Ellen's Design Challenge: Goodbye, McKenzie

Ellen's Design Challenge: Goodbye, McKenzie

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Tara Bellucci
Jan 25, 2016
(Image credit: HGTV)

Last week on Ellen's Design Challenge, we said goodbye to Our Lady of Amazing Faces, McKenzie. Her lotus bed went up in flames, but being the first sent home couldn't dull her sparkle. We chatted with the RISD student about how what she'd do differently, how the show changed her, and just how many people are placing orders for fire beds.

What were you feeling in that moment?

Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry… No, I knew I was going that night. I still stand behind the concept but I definitely was not happy with the fabrication. It’s so hard to be on a competition because, as artists & designers, we want each other to do well. So, I didn’t want to see anyone else go either. I totally agreed with the judges’ decision though, although in that moment I was hoping against hope that they would see my potential enough to bring me to the next challenge. On the other hand, it was a signature bed in classic McKenzie mixture of art and design…[insert one of my “Leslie Knope faces” here].

Leslie Knope face
(Image credit: HGTV)

Looking back, would you do anything differently?

Oh dear, so many things! First of all, I would have done something I knew how to do. Why I decided to try power carving for the very first time on EDC is beyond me! What was I thinking?! I’ve also never attempted anything so nature-inspired and literal. I seriously don’t know why I tried to do soooo many new things all at the same time, on national television, in a competition for $100,000. Wowza. Saying all that though, I learned so much from my mistakes, so I’m not sure I’d fundamentally change my approach. It comes down to the question of whether I value the gained wisdom or another chance at the money. Gained wisdom can’t be taken away.

What will you remember most about your time on EDC?

My time with the other designers and the amazing production team was really worth it. Man, they are PROs! What an amazing experience both on and off camera. My favorite moments were definitely in the green room, just sitting around with the other designers, staring at each for 15 hours straight. Despite being punchdrunk by the end of each day, I was able to be a sponge and learn so much from their shared experience.

What’s the reception been like back home?

AMAZING! The overwhelming love and support from my family and friends has been truly amazing. My husband, David, in particular has been my biggest supporter and fan throughout this entire process. He, my family, and friends keep saying, “Finally! You’re finally seeing your own talent and creativity that we’ve seen all along!” There’s also been a ridiculous amount of hugs going around, but I’m sure that’s a given now that you’ve seen my personality on television.

(Image credit: HGTV)

Has your experience on the show changed your work?

It hasn’t changed the aesthetic of my work, but being chosen to compete on the show has given me more self-confidence in my work and abilities. I mean, I must be doing something right! Before the show, I really struggled with finding my place in between the realms of “art” and “design”. In art school, my work was too “design-y”; in design school, my work is too “arty”. The show has taught me to care a little bit less about where I fit. Whatever I’m doing is working and making an impact; I’ll remind myself to trust my instincts moving into the future. I cannot express the gratitude to Ellen and HGTV for this realization. It was, truly, a life-changer.

I also now have the dream of being an HGTV host one day too after this experience. From being on the show, I found out how cool television is behind-the-scenes and then on air. Maybe one day I’ll learn to hide what I’m thinking? Haha, I doubt that very much!

How many requests for fire beds have you gotten?

Ha! Just a few from folks who’ve had their fire rekindled! ☺

Thanks, McKenzie!

We'll be live-tweeting the show along with the cast & judges every Monday at 9|8c. Follow us @apttherapy & join in using #EllenDesignOnHGTV. And check back after each show for our episode recap!
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