Anthony Williams Is Crowned 'Project Runway All Stars' Champion

In his third appearance on the franchise, the show's "King of One-Liners" wins gold.

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Allie Holloway / Studio D

Anthony Williams is first and foremost a beauty queen. “I am a true pageant girl,” says the 37-year-old designer from Atlanta. “I was a female impersonator in college [at the University of Alabama]—that’s how I paid my way.” Designing garments grew out of necessity: A dress he had commissioned for a competition flopped, so Williams took needle and thread into his own hands. “From that point on, I decided I would make gowns.”

When his pageant career ended in 2006, Williams turned to another creative outlet: Project Runway season 7. Despite finishing fifth, a challenge win landed his blue oneshouldered dress on Heidi Klum for a cover of Marie Claire. The fan favorite returned for the first season of Project Runway All Stars in 2012 (he placed ninth), then came back this year for season 6; his evolution as a designer was evident. “Anthony had great energy on set and his designs were showstoppers,” says Marie Claire editor-in-chief and All Stars mentor, Anne Fulenwider. “It was a true delight to watch his aesthetic evolve over time.”

One of Williams’ finale looks.
Allie Holloway / Studio D

For his latest shot at stardom, Williams sought to capture the essence of timeless elegance. “Growing up, there was nothing more sophisticated than a black woman dressed up for church,” he says. “There was a certain pride and confidence. I watched my mother go through a lot of situations with men and finances, but she never stopped being a lady. I learned at an early age that being a lady never goes out of style.”

His muses, Rihanna and Audrey Hepburn, inspired the seven vintage-meets-eclectic looks in his finale collection, filled with hand-painted details, fitted silhouettes, and bare shoulders. Standout looks included a dress with a halter neckline and asymmetrical pleated-leather detailing, and a sculptural strapless top paired with tailored cigarette pants.

Precision tailoring helped nab the win.
Allie Holloway / Studio D

Williams is the first male black winner in the show’s history (it was also the first time all three finalists were men of color). “It’s a right and a privilege to be an African-American designer in the United States of America,” Williams says. “No matter how hard life is, you have a responsibility to show up. I have a responsibility to be a credit to the human race, my race as African-American, my gender, and my sexuality. I want my community to be proud of me.”

This story appears in the May issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands April 24.

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