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Dorchester native competes on ‘Project Runway’

Jacquinn Williams | 9/19/2012, 9:22 a.m.
Fashion designer Sonjia Williams, 27, is aiming...

Fashion designer Sonjia Williams, 27, is aiming to cut and sew her way to victory on Lifetime’s “Project Runway.”

The popular reality show offers design hopefuls a chance to win $100,000 in seed money from L’Oreal Paris and $50,000 in technology and office space from HP Intel to start a clothing line. Other prizes include a spread in Marie Claire magazine and a new Lexus.

The program, whose judges include supermodel Heidi Klum, designer Michael Kors and Marie Claire’s Fashion Director Nina Garcia, is now in its tenth year.

Williams, a blue-haired Dorchester native, is a graduate of Lasell College and has been sewing since she was 12. She remembers her mom making Halloween costumes growing up and counts her family as her biggest fans. “Everyone is really creative,” she said. “It was important for us to do what we wanted to do.”

Her parents, Reggie and Makeba, are both chefs. According to Williams’ father, her sister Vanessa is a cosmetologist and preschool teacher, and her sister Moniqua is into interior design. Sonjia's mother taught her how to sew and the first thing she made was “a denim skirt with a drawstring.”

She hasn’t looked back since.

Williams’ keen fashion sense has gotten her through several rounds of eliminations on the show and she has been complimented on her attention to detail.

She has made a couture dress out of gummy worms and other assorted candies. She also won the Michael Kors challenge where she had to create a look that went from day to evening in episode four and the guest judge that week asked if she could wear Sonjia’s winning look to a red carpet event.

She also won the episode eight challenge where she had to create two cohesive looks for fall along with two teammates. Her expertly-tailored jacket was a standout among the two looks.

Week after week, the contestants are asked to create something under extreme time constraints and rules.

“[The show] has forced me to be creative in an environment that’s not necessarily a creative environment. It’s something I’ve learned to adapt to. At home if I don’t want to sew, then I don’t. [Here] You have to get it done,” Williams explained.  

The young fashionista studied Japanese for four years and loves clothes that are feminine.

“I love color. I love print. I love pieces that show off a woman’s body,” she said. Williams claims she “doesn’t follow trends,” but she loves a good pair of cowboy boots because they can be dressed up or down, and she is a sucker for clothes with structure and great tailoring.

Williams is excited about the future. She wants to create clothes the public hasn’t seen before. “I would love to see my things in stores. I like my clothes to feel special,” she said. But no one is more eager for the future than her dad.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “Every time I see her on TV, tears come to my eyes. All I want for [my children] is to be successful.”