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With the launch of the second season of HBO Max’s voguing competition show Legendary on May 6, costume designer Johnny Wujek is back working with the contestants on looks that will slay the panel of four judges: Megan Thee Stallion, image architect Law Roach, actress Jameela Jamil and dancer and model Leiomy Maldonado.
Wujek is a former stylist to such stars as Katy Perry (and he continues to create stage costumes for her) and worked recently on the upcoming Disney medieval fantasy reality series The Quest. He spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about dressing Perry as Tinker Bell on a recent episode of American Idol, his favorite must-have items, and what it’s like working on Legendary. “It’s been incredible,” says Wujek of working on the HBO Max show. “It’s been such an adventure and so cool to watch it just grow. More and more people are getting to learn about the ballroom scene and fall in love with Legendary.”
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How did you end up signing on as the show’s costume designer?
Wujek: I got into it randomly. One of the producers hit me up on Instagram.
What costumes from season 1 do people talk about?
The ones from the Wild Wild West episode. It was [contestant] Twilight Escada and the category was like gowns. You had to do a gown in a western vibe and for him we wanted to do something over the top and outrageous. We had this huge oversized [skirt designed in the shape of a] hat and he dropped it and it became this beautiful gown. All of the judges were on the floor dead with how incredible it was.
How does season 2 compare?
We shot in L.A. We have a new stage and, you know, it’s bigger and more glamorous and 50 new cast members all with such personality and amazing energy.
There are 10 houses this time. It’s ballroom. It’s gritty and then it’s glamorous — it’s all the things. There are a lot of those reveal moments this season as well. There are so many rip-aways.
What’s the process like working with the contestants?
I get all of the themes ahead of time. I know everything that’s coming up and they get them per ball. The first two balls are come as you are. They are supposed to bring their looks.
And do they?
I always have to jump in and amp them up. For the third ball, we meet in my studio. They talk about what their inspiration is and then we build off that. I’m sketching. We are looking at fabrics. Then the next couple days is spent just creating, fitting. We get them to dance rehearsals, interviews — their schedules are so crazy. They probably barely sleep. It’s this crazy three-month cycle of chaos and excitement and sequins.
What has it been like working on The Quest?
The Quest is a medieval sci-fi fantasy competition for 13 to 17 year old kids. They go to this medieval land. That was so cool. It was so fun to create the kings and queens. That was a dream of mine to do a fantasy period-esque show. I got to design this whole world and for Disney. Disney is just so iconic.
What are you up to outside of work?
I’ve been working on my fitness and getting in shape. With my schedule and how I work, I get lost and forget to take care of myself or sleep. It was time for me to take a health and self-love journey. I need to be the strongest I can be. It’s a hectic job. I hired a trainer. I quit smoking. I completely changed my eating habits. This is a focus and a priority.
How did you get started in fashion?
I moved to San Francisco for the dot.com that happened 20 some years ago. Basically it got me to San Francisco and out of Michigan but then our company closed, everybody got their severance. I was like, “What am I gonna do?” I went down to L.A. for the weekend with a friend and she brought me to a super glamorous party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And there was a modelling agent there who was like, “Move to L.A. and I’ll represent you.” She got me to move to L.A. and once I started doing jobs there were stylists on the jobs. I was like, ‘That’s kind of cool.’ I started assisting stylists and getting my foot in the door. When I first started styling I had a partner — it was Jules and Johnny. We were one of the first styling duos and it kind of snowballed into getting an agent and meeting Katy at a party.
How did you later move into costume design?
It was when I met Katy [Perry] that I transitioned and started making costumes for the stage for her.
What was it like doing that Tinker Bell outfit for her on American Idol this season?
She has a stylist who does her for the show. I usually come in for that specific [Disney] episode. We were going to do Tinker Bell last year and she got pregnant and ended up being Dumbo’s mother and so we were like let’s do Tinker Bell this year. It was like a glamourized Tinker Bell. Those were wings pretty amazing and this guy Armando who does all the wings for Victoria’s Secret made those. He lives in Vegas and he drove them down from Vegas and on the way he blew a tire. All of these things kept happening. I was like, “The show is tomorrow and I need these wings. Let’s pray it all works out.” They got here at four in the morning and I had to be on set at 8 am.
What is your personal style like?
More so now, clothes feel better to wear. I’m from Michigan. I’m a jeans and t-shirt and flannel kind of guy but I do love fashion. It’s just like every day is a new look. I’m very diverse these days: athletic wear, street wear, fashion, classy. I like to just switch it up.
Wujek’s Favorite Fab Things
Wujek says he likes to have a “small fluorite crystal to keep in my pocket. It stimulates creativity and keep me connected to my magic and grounded throughout the day.”
Fendi Fendirama Visor
Wujek is a fan of this logo visor by Fendi: “Serving glam on the tennis courts is essential for the win this summer.”
You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero
Wujek recommends writer Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth. “A classic read for everyone because, honey, we all deserve abundance,” he says.
Balenciaga furry slide sandal
“Sliding into summer pool parties with comfort and class. They’re like walking on a cloud,” says Wujek of Balenciaga’s fuzzy slides.
Mayfair Group Sweatpants
Wujek loves sweats from the Mayfair Group emblazoned with words like “Emotional,” “Empathy,” and “Self-Love Club.” Says the costume designer, “There’s nothing better than a cozy sweat suit with a dash of enlightenment.”
String Ting Phone Charm
“I love this phone chain because its colorful and fun. Reads like a necklace,” says Wujek. It also, “eliminates the ‘where’s my phone’ drama.”
Vrai Currency Necklace
Wujek recently wore the new Vrai x RandM Currency Necklace — a collaboration with stylists Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn — which features a 14k yellow gold chain and a sustainably grown Vrai-created baguette-cut diamond. “When two of your favorite people @robzangardi & @marielhaenn design a line of fine jewelry for @vraiofficial you rock it proudly,” he wrote on his Instagram.
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