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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jul. 15, 2009 8 years ago

Profiles of Summer: Hollywood Treatment

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Jason Champion has no qualms about promoting his mushrooming celebrity status. You’d probably do the same thing if you were in his designer Nikes.

Chosen out of 10,000 people for a spot on HGTV’s reality hit, “Design Star” — the same show that, in 2006, launched the television career of Ringling College of Art and Design alum David Bromstad — Champion, a 33-year-old interior designer with sky-high hair, is still reeling from the fact that he spent six weeks sleeping in Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood Hills home.

And, lest he forget the experience — the paparazzi Champion is rounding up on Craigslist to swarm him at the show’s Burns Court premiere will certainly remind him.

“I’ve always wanted to be in front of the camera,” says Champion with a playful shrug. “I’m an entertaining person.”

And he is.

A Mississippi native, Champion has an endearing Southern drawl and a disarming sense of humor. He’s a television producer’s dream: charming, but not rehearsed; fashionable, but not stuffy; approachable but not hokey. Even his design sensibilities have universal appeal, be it high-class swank or thrift-store chic.

“For lack of a better word,” Champion says, “I love to go dumpster diving.”

His favorite piece of furniture is a 1950s sectional sofa, weighing in at 400 pounds. He bought it from a friend for $100, reupholstered it in outdoor fabric and laid it out across a blue damask-patterned rug with polka dots in his Gulf Gate home.

“It doesn’t matter where your stuff comes from as long as it makes you happy,” Champion says. “The budget could be Wal-Mart or Neiman Marcus. Every project has its scale.”

When Champion was asked to participate in this year’s Sarasota Orchestra’s Designer Showcase, he spent weeks scouring Sarasota for the perfect sculpture for his room in Siesta Key’s Summer Cove condominiums. Out of options and on a deadline, Champion decided to mold his own body out of chicken wire and cover the cast in decoupage newspaper.

“It looked amazing and it cost me $30 at Michael’s,” he laughs.

Undoubtedly, it was his quick wit and likeability that earned him a spot on “Design Star.” Every television show needs its comic relief.

And, whenever tension would mount on the set, Champion would lighten the mood with a joke.

“You stick 11 creative people in the same room every day and you’re bound to have drama,” he says.

Champion promised his friends and family that no matter how nerve-racking the competition got, he wouldn’t cry. What could be more annoying than watching a reality-show contestant blubber over wallpaper on national television? He also said he wouldn’t get too attached to cast members in such a short amount of time. Halfway into filming, he had done both.

“I used to laugh when I watched reality shows and people were suddenly best friends after a week,” Champion says. “I did that! I did all of it! Your senses are heightened in these situations.”

Sequestered from the outside world, Champion and his castmates were cut off from television and Internet; even iPods were forbidden. Each design competition was a race against the clock. Grouped together in teams, contestants were given as little as 20 hours to redesign entire rooms.

Champion’s favorite competition was the kitchen challenge, in which he led a demolition team, wielding a 30-pound sledgehammer.

It wasn’t the first time he tore a room apart down to the bare walls. When Champion was 15, he remodeled his mother’s living room from the concrete up.

“Something was inherent in me from a young age,” he says. “I’ve always liked making things pretty.”

Given his candor, you’d expect Champion to accidentally hint at the outcome of the show, but regarding this matter he is uncharacteristically mum, a natural celebrity.

“All I can do right now is maximize whatever exposure I get from the show,” he says.

Last month he gave an interview to his hometown newspaper, The Clarion-Ledger, stating that his dream job would be to redesign the Mississippi governor’s mansion.

“Listen,” he says, “You’ve got to take advantage of this stuff. I’m not starring in the next Brad Pitt movie or anything. I’m an interior designer who was on a reality TV show. You’ve got to roll with the punches and have fun.”


• Change the handles on your cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom. 
• Collect and frame things from your travels. Jason Champion has saved the front page of every phone book in every city he’s ever lived. “Who knows, maybe one day I may wallpaper a room with them,” he says.
• Change the throw pillows on your sofa with the seasons.
• Put out a vase of fresh flowers, even it’s just a palm leaf from the yard. Live plants will give any room a warmer feel.
• Use white towels and linens for a crisper, resort-style look.

Red carpet premiere

Watch the season premiere of “Design Star” at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 19, on HGTV, or celebrate that same night with Jason Champion at his red-carpet premiere party at 9 p.m., at Burns Court Cinemas, 506 Burns Lane. For 6 p.m. dinner reservations at 5One6 Burns, call 906-1884. For the inside scoop on “Design Star,” visit

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