Hilari Younger and Danielle Colding

On the first day of shooting HGTV’s interior design reality competition show ‘Design Star,’ Danielle Colding and Hilari Younger -- the only Black women contestants on the show -- made a pact to support each other, no matter what.  Conscious of the negative stereotypes of Black women on reality TV, the two were determined not to fall into those stereotypes, and ended up becoming true friends, on- and off-camera. The competition started out with twelve contestants; these sisters have made it into the final three.

In an interview with EBONY.com, Danielle and Hilari shared the how they formed their special sisterhood, how they deal with negative stereotypes and how their unusual paths to interior design were exactly what they needed.

EBONY: Danielle, let’s talk about your transition into interior design. You’ve got a degree from Stanford in anthropology and you are a former professional modern dancer and then you went back and got an associate’s degree in interior design from the Fashion Institute. What inspired you to make these transitions in your life?

DANIELLE COLDING: Dance was something that was always there. I danced in addition to going to school my entire life. Stanford didn’t have a dance scholarship, but when you get into Stanford, you’ve got to go!  So, I let the road take me where it was going to take me and continued to dance throughout college and studying what I really enjoyed learning about: anthropology and African American studies.  I helped Robert Moses start the Kin Dance Company in 1995 and I danced with that Company for 4 more years after college. I had to do everything I could to keep my head above water financially; I taught dance classes, was a Pilates trainer, and waited tables so that I could dance. I was also a first grade teacher in Oakland, so I was literally working 7 days a week and was really just burnt out. I was making $20k a year. So I needed another career.  

My mother always taught me to do what I love to do, so when I was rethinking my next steps, I kept that in mind. I’m a good problem solver, I’m good with people and I’ve always been a great shopper who loves beautiful things, so I enrolled in the L.A. campus of the Fashion Institute and now I’m on ‘Design Stars!’ It’s all been a very natural progression.

We were tired of the generalizations and the stereotypes and we made a pact that we were not going to single-handedly take the Black community down, whether we got along off-camera or not.

EBONY: Hilari, you also took a non-traditional progressed into interior design, as well.

HILARI YOUNGER: I totally stumbled upon interior design. It was never anything I wanted to do long term. But my roommate after college worked for [architecture firm] Charles B. Smith and he told me that interior designers were redesigning the firm’s renovated properties that summer. He said,
“Our apartment is amazing, you have impeccable taste, everyone always wants to know who decorated it.  Why don’t you join the team?” And that’s how I stumbled into it.

I stumbled into ‘Design Star’ the same way. I’d never seen the show before, but a friend of mine was auditioning for the show and asked me to come with her. I got it and she didn’t and I couldn’t tell anyone. I completely fell off the map and people started texting my husband asking, “Is Hil in rehab?” [Laughs].

But [interior design] just works in my life and I’m great at it. I find beauty in everything. I am bold. I like to do everything big.  I’m just a lover of all things beautiful, fantastic, fabulous and amazing. I didn’t plan for at all, I just went with it.

EBONY:  Hilari and Danielle, you’ve been partnered with each other on the show for certain challenges and you work very well together.  What’s it like working with each other?

DC: Hilari is great. We instantly bonded. She’s really one of the funniest people.  I recently lost my mom coming into this competition and that’s been very emotional for me, but Hilari’s been there for me. She’s been amazing and supportive and it’s weird for that kind of bond to exist in a competitive environment, so working with her is a joy it was a real pleasure. We come from two different perspectives [design-wise], but we were able to compromise.  

HY:  And working with Danielle was a treat; we definitely had that sisterhood feeling going, instantly. And for me, to be her rock when she was going through difficult situations when generally I’m the person  who needs someone, I found myself saying, “Oh my God, Hilari! You’ve grown so much!”

But I definitely want to make a declaration about sisterhood and Black stereotypes on reality TV.  All of the Black people on the show [Danielle, Hilari and fellow competitor Mikel Welch] came in and said “Look, it is important that we make this statement in America that we’re not