ATL & HGTV fave Vern Yip defends ‘Design Star’

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imageAtlanta designer Vern Yip reacted recently to the gay gasp heard round the world — OK at least in some circles — when rough-and-tumble Antonio Ballatore (photo, right) beat out gay hottie Dan Vickery (left) to become the fourth ‘HGTV Design Star.’

Ballatore’s gruff exterior, tattoos and a way with power tools may have put him in good stead with some bear-lovers out there.

But Vickery, whose boy-next-door good looks and affable charm put him on the frontrunners list of the summer’s highly rated reality competition, was a shoe-in as far as many other gay viewers were concerned. We thought he hearkened back to the uber-successful gay designer David Bromstad, the first “Design Star” whose “Color Splash” remains one of HGTV’s highest rated shows.

Alas, the dream of another Bromstad-type on HGTV was not to be. While Yip (bottom photo) agrees that the two finalists “were really the right two people standing there at the end,” it was Ballatore’s “it” factor that won out after hours of debate that didn’t make it into the final televised cut, the “Design Star” judge says.

image“[Ballatore] brings something unique to the table,” Yip (bottom photo) tells the AJC. “I don’t think that someone like Antonio exists at the network. He has a wealth of experience.”

The winner’s background is as a set designer for the likes of lesbian photographer Annie Liebovitz, among others.

The “it” factor that Yip mentions brings up an interesting difference in this most recent season of the series: America did not get to vote. That means HGTV could control the next person to win his or her own show on the network. Guess they decided they have enough gay men and coiffed women and wanted to butch up their lineup.

To record the finale and air it Sept. 13 also allowed the network to immediately put Ballatore on the air. The following Sunday, “The Antonio Project” premiered. Viewers get to watch Ballatore renovate his own home top to bottom.

At least some people would have liked to see Vickery, who doffed his shirt on the series, from top to bottom. Those wishes can still come true. Vickery was voted “fan favorite” after the series ended, and won his own online-only “show” to launch sometime in the near future.

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