STL Designer Shan Keith Competes on Tim Gunn's 'Under the Gunn' Fashion Reality Show
Second time’s a charm for STL designer Shan Keith, a contestant on Tim Gunn’s new reality show, “Under the Gunn,” which pits up-and-coming fashion designers against one another in a “Project Runway”-esque environment. Keith, a St. Louis native and self-taught designer, previously auditioned for “Project Runway,” but didn’t make the cut. He heard about Gunn’s new reality show, and after rounds of auditions, he made it to the big leagues in true “make-it-work” fashion while surviving deadlines and challenges that would make even the most seasoned designers cringe.
Last night, ALIVE sat down with Keith at his “Under the Gunn” premiere watch party to get the inside scoop on his experience during the show.
ALIVE: What was the audition process like?
Shan Keith: We had to do a casting in front of a panel of judges. Some were previous contestants, and we had to showcase five looks.
ALIVE: Did you have a lot of time to interact with Tim?
SK: Tim was the host and was kind of like a mentor. He would come in with our mentors and help give us critiques, so we had a lot of interaction with him.
ALIVE Be honest––how many times did you hear, “Make it work?”
SK: I heard make it work, like, every day. Every single day. If it wasn’t from Tim, it was from the contestants saying, “We’ve gotta make this work.”
ALIVE: With feedback from Tim and your mentors on top of the tough competition with other designers, were there points where you were completely overwhelmed?
SK: I was always. You’ll see on the show that I hated critiques. They were not a favorite of mine because I would always get kind of nervous about somebody critiquing my work. I had to realize that it was always constructive criticism, though. They try to bring out your best.
ALIVE: Was there ever a critique with which you disagreed?
SK: As a self-taught designer, you’re used to being in your own bubble, and when you’re used to designing and creating on your own, you’re just doing what you want to do. So it’s difficult when you have somebody telling you that maybe you should go in a different direction [with your design]. Once they realize your strengths, they try to push you [in that way]. Although it seemed like they were changing your direction, they were really always there just to keep you on the straight and narrow path.
ALIVE: Tell us about living with your direct competition.
SK: The guys lived together and the girls lived together. It was interesting because it gave us the chance to converse, and though we were competing, you gain these friendships. It began to be less competitive and more of us really trying to help each other bring out the best in each other. There were times when people would get really down, but for the most part, we would try to uplift each other. You’re under a lot of pressure. When they say “one day,” it’s literally one day––not 24 hours, but, like, 10 hours. It was tough.
ALIVE: So, Anya was your mentor. What was it like working with her?
SK: Anya was amazing. She was spectacular. She took me under her wing and tried to teach me everything she knows. Once she saw my gift, she really learned to bring that out. She only wanted the best for me.
ALIVE: After your experience competing on this show, would you ever do a reality competition again?
SK: If presented with the opportunity, I would have to know exactly what it is and what I’d be getting myself into––but I wouldn’t say no!
ALIVE: Did you know what you were getting into before you started “Under the Gunn”?
SK: I didn’t know what I was getting into, actually. I knew I was getting into something similar to “Project Runway,” but I didn’t know exactly what that would be.
ALIVE: Where do you think this opportunity can take you as a designer?
SK: I’m hoping it leads me to some investors, somebody who can pick up my brand and take me to the next level. If somebody’s trying to offer me a job in the design industry, you know I’ll be happy.
ALIVE: Now that you’re back in St. Louis, what’s next for you?
SK: I’m trying to focus on my brand and finding manufacturers and investors to help me launch my line. I have some things in the works. We just got back, so I haven’t really started focusing on anything in specific, but I’m really trying to chime right in to get myself out there and stay in the public eye.
Tune-in to “Under the Gunn” on Lifetime every Thursday at 8pm.