The “Design Star” Interview
with Kam Williams
36 year-old Danielle Colding is an interior designer with her own residential and commercial design firm in New York City. A former professional modern dancer, she also has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Stanford University as well as an associate’s degree in Interior Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise on her resume.
As a self-described problem-solver, Danielle uses her open, friendly and quirky personality to connect with her clients. She characterizes her design style as global chic, classic modern and edited traditional. Here, she talks about participating as a contestant on the new season of Design Star, which airs Tuesdays at 9 PM (8 PM Central) on HGTV (House & Garden Network).
Kam Williams: Hi, Danielle, thanks for the interview.
Danielle Colding: Hi, Kam. It’s my pleasure.
KW: I noticed that you’re from Queens. What part? I’m from St. Albans.
DC: I am from Queens Village- Right off of Hillside Ave. Please tell me you know Gaby’s Pizza in Hollis!
KW: On Hillside Ave near 205th Street? I sure do! I’m from 195th near Linden Boulevard. What interested you in appearing on Design Star?
DC: My friends convinced me to go, thinking I’d have a good chance. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t so sure. I went to the open call just to see what happened, and it just snowballed from there. The next step became the next step and I found myself on the show.
KW: How has the competition surprised you?
DC: The competition surprised me in that it was truly a supportive environment. I was skeptical about doing a completion show because I’m not into that kind of drama. But this experience was the opposite, sure we had our moments but for the most part I made friends for life and we supported each other every step of the way. We felt like we were experiencing something very special together.
KW: Has your life changed since you’ve become a celebrity?
DC: A celebrity? I’m not there yet. My life has not changed tremendously other than I have a sense of confidence in my work that only this experience of making design decisions in minutes and living with them can give you.
KW: Do you ever want your anonymity back?
DC: That’s something I still wrestle with. I have just started being recognized on the streets of New York, and it’s a trip. So far, though, it’s been a lot of fun.
KW: You studied Anthropology at Stanford. So, why did you become a professional dancer after graduating?
DC: I started dancing at the age of 6. So, it was something that was always there on the side. My mother pushed me to go an academic route but was cool about me studying something that I loved without the pressure of doing something that would land me a career. Cultural Anthropology and my minor in African and African-American studies were simply areas of study I was drawn to. Throughout college, I danced with a choreographer that I really loved and respected and who started a company using several dancers from Stanford. I would spend weekends in San Francisco and Oakland, rehearsing and performing. When I graduated he had a spot for me in his company, so I went for it. It was a dream come true and an incredible creative experience.
KW: How did you go from dancing to interior decorating?
DC: My years as a dancer in San Francisco were extremely taxing. I held several jobs to live there as a dancer. I was a first grade teacher for two years, taught dance in public schools, waited tables, was a Pilates instructor and, of course, rehearsed and performed. By the end of four years I was spent. I knew I needed some other way to make a living and my passion for dance wasn’t carrying me through. So, I literally went on a trip with a friend and reflected on all the things I was naturally good at and all the things that I would love to get up in the morning to do…. And interior design came from that. It is truly my passion, and I am lucky to have been on a path where I’ve been able to do what I love.
KW: What would you say characterizes your designing style?
DC: I do not have one design style. I like so much of so many different styles that I hate to claim one. My design is very intuitive and client-driven, but also there’s an eclectic approach. I like homes to feel like they reflect the people who inhabit them… that every item fits and could tell a story. That being said, I value a certain level of elegance and sophistication in all the spaces I design.
KW: Every reality series has to be edited. Do you think this one is portraying you fairly?
DC: I do. I think I am coming off the way I am in person. The tough part is that so little of what happened can be shown in a one-hour show. That is frustrating. There are so many factors that shape our decision-making that the viewers don’t get to see. They see us making crazy decisions but don’t know the full story and the amount of pressure we are under.
KW: What’s the key to impressing the judges?
DC: Being versatile. Every week the judges define my design style based on that week’s work. I took that as a personal challenge and would try to change it up every time… Oh, you think I do cold modern? Here’s warm global. It’s important to show you are capable of a varied body of work.
KW: Do you need to win the competition to consider your appearing on the show a success?
DC: Not at all. I consider my participation in the show a success because it has given me a level of confidence in my abilities as a designer. It also showed me that I truly enjoy the process of making a show. Being on set and the fun of that experience was not something I was expecting.
KW: What the biggest lesson you’ve learned doing Design Star?
DC: The biggest lesson I learned was to trust my gut.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DC: Not that I can think of.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
DC: Not anymore. I have faced my biggest fears in life and lived to talk about it. When you get to the other side of that, fear goes out the window.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
DC: I am happy, not in that overly-smiley way, but at a core level. It’s amazing how much pain it can take to reach happiness.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
DC: Today. I surround myself with people who make me laugh, that deep-belly, throw your head back and get kicked out of the classroom laugh.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
DC: Shoes. I am such a cliché! But, I just can’t seem to stop myself from buying a great pair of heels.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
DC: “The Kitchen House.”
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
DC: “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DC: Eggplant Parmesan
KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
DC: Creativity, that spark of an idea.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
DC: Do I have to pick just one? Alexander Wang, Christopher Bailey, Isabelle Marant. Sorry…. Too hard. and I could go on and on.
KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
DC: The best decision was to go into business for myself. The worst decision was to try to handle the business of the business myself!
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DC: My mother’s daughter.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DC: To never have to worry about money again.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DC: Being on the patio with my mother and brother and feeding my brother birdseed. I had everyone cracking up. That’s when the power of laughter first hit me.
KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
DC: A butterfly. Cheesy perhaps, but I’m in the metamorphosis stage and nothing sums it up better.
KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?
DC: I feel most content when surrounded by people I love… laughing, eating drinking, and being merry. I’m constantly inspired by the people in my life.
KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who led you to become the person you are today?
DC: Unquestionably, my mother. She poured all of her hopes and dreams into me.
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
DC: Resilience! That ability to be knocked down but never out.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DC: Figure out what you love to do and do that.
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
DC: I want to be remembered for my kindness and for being a positive force in the lives of people.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Danielle, and best of luck on the show.
DC: Thank you! I really enjoyed this!