Three Floridians will bring their design sense to HGTV’s reality competition show, HGTV Star, when it returns for its eighth season at 8 p.m. Sunday. Striving for their own show on the network are Crisermy Mercado, 27, of Miami; Anne Rue, 41, of Lake Mary in Central Florida; and Tobin Green 36, of Tampa; along with seven other interior designers who hope to impress judges with their designs and performance in meeting unexpected challenges.
Selected from a nationwide casting call, this was the first time Mercado and Green tried out. Rue tried out last season but wasn’t chosen.
A panel of HGTV personalities will decide each week who will move to the next round of the seven-episode series and who will be eliminated.
Miami’s David Bromstad, who will serve as host and mentor to the designers, was the winner in the show’s debut season, when it was called HGTV Design Star.
Rue, owner of an interior design business for 12 years and an avid watcher of the show, said at first it did not occur to her that she could have a chance at being a contestant on the show. Then, after auditioning unsuccessfully last season, the mother of three decided to try again, certain that she could not only get on this show, but that she could possibly win.
“I can tell you that it was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. However, I had the time of my life,” said Rue. “It’s nothing like a real design project at home that takes six months to a year to make happen. We’re doing things in two to three days. It’s an unbelievable experience.”
Mercado, who was born in New York and raised in the Dominican Republic, has had a love for designing since she was a child.
“I did not know I was falling in love,” Mercado said. “I thought I had this talent and I should develop it and here I am, competing amongst the best in the country.”
She also has a love of acting. Mercado started working on TV when she was 8 years old, singing and dancing in shows in the Dominican Republic. But she got her degree in architecture, and it was not until she went to her country’s first film festival that she decided to pursue acting seriously. She won a scholarship to studying acting in New York and landed roles on TV, including Una Maid en Manhattan on Telemundo.
“I haven’t moved from acting to design. I do both. My first love was always art and that was the reason I studied architecture,” Mercado said.
After moving to Miami with her husband, Mercado got a job as a showroom assistant. Now she hopes that being a contestant on HGTV Star will showcase her design style on a grander scale.
The Miami Herald caught up with Mercado between design projects to chat about her experience on HGTV Star:
Q. How did you get your start as an interior designer?
I’ve been an interior designer for about three years. I started out with architecture back home in the Dominican Republic. Then I got a scholarship from the president of my country to studying acting in New York. My husband and I decided to move to Miami, where I started working as a showroom assistant. I went from a design consultant to a showroom manager in that time.
Q. How was the HGTV Star audition?
My husband found it online, and he was like, “you have to go.” I’ve always been involved in TV in the Dominican Republic and he was like, “This is perfect.” I went ahead and auditioned and I think because of my background and because I am so young and fresh and different is why they chose me to be a contestant on HGTV Star.
Q. How do you define your style?
I’m a very fresh and bold girl and that’s basically how I define my style. I have Caribbean fusion in my work.
Q. How was the experience on the show?
You know how you sit down at home and you’re watching reality competitions and you just criticize people like “Oh my God, why would you do that?” or “You are stupid”? Well now I have a completely new respect for everyone that has been in a reality show because it is a lot harder than what it looks like when you are sitting on your sofa. But it was worth going through this whole experience and if I had the opportunity to do it again I would.
Q. You mentioned that you consider yourself a rookie. What do you mean by that?
It’s not by experience that I consider myself a rookie; I just know that there is still a lot I have to learn. So I just felt really young in the competition just because of time, not because of experience. I realized I wanted to do this since I was 9, so I feel like I am blooming.
Q. Anything you can tell us about what to expect?
You gotta watch it. ... All I can say it was a great cast. If you go look at a picture of us you will see a very diverse cast and I think that’s something that HGTV wanted to accomplish.