Chris March on ‘Mad Fashion’ and Young Sun on ‘Work of Art’ are openly gay and openly creative.
by Blase DiStefano
Chris March, a “loser” on the fourth season of Project Runway, now has his own show, Mad Fashion. Young Sun is a contestant on the new season of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Both air this month on Bravo. And both answer a few questions for our OutSmart readers.
Blase DiStefano: When did your interest in fashion begin?
Chris March: I guess by going along with my mother to her sewing lessons—my mother used to sew all her own evening gowns. Also, I loved old movies with the incredible ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s fashions.
Did being gay and being into fashion cause any problems when you were younger? Still causing problems? Or does it depend on whether you live in a small town or big city?
Many years ago when I first came out, I asked my roommate if being gay was going to be a problem in the fashion world. She told me it was practically required! Hopefully, being gay in any profession is getting easier, but unfortunately it is still probably easiest on the coasts and metropolitan cities.
How was the whole “telling your parents you were gay” thing?
My mother’s response was, “Well, you’ve always had a certain flair.” I guess I’ve always been a little underwhelmed by her lack of really wanting to talk about it.
You’ve designed for a slew of celebs. Any stories?
Most people don’t know that when dealing with celebrities, their “people” usually ask you not to say their names out loud when talking about them…like with Madonna, you’re supposed to refer to her as “M”!
You designed a dress for Meryl Streep [for the Golden Globes when she won for Julie & Julia]. Is she as nice as she seems?
She is incredibly nice and down to earth. She is so sweet and funny and intelligent and totally puts you at ease. The night I brought over her finished Golden Globes dress, she asked me to stay and help her choose bags and jewelry while she was packing her suitcase!
On Project Runway, you were criticized by the judges for being too costumey. What was the harshest and best criticism you received?
The worst was when Michael Kors said I made a coat from my grandmother’s couch (which got me eliminated). The best was when Roberto Cavalli thought my gown was the best thing on the runway, and that I was a true artist who should be doing couture in Paris. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Now you can do your too-costumey fashions all you want! On Mad Fashion. Can’t wait. Tell me about it.
We make outrageous outfits for outrageous (and celebrity) clients. Each week, I and my crew dress someone from head to foot for a fabulous event…and hope they like it!
Young Sun answers a few questions:
Blase DiStefano: Did growing up in a suburb of Chicago and being gay and being artistic cause any problems?
Young Sun: Luckily, I went to a very supportive high school with an amazing arts program: Niles North in Skokie. My theater arts teacher, Timothy Ortmann, and art teacher, Lori Real, encouraged me to pursue my passion for the arts and gave me an outlet to explore my identity and express myself. The arts program saved me from a lot of the anguish one feels being an awkward teenager coming to terms with their sexuality.
Were your parents accepting of your homosexuality? Has that changed?
They weren’t at first. When I first came out at 18, my dad was completely confused. He was very religious and didn’t understand why I would “choose” to be gay. My mother was in tears, and it was a great shame for her to keep it a secret from the rest of the family. Fast forward 10 years later, and my mother now goes on vacation with me and my boyfriend, has dinner with us almost weekly, and is pushing me to settle down, adopt kids, et al! It took me more than five years to come to terms with being gay. Even my dad came to accept me for who I am today.
Do your parents understand/appreciate your art?
My parents haven’t always understood what my projects were about, but they have been open enough to ask and are supportive. I think some of the content in the work may be uncomfortable for them, especially pieces involving sexuality, but they have actually participated in some of my art-making and appreciate that I am passionate about my work as an artist. My mom is especially interested in what I am working on.
As a 28-year-old gay man, does being gay inform your work?
Being gay has definitely informed my artwork, as a lot of my pieces are rooted in identity, personal experience, and desire. When I was discovering my gay identity, the Internet had just started to penetrate everyday households. Remember AOL chat and 28kb modems? I was in that early generation of users who could learn about sexuality online, but it wasn’t fully accessible to the extent that it is today. A lot of my work isn’t about gayness or queerness, but it is a part of who I am, and it offers a unique perspective.
How did you become a contestant on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist?
The open call auditions were held at the art school I graduated from in Chicago, and I had just moved back to the U.S. I watched the first season on my boyfriend’s couch, and I thought, “Man, this looks like fun. I can do this.” So I got my portfolio together, stood in line with hundreds of other artists, and somehow I made it through to the other side!
You’ve traveled extensively. Any place you haven’t been that you still want to visit?
For the remote nature, I would love to see Antarctica and the Pacific island of Nieue. I’ve read a lot of history on Rwanda and will make a pilgrimage out there one day. Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Cambodia are countries I want to backpack through and do art projects in. Finally, I hope to visit North Korea in the future because that is where my grandfather is from before he escaped during the Korean war. It’s heartbreaking to learn about what life is like there today, and in a weird way, I feel it’s the motherland I never knew.
Anything you want to add?
Thanks for taking an interest in the show and my participation. I hope to represent the gays well, so watch what happens!
Mad Fashion premieres October 4 at 9:30 p.m. (central time); Work of Art’s second season premieres October 12 at 8 p.m. (central time), both on Bravo (bravo.com).