Fashion Star kicks off its second season Friday night (7 p.m., Channel 2) and while a couple of contestants are from Austin, Houston fans of the show might also want to adopt New York City-based designer Hunter Bell as a fan favorite.
Bell often visits the Bayou City, where her husband, Paul, was born and raised. She was in town last week for the Passion for Fashion luncheon, where Saks Fifth Avenue executive Terron Schaefer, who portrays a Simon Cowell-like baddie on the reality series and can make or break a designer's future, was the guest of honor.
"I felt like we were shipped off to fashion boot camp. But I came back a more focused designer."
"He's such a nice person, but he gets a bad rap on the show," Bell said during the Houston visit. "The talk he talks is intimidating, but he's very endearing as well."
Bell, 32, faces 12 other contestants for a chance to launch original collections in three of the nation’s leading fashion retailers — Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Express stores. Throughout the series, they are mentored by Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos, along with new host British stylist Louise Roe.
Bell already knows the outcome since filming ended in November, and while she can't talk about specifics, she praised the experience.
"It's the hardest work I've ever done," she said. "I felt like we were shipped off to fashion boot camp. But I came back a more focused designer."
At first, Bell, who designs a contemporary women's line, Hunter Dixon, thought it was "nuts" to put her business on hold to compete in the reality series filmed in Los Angeles. But she eventually realized the exposure of being on a show watched by millions could boost her business across the nation in places where she is not well-known.
She hopes she will be fan favorite, but concedes one never knows how the show will be edited.
"I hope I'm the Southern sweetheart," said the Florence, S.C., native who graduated from the University of Alabama in 2003 with a degree in fashion design and studio art. "I'm a bit competitive, but I could be typecast as a crier. We'll see."