KEW GARDENS — Some kids grow up wanting to be doctors. Others dream of being scientists. But Kew Gardens resident Ven Budhu always knew he wanted to be a fashion designer.
"Some people wake up one morning and know what they want to do," Budhu, 28 said. "For me it was just never a question."
Now, he is on the verge of the big time and is hoping to get his clothing line—named Gavaskar, after his younger brother who died as an infant — off the ground.
Budhu is a contestant on the latest season of "Project Runway," the popular reality show where designers put together outfits on short deadlines for a chance to win, among other things, money to start their own clothing line.
A native of Berbice, Guyana, Budhu has won two of the show's first four challenges as of Aug. 10, and appears to be a strong contender to win.
The success is a long time coming for Budhu, who moved with his family from Guyana to South Ozone Park when he was 4 years old.
"I used to beg my parents for large oak tag [paper] from the store," Budhu said. "I'd draw cartoons from the TV. I'd watch 'Beauty and the Beast' and draw Belle and what she was wearing."
Budhu, who describes his design aesthetic as "romanticism mixed with a modern sophistication," drew inspiration from watching award shows like the Emmys and the Oscars. "I'd always come home to watch the pre-shows and see what people were wearing." Budhu said. "That was just my niche."
Budhu's niche has been on full display on "Project Runway." During his casting session one of the judges, "Runway" season eight runner-up Mondo Guerra, called Budhu's design "one of the best" they had seen.
"Runway" is known for putting intense pressure on its contestants. And while Budhu said he knew what he was getting into — he's watched every episode of every season — he still felt the rigors.
"It's mentally and emotionally challenging," Budhu said of the show, which is filmed in Manhattan. "There's so many things that the viewers don't see. It's hard being away from home, away from friends, and away from your comfort zone. Not everyone can handle that. You really have to be mentally prepared."
"Heidi is goreous in person," Budhu said. "She's so funny. It was just so great to meet her.
"Nina Garcia — a lot of people are not fans of her because she's an editor. She's opinonated. But positive or negative, I love Nina. Half the things she says makes sense, unlike some other judges."
Budhu did share a big gripe with the show, despite loving the experience overall: As someone who designs for a what Budhu describes as a "more sophisticated woman," he felt he was sometimes judged using improper standards.
"A lot of judges say, 'Well that young girl wouldn't wear this,'" Budhu said. "But the judges themselves are the ones who would wear it. Not every deisgner designs for that young girl."
Despite his success, Budhu plans on staying in Kew Gardens, where he moved a few years ago.
"I'm a more reserved guy," he said, "and I like a place that is more quiet and serene."