are saying because I reckon you got a MAJOR bum steer from the editing of that show. Even when some boofhead steals your block somehow you were made to look like the bad guy ! Outrageous.

Now sure, if it builds your business by 30 percent it might be worth it financially but I reckon being cast as the “baddy” in a reality TV show would have to be one of the crappiest things that could happen to you. And, especially in your case, where it was so totally obvious that most of the dickheads bitching about you behind your back are NEVER going to make a living out of their designing skills and from what I could tell you were just being straightforward and honest…

Anyway, all power to you. If I ever succomb to the other half’s desire to get hitched (and I decide to do it in a wedding frock which is even less likely I must confess) I’ll happily come to you – at least you can sew a seam, properly construct a pleat and get a hem straight – all within a reasonable timeframe – unlike some of the others featured during your season.

Lastly (while I have the chance) I hope for God’s sake that Kirsty isn’t taking the Xanax for this season because the only thing more wooden than her last year is my new timber deck.

2 Hilary RC { 01.23.09 at 3:29 pm }

Good on you Helen, I have to say.

I hope you are genuinely as zen about your experience as you are saying because I reckon you got a MAJOR bum steer from the editing of that show. Even when some boofhead steals your block somehow you were made to look like the bad guy ! Outrageous.

Now sure, if it builds your business by 30 percent it might be worth it financially but I reckon being cast as the “baddy”- in a reality TV show would have to be one of the crappiest things that could happen to you. And, especially in your case, where it was so totally obvious that most of the dickheads bitching about you behind your back are NEVER going to make a living out of their designing skills and from what I could tell you were just being straightforward and honest”¦

Anyway, all power to you. If I ever succomb to the other half’s desire to get hitched (and I decide to do it in a wedding frock which is even less likely I must confess) I’ll happily come to you – at least you can sew a seam, properly construct a pleat and get a hem straight – all within a reasonable timeframe – unlike some of the others featured during your season.

Lastly (while I have the chance) I hope for God’s sake that Kirsty isn’t taking the Xanax for this season because the only thing more wooden than her last year is my new timber deck.

3 Reality Raver { 01.23.09 at 10:08 pm }

Hilary – If I was in a reality TV show I think I would prefer to get lots of screen time and be memorable like Helen, rather then the meek one in the corner that everyone forgets about once you are eliminated.