The Truth About Making The Cut Season 1 Winner Jonny Cota

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Supermodel Heidi Klum and fashion expert Tim Gunn surprised their fans when they announced they'd be leaving the popular reality series "Project Runway" back in 2018. However, it was later announced that the pair had left the show to join forces with Amazon and produce a brand new series titled "Making the Cut" (via Good Housekeeping). 

As it turns out, the two reality shows are actually pretty similar. Both feature fashion designers competing in a series of difficult design challenges for the number one spot, and both are very binge-worthy. 

"Project Runway" has already produced some incredibly successful designers during the show's 19 seasons on the air, including Season 4 winner Christian Siriano and Season 16 winner Kentaro Kameyama, the latter of whom was promoted to Design Chair while teaching at LA's FCI Fashion School, US Weekly reported. 

Granted, "Project Runway" has had a head start over Amazon's "Making the Cut" when it comes to producing commercially successful winners. However, the show got off to a flying start with the Season 1 winner, Jonny Cota. 

Cota rose to fame on Amazon's 'Making the Cut'

Having clinched first place in the very first season of Amazon's "Making the Cut," all eyes are on Jonny Cota to see what he can make of the show's $1 million prize and the international exposure he gained while appearing on the reality competition series. 

"When you consider a million dollars, plus the Amazon mentorship, which we can now say began last September and then having a 20-piece collection on Amazon Fashion, it's really phenomenal," said "Making the Cut" co-host and mentor, Tim Gunn. "I mean, if you can't make it with these circumstances, you can't make it," he added (per The Daily Beast).

Cota also made some ultra-serious attempts to make it as a designer before winning the show, although his start in fashion likely brought a few more laughs than focused frowns. Speaking to Euphoria, the "Making the Cut" winner discussed how he found his way into the world of fashion design, revealing, "I got my start as a circus performer and when I was in the circus, I was making costumes, which kind of led to a ready to wear collection when I moved to LA." 

Jonny Cota founded a fashion brand with his brother

After his days in the circus, Jonny Cota changed lanes into fashion design and set up shop with his brother, Christopher Cota. Together they founded the brand SKINGRAFT in 2008. The brand takes influence from performance art-inspired fashion and opened three brick and mortar stores in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, per Cota's official website

During an interview with Euphoria, Cota shed light on his design process. "For every collection, I start by creating a mood board. Maybe I'm pulling from this far off cultural inspiration and a 70's film, then mashing it up with rave culture silhouettes, combining them all together to create something new, but having all of these historical references throughout," he revealed. 

The opportunity to sell your designs on a global platform like Amazon is truly an opportunity for designers looking to make money and spread brand awareness. Although, Cota has admitted that he is a little on the fence about this perk he won through "Making the Cut." 

Cota experienced some restrictions with Amazon

Jonny Cota may have received an enormous amount of support from Amazon since winning "Making the Cut." However, his experience with the global platform has come with a few bumps in the road. 

"Right now, guidelines are very strict, every background needs to be white, there can't be a single accessory unless the thing is sold in the photo. This caters to an Amazon customer, but fashion people are not resonating with that," Cota said of his experience with Amazon. "So I'm hoping there is a middle ground that's found. And I feel like I'm the guinea pig to see how you court that customer and show lifestyle but while still selling them a denim jacket," he added (per WWD).

Despite feeling somewhat restricted, the Jonny Cota Studio on Amazon continues to promote a full collection by the designer, and speaking previously on Instagram, Cota said he feels "blessed" to be able to do what he loves. "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life," he wrote in a caption. 

Jonny Cota's openness about his sexuality didn't come over night

The SKINGRAFT founder loves to design for his customers, and he gives off a bit of a darker edge with his personal fashion choices. Although, when you get to know some details about this Los Angeles resident, he seems just as relaxed as the next southern California surfer dude. The designer admits to loving Cher, lights up when he talks about his puppy, Olive, and previously revealed that if he was stuck on an island and could pick any food to live off of, his choice would be coconuts (per YouTube).

The designer is also a proud gay man and is very open about his sexuality. However, the level of openness he has with his sexuality today didn't come overnight. 

"I had a really loving family, but I was raised very religious. Once you start realizing you're gay and different and not seeing a place for you in the world if you don't have examples of strong gay leaders around you," Cota revealed in an interview with Instinct, adding that he was eventually able to see his differences as a source of power. "It just took me years of starting to appreciate my own power and realizing that my gayness was a total gift and I was unique, and it was leading me down a path of total creative lifestyle," he added. 

Heidi Klum has shown her support for Cota

Although Cota is now an internationally recognized designer, some might be surprised to learn just how close he came to missing out on "Making the Cut's" top prize. The show's co-host, Heidi Klum, did not award her final vote to Cota during the finale, and instead backed the season's runner-up, Esther Perbandt. However, as Pure Wow reported, the supermodel still endorses Cota and even posted a photo of herself wearing one of his signature jumpsuit designs on Instagram

Meanwhile, Cota also continues to support the show that earned him a million dollars. "Tonight is the pop-up shop challenge and the grand finale runway on @makingthecuttv Season 2. I can't wait to see what the top 3 designers do to impress the judges tonight," he previously wrote on Instagram

As Amazon's "Making the Cut" continues, so does Cota's journey as a renowned fashion designer, and it will be interesting to see if future winners will be able to match his success.