COLUMBIA –Qristyl Frazier spent many nights in the Stephens College fashion lab until 2, 3, sometimes 4 a.m. working on her senior collection. She would turn down opportunities to go to parties for a chance to sew just a few more stitches.
Now, one of 14 remaining contestants on Lifetime Television’s hit show Project Runway, she returned to Stephens Thursday night to celebrate her accomplishments and watch the season's second episode with students.
When Frazier, class of '91 , walked into the lobby of Windsor Auditorium, students immediately gathered around her like a swarm of bees. She signed a large, white backdrop on the wall, made to look like those on the red carpet, with her famous tag line, "What's your plus sexy?"
During the meet-and-greet portion of the event, Frazier took photo after photo with students and faculty in front of the backdrop, hugging them and holding their hands, laughing as if she knew them.
The school's Innovative Fashion Association, with assistance from the Student Government Association, planned the event. It included a student fashion show during commercials to keep the audience entertained and educate those who may not be as knowledgeable about fashion, IFA President Angela LeVota said.
Frazier describes the show as “catapulting” her career.
“I knew that Project Runway was such a big platform that I needed,” she said.
Getting on the show, however, was not easy. Frazier tried out for Project Runway four times before she was invited to be a contestant. She beat out nearly 15,000 people to be on the show. Her audition tape and casting session with Tim Gunn,the show's designer consultant, can be viewed on Lifetime's Web site.
On Aug. 17, just days before the Aug. 20 premiere of the show, Frazier logged onto the microblogging site Twitter and tweeted: “Oh man, it’s almost here… I can not believe I made it on Project Runway Season 6, actually I can believe it because I did not give up!"
For the past three years, Frazier has owned, operated and designed for her own company, Qristyl Frazier Designs Inc., located in Brooklyn.
“I always just wanted to be my own designer and just work for myself,” she said. “I liked being able to do my own thing.”
Frazier predominantly designs for full figure women, but prefers the term “plus sexy” when referring to her clientele because she believes that “owning up to the curves that you really have” is essential.
Frazier moved to New York after her best friend and roommate at Stephens, Lyah Beth LeFlore, convinced her that it was a necessary career move. LeFlore, now a New York Times bestselling author, was working for Nickelodeon in New York.
“She really cut her teeth into New York and the fashion industry,” LeFlore said.
LeFlore, along with Frazier’s boyfriend Todd Graham, made the trip to Columbia to support Frazier.
“When you have a friend like Qristyl, you kind of stop what you’re doing and make it happen,” she said.
Graham said that he was “elated” to find out that Frazier was going to be on the show.
“That’s like a dream come true for her,” he said. “This is her time. For her to be chosen is phenomenal, and I hope she wins.”
While Frazier was home in St. Louis for the premiere last week, Graham was in New York watching the first episode with the couple’s eight-pound Maltese, Louie. Graham said Louie touched his paw to the television when Frazier came on.
Graham said he was nervous while watching the episode because Frazier, voted into the bottom three, had not relayed any details about the show. Finding out that she would be advancing to the next round was a relief.
“Me and Louie went and smoked a big celebratory cigar,” he said.
Over the years, Frazier has designed for celebrities including Queen Latifah, Angie Stone and Wendy Williams. She has also worked on alterations for Janet Jackson.In New York, Frazier worked for Sean Combs' clothing company, Sean by Sean Combs. She said she walked up to Combs to introduce herself, and he always recognized her around the office afterward.
In 1992, shortly after graduating, she appeared on an ABC affiliate in St. Louis to showcase her first collection. On Friday, she was on the morning television show Great Day St. Louis to showcase some early fall pieces and transitional summer designs.