Most University of Chicago graduates dream of academic fame. A tenured professorship at a major university or recognition in a national publication signifies a certain celebrity that, at one time or another, most UofC students aspire to. Victorya Hong, a recent contestant on the past season of Bravo TV’s “Project Runway,” has reveled in a different kind of fame. Hong, who graduated in 1995 with a major in Fundamentals: Issues and Texts, brought an intellectual dimension to the Project Runway competition, theorizing and conceptualizing her design work; her impractically-dense-yet-innovative thinking process would be familiar to any UofC grad. To a certain extent, it appears that the Life of the Mind played a significant role for Hong during the show, and it’s possible that it may have even brought on Hong’s celebrity. Here, Hong shares her experiences at the UofC, perhaps revealing where some of her inspiration for her work came from.
Q: What extracurricular activities did you participate in at the UofC?
A: The Giving Tree, Doc Films, [as a] projectionist. I also worked at the Film Center.
Q: Which dorm did you live in?
A: Shoreland, [during] my first year.
Q: What was the most valuable thing you learned from your experiences at the UofC?
A: To always ask questions–about yourself, about your life, about the quality of the life you are living and whether you are getting what you want out of it.
Q: Who was your favorite professor at the UofC?
A: I was lucky to [have] taken a class taught by Mr. Leon Kass, and another by Mrs. Amy Kass. Mrs. Kass was actually my major adviser. But perhaps the most dynamic and engaging professor I was fortunate enough to have studied under was Mr. James Redfield, who taught one of my Core classes in my first year.
Q: What was your favorite library to study at?
A: I rotated libraries according to my mood or how much studying I actually needed to get done: Harper, the Reg, or Crerar.
Q: Did you participate in Scav Hunt? Or the Polar Bear Run?
A: I completed Kangeiko one year and still have the T-shirt to prove that I was crazy enough to get up at an ungodly hour every morning for a week in the dead of winter and run around in the cold.
Q: What advice do you have for UofC students?
A: One of the things I recall most of the student body when I was at the UofC was that people took themselves very seriously, myself included. I guess the best advice is always one you wish you had taken yourself. Given that, I would say, try to enjoy life, school, everything that is happening to you precisely at this particular moment as much as you can.
Q: How did you get from the UofC to “Project Runway”?
A: I was a journalist for six years in Europe and decided, rather suddenly, that I wanted to pursue fashion as a career. So, I quit my job, packed my bags, returned to the U.S., and enrolled in Parsons School of Design in New York.
Q: Name one fashion faux pas you hated when you were at the UofC?
A: I’ve probably committed every fashion faux pas in the book, and a trend I hate one season will be one I love the next.
Q: How do you stay fashionable in the cold Chicago weather?
A: Layer, layer, layer. The added bonus of layering is that you can take something off if you decide it doesn’t actually look good.