By now most have heard about, read about, or watched the CW’s newest reality program “Stylista.”

If “The Devil Wears Prada” were a reality show, this would be it.  Eleven aspiring fashion enthusiasts vie for an editorial job with Elle magazine.  They work as assistants to Elle’s demanding Fashion News Director, Anne Slowey, and carry out various assistant tasks along with a fashion editorial assignment in each episode.

Each week, in consultation with Elle’s Creative Director, Joe Zee, Anne fires one person, until the last assistant standing gets “promoted” to the real-life job opportunity.  The grand prize includes a paid editorial position at Elle magazine, a paid lease on an apartment in Manhattan, and a clothing allowance at H&M, all for one year, valued at $100,000. I had the chance to chat with Cologne Schmidt who in my opinion stands-out as not only the most fashionable and affable of the bunch, but as the one with the most promise. See what she has to say about being a contestant, the challenges, and more…

Q:  Can you tell us about the process of trying-out to be one of the contestants on Stylista?

A:  To be honest, I was catching up on some Gossip Girl episodes last February on the CW website and there was a little sidebar asking ‘Have you ever wanted to work at a high-fashion magazine?’  I thought ‘sure’, so I sent in my resume and they called me to come to the auditions. 

We had to stand in front of a camera and room-full of people and answer any question they asked us—and really try to convince them we deserved it.  I didn’t tell any of my friends and I just kept getting called back.  I was still a full time student at Berkeley when I tried out for the show–and was able to write my entire thesis on a notepad during the auditions to get it done before I left for the taping. 

The interviews were very intense and intimidating—especially because I went to the LA auditions where there is a high concentration of very fashionable people.  I was the only one chosen from the entire LA/ Southern California auditions, which I thought was pretty shocking.  I had to interview in front of producers, writers, executives, fashion editors—you name it. 

They asked us about everything from our professional to personal lives and really wanted to know exactly who we were and what we were going to bring to the show. So, within a month, I quickly found myself in NYC living with ten strangers with cameras surrounding me 24/7.  It all happened really quickly, it was very surreal.   

Q:  Where you ever worried about being wrongly portrayed on the show?

A: Before filming I wasn’t very worried because I knew I was just going to be myself, but it quickly became apparent that they can kind of turn you into whatever they want.  They have so much footage of all of us, and asked us particular questions to get us to say certain things that they can edit any way they like.  But that’s reality TV, and I signed up for it.   

Q: Is Anne Slowey as intimidating as she looks?

A:  At first, yes, she was very intimidating.  We only knew of her what everyone else sees on TV.  But I know she was just earning our respect and playing a part and is actually a very nice and fun person.  She is an extremely intelligent and hard-working lady, with a great sense of humor.   

Q:  What’s Joe Zee like?

A:  Oh I love Joe Zee.  He is amazing. Not only is he incredibly talented at what he does, he is so kind-hearted and has an amazing sense of humor.  I really look up to him.  

Q:  What were you thinking when you found out that the first challenge was going to be to put together breakfast for Anne Slowey?

A:  You know, I kind of expected it.  I knew they were going to throw in a Starbucks-run type challenge right in the beginning.  And they didn’t really show it, but we actually got to get a little creative with putting together the display of the tray, which I secretly loved doing.  Obviously I wish we could have done something a little more having to do with fashion, but it was fine.  I just wish she liked egg-white omelets damn it.  

Q:  Do you think the show accurately portrays the fashion editorial industry (i.e. would Anne really spend $40 on breakfast or walk in heels that high on a daily basis?).

A:  No, I think it would be hard to accurately portray the fashion editorial industry in a reality show, because a lot of it isn’t as glamorous and fun to watch.  But, I think they did do a good job throwing tasks in our direction that real fashion editors are faced with frequently.  And I don’t know about $40 breakfasts, but girls wearing sky high heels daily to work isn’t that far fetched at a high fashion magazine.   

Q:  Unlike most shows where budgets are tight, based on the first episodes you have a lot of money to work with ($1500 for the H&M challenge), did you feel like you were being challenged by the assignments?

A:  Oh, absolutely.  And $1500 divided four ways is only $375 each, which surprisingly went quickly.  But the main challenge was the layouts, and we barley got any direction.  I had never used the computer program before, nor had to rely on the art department to accurately create our layout from our board.  We couldn’t see the final product until judging which was scary. 

Q:  Did you make any friends during the competition?

A:  Yes!  Friends I made through the show I seriously think will be friends forever.  We went through a lot together and I got along really well with many of the contestants.

Q:  Any enemies?

A:  I really wasn’t there to make any enemies.  Sure, people were completely out of line and I was a little shocked sometimes, but I really tried to stay away from the negative drama.  That was not why I was there.  And I’m not really an enemy type of girl.   

Q:  How was the show filming different then how you had imagined?

A:  I guess I didn’t realize we would be on camera 24/7, even until the second we got in our beds.  The hours were a lot longer than I thought (we barely slept!) and weekends were nonexistent.  It was a very stressful environment, yet I was very thankful for the group they casted—because we had a lot of fun.  We were constantly playing pranks on the interns and crew, and had a lot of good laughs.  

Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.