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Wanakena native designs on Project Runway


CANTON — Runway fame could be coming to Northern New York, as Timothy L. Westbrook from Wanakena has been named one of the contestants on season 12 of “Project Runway,” premiering July 18 on Lifetime.

From Northern New York to Syracuse, Milwaukee and now, finally, the runway, Mr. Westbrook is making a name for himself.

His mother, Susan N. Westbrook, said the entire community is excited to see one of its own reach success.

“This is a celebration of a community because one of their own has gone this far,” she said. “Timmy has always been who he is and what he is and we’re really proud.”

Mr. Westbrook grew up in Wanakena with his parents, Christopher L. and Susan Westbrook, and sister, Maria S.

“As a mother you believe your kids are wonderful,” Mrs. Westbrook said. “Even when he was a little boy, he was always fashion conscious and making outfits out of things.”

When he was 14 years old, Mr. Westbrook transferred from Clifton-Fine Central School, Star Lake, to Canton Central, where he graduated in 2007. Mrs. Westbrook said the move to Canton was so he could explore more opportunities with art and embrace his sexuality.

While in Canton, Mr. Westbrook worked with Susan M. Dean, music teacher at Canton Central School, designing costumes for plays.

“Sometimes he’d have to design clothes for 14-year-olds and make them look like something a 40-year-old person would wear,” Mrs. Westbrook said.

Mrs. Dean said she thinks Mr. Westbrook will make it to the end of the competition because of his vision and integrity and the fact that he’s really fun to work with.

“I think Tim’s going to bring in different ideas to the show,” Mrs. Dean said. “He could design a dress for me if I asked him to. He’s so versatile that he’ll be able to do whatever the challenge is.”

Mrs. Dean said she used to tell Mr. Westbrook to put his name on the pieces he created during his time in Canton so that when he became famous, she could say she knew him when he was starting out.

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “He has done such a great job having a dream and following that dream.”

Mark T. Passamonte, principal of Hugh C. Williams High School, where Mr. Westbrook graduated, said he was glad the school was a part of Mr. Westbrook’s early start in the world of fashion.

“I think it’s a wonderful testament to Tim’s hard work,” Mr. Passamonte said. “Tim had a goal to do something in fashion, and he has achieved it. He’s going to do great.”

Mr. Westbrook graduated from Syracuse University in 2011 as a fiber artist, and moved to Milwaukee soon after to become an artist in residence at the Pfister Hotel.

Mr. Westbrook’s signature art is made out of recycled materials such as plastic bags, beer cans, umbrellas and cassette tapes. He showcased much of his work during his residence at the Pfister Hotel, before opening his own studio in the Shops of Grand Avenue in Milwaukee.

Mrs. Westbrook said that someone who was familiar with her son’s work in Milwaukee gave his information to a casting director for “Project Runway.” The director then reached out to Mr. Westbrook and suggested he apply to be on the show. After rounds of interviews in New York City, he was finally on his way to the runway.

Mr. Westbrook is under a confidentiality agreement with the show and cannot talk about it with anyone, including his family members. His media relations director in Milwaukee, Dana J. Leonard, said she has talked with him only once for five minutes since he’s been filming. “I could hear a smile in his voice,” she said.

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