Alyssa Milano turned from actress to Project Runway: All-Stars host and talked to Enstars about the fierce competition plus her own views on fashion ahead of the show's season 3 premiere on Oct. 24.
Milano joins the cast also as a judge, sitting next to returning critics Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman. Marie Claire's Senior Fashion Editor, Zanna Roberts Rassi, takes on the role as a mentor for the designers.
Season 3 of All-Stars is the most competitive season ever with 11 former top ranking Project Runway contestants returning to the competition and the largest price package in runway history worth almost $1 million.
Milano got the call about hosting All-Stars after Harvey Weinstein -- head of The Weinstein Company behind the show and Chapman's husband -- saw her co-host an episode of E! Fashion Police. The duo thought the Mistresses actress would be "a good fit for the show," in Milano's words, and she was excited about being given the opportunity, seeing that she is a fan of the competition series.
"I basically just said, you know, I love fashion. I do not want to come across like I am trying to be a fashion expert, but really I want to be the voice of that audience member that might love fashion, but that isn't an insider. And they were all on the same page with that," she explained. "So it was a very, very exciting thing to be a part of. A little scary too, obviously, because it's so outside of my wheelhouse in what I am used to. But I loved it."
Milano's appreciation for fashion started when she was a young girl watching the efforts made by her mother, who was a designer. She reminisced about the '80s, wearing sweaters with big shoulder pads and the ripped jeans that the laces in them.
"I grew up with patterns all over the house and stick pins in my feet, and all of that," she said. "And my grandmother was actually a very successful milliner. She was a hat designer. So I don't remember a time where I wasn't into fashion."
Milano's devotion is reflected in her own clothing line as well, Touch by Alyssa Milano. Her experience working on the collection gave her an understanding of what goes into the design process and getting garments executed, a knowledge that helped her effectively judge the contestants on All-Stars.
Still, "the deliberations were very long, very lengthy and very, very difficult."
"Yes, it's entertaining and it's a program, but honestly these designers their dreams are made and shattered," she added. "Seeing how raw that emotion is it's really hard to not get attached... There were nights that I went home that I couldn't sleep because of who went home, which by the way I did not expect at all. I did not expect that to be part of my experience. When you are sending someone home you are basically shattering their dreams. And we never ever, ever took that lightly."
Despite the emotional toll it has on her, working on All-Stars came with some perks for the fashionista.
She raved about the outfits she got to wear during filming; admitting that getting pampered and styled by the best teams in New York made her job all the more fun. Working with the style teams and also seeing the innovative designers in action also gave Milano ideas for picking out her own clothes. She learned the importance of having key pieces that complete a look, such as a coat one can throw on over anything to finish an outfit.
Talking about her personal style off-camera, she did not mention the likes of vintage Dior that she wore for the show and simply called her fashion sense eccentric.
"I really like fashion that is innovative and yet wearable. I like designers that take risk. Clothes that you can put on and tell a story with depending on how you feel that day," she said. "That is sort of my dream, sort of aesthetic. But obviously since I had my baby (son Milo) two years ago things get a lot more difficult and time becomes a lot more valuable. So you know, I try to put myself together as best as I can.
"I've also found that like, you know, keeping your closet rotated. Meaning if you don't wear anything, for like a couple of months you are probably not going to wear it, so give it away or donate it or you know, keep your closet refreshed. And that helps a lot as far you know, being able to choose what to wear."
In her opinion, a fashion designer needs to be "fearless" and confident; "to continue to push the envelope and to express themselves creatively regardless of what the outcome is."
Coming into her hosting gig Milano admitted to having some favorite designers from past seasons. Regardless, she put those feelings aside and judged the contestants on what she saw them create on each challenge.
"I was a huge fan of Jeffrey Sebelia. Seth Aaron, I was a huge fan of Seth Aaron [and] I loved Korto," she said of her favorites. "All of I think those three were my three favorites that when I heard that they were All Stars this season I was super, super excited."
"Being around the designers for you know, two months was really one of the most inspirational time with my life," she added. "Just to be surrounded by that creativity and dedication. And to see these people really, you know, overcome a lot of obstacle daily to get clothes up on that runway, it's just all very inspiring."
The season 3 premiere episode of Project Runway: All-Stars airs Thursday, Oct. 24, at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. Guest judges include include Debbie Harry, Kristin Chenoweth, Gayle King, Gabourey Sidibe and Nick Cannon.