Emilio Sosa says he’s not afraid of where he came from, and he doesn’t believe in making excuses for where you came from either. He considers himself Latino first, a New Yorker second and reps the South Bronx third. Today, Dominican-born designer found out he was nominated for a 2012 Tony Award.
Sosa, the same fashion designer from Season 7 of “Project Runway” fame, immediately started working on the costumes for the Broadway musical of “Porgy and Bess” after the reality show finale and is now in the running for Best Costume Design for a Musical.
Sosa, 46, who also co-owns a fashion design business with his three brothers, feels that being chosen to design the costumes for “Porgy and Bess,” his first musical to make it to Broadway, was serendipitous.
“I studied it in high school before I even knew I was going to be a costume designer,” says Sosa. ‘Porgy and Bess’ is one of the most important American operas ever written…As a man, I just learned so much about myself in the process of designing the show.”
He says the largest lesson he learned is the importance of being part of a community – it’s basically all about family.
“After ‘Project Runway,’ I opened our company esosa designs with Jose, Nicolas and Felipe,” says Sosa. “They are the core of my support team…and now my nephews and nieces can have something to continue the Sosa legacy.”
Sosa says everything he has accomplished today was made possible because his father and mother made the choice to uproot themselves to come to the U.S. in order to give him and his brothers a better life.
“It would not have happened if they didn’t make that bold first step,” says Sosa, who arrived to the U.S. at age 3. “I get up every morning to make my parents and all Latino kids out there in less than perfect situations proud.”
Sosa, who was extremely shy as a boy, says he remembers an elementary school teacher, Ms. Torres, who used art as a method to get him out of his shell. From the early age of 6, he would spend hours drawing and expressing himself through art.
“At 14, I saw the first man of color on a GQ magazine,” he recalls. “Somehow deep inside that resonated with me. I connected with someone that looked like me and it prompted me to save up my allowance money to buy an issue of GQ.”
He says from high school, he went to Pratt Institute in New York City. While a sophomore there, he got a job at a costume store.
“That’s where my theater work started,” says Sosa. “My main concentration was theater until ‘Project Runway’.”
He also says his culture has played a large role in his success on the stage.
“As a Latino, I am not afraid to express myself through color,” says Sosa. “We are a very colorful culture and that’s part of my DNA.”
He says in “Porgy and Bess” he used color to convey character and even social status, and he worked closely with the actors to research the psychology of the characters.
“It’s about developing these characters fully so the audience can believe the actor in the role they play,” he says. “If you do the work, everything can work for you.”
He says to be responsible for a lot of the visual that a lot of people are going to react to was a humbling and exciting experience.
“I don’t limit myself,” says Sosa. “I commit myself 110 percent to each project. So whatever I bring to the table will be different than anything else I think.”