“It was a scenario I would make up in my head as a child — I would win this contest and be flown out to LA to have my dress design made by a big name designer whom I looked up to and then wear it to a Red Carpet premiere.” – Brooke Catino, winner of the Miss Bala Dress from the Heart contest.
It started with a text message from a friend — “Do it!” she told Fashion Design student Brooke Catino (AAS ’21). Less than three weeks later Catino was walking the Red Carpet in the red dress she designed for actress Gina Rodriguez’ “Miss Bala Dress from the Heart” contest.
Or maybe it was no contest — the “Miss Bala” actress and fashion designer Michael Costello knew immediately that Brooke’s design was the one. “We both picked it at the same time!” Rodriguez told Catino after embracing on the Red Carpet.
The red dress design contest, conceived by Rodriguez, was to capture the essence of Miss Bala: strength, loyalty and resourcefulness. Rodriguez is widely recognized for her role as Jane Villanueva in the comedy series “Jane the Virgin.”
“I never thought these contests were the real deal, but it was!” says Catino. “I entered January 10, the day before the contest closed. I was on break. I figured I had nothing to lose. It would be fun either way,” she says.
“I took two hours. The first hour I sketched 10 sketches and erased them all! I was thinking: If they are picking a dress to make, they’re going to pick one that has the least fabric and that is easy to construct. I included draping and a slit in the dress. There were a lot of [entries] of big gowns and that didn’t seem resourceful. In the movie there’s some action. She’s going to need to move around.”
It all continued at breakneck speed. “On January 21, I got a call from a California number. I didn’t pick it up. I got a voicemail that I read while it was playing out loud. ‘This is Sony and Columbia Pictures. Give us call back when you can.’ They didn’t say that I won. When I called back I heard ‘Congratulations!'”
Catino, from Saugus, MA, previously attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design. “I was transferring in two weeks, but the movie premiere would be at the end of January.”
Says Catino “I never miss school, or rarely. What a bad first impression I’d be making on my teachers I thought. But yet this scale and opportunity! This is what I’m going to school for, to have my designs made and presented this way! “My teachers were super-excited for me as turned out.”
Professor Melanie Santoriello who teaches Textile Principles for the Fashion Designer totally got it. “I already feel privileged to have you, a celebrity in my class,” she told Catino.
“The experience I got thrown into actually helped me make this transition easier. Just being exposed to the industry for those few days. I gained so much insight into what goes on.”
Catino and her mom, Lucinda, were flown out “in style” to LA.
“The ‘fancy’ designer they said who was making my dress wanted to do a fitting before the event. They mentioned the name ‘Michael.'”
“I said if this is Michael Costello I’m going to freak out. I’m such a fan him and his work.” – Brooke Catino.
It was Michael Costello! “We had 30 minutes to get ready. We went to his studio. There were camera crews. They shot some promotional videos. He showed me some techniques and sewing tips. We got to hang out a few hours. He’s super genuine.”
“Michael Costello said he and Gina loved my design. I was on Cloud 9. It was so surreal.” – Brooke Catino
That was Monday. The premiere was Wednesday night. A hair, make up and nail team came to the hotel room for “the full treatment,” says Catino.
Catino says her parents’ role has been critical in her pursuit of fashion. “They have encouraged me every bit of the way. They fully embraced my attending art school. Since I was as young as I can remember, I wanted to do fashion design. To stay on this path with their support has been incredible for me.” Catino’s mom is a nail technician and dad Patrick a health club owner.
Catino is a transfer from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her three semesters there “was an experience I will never forget,” she says. “I am beyond grateful for my start there. I learned so much and it prepared to me to make my way to the big city. I will always cherish my time there.”
Finally, Catino got to pose for the cameras in her red dress.
“I felt confident. This is my design made by such a notable designer! Then more celebrities came. I got to speak to Terry Crews and others.”
By the time the carpet was packed, Gina Rodriguez had made her way to Catino.
“She gave me the biggest hug! ‘I loved your design’ she said. She looked at Michael Castillo and then back at me and said ‘We both picked it at the same time!'”
Video and photos courtesy of Sony Pictures and Brooke Catino