Childhood & Early Life
Santino Rice was born on August 20, 1974, in St. Charles, Missouri, US, to multiracial parents. Santino has African–American, Italian, Jewish, and Native American genes.
Santino was always interested in the world of fashion and wished to become a fashion designer. He also had interest in the entertainment industry.
After graduating high school, he moved to Los Angeles for further studies. He had won a scholarship to study at the prestigious ‘Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising’ in Los Angeles.
Following his college graduation, he stayed back in Los Angeles and worked as an “extra” in films and TV projects. He also worked as an assistant costume designer.
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He came under the spotlight with the 2005 reality TV series ‘Project Runway.’ He was part of the second season of the ‘Bravo’ reality show that focuses on fashion designing. Several fashion industry professionals from around the country appeared on the show. The show was hosted by celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and Tim Gunn.
The show featured 12 or more contestants exhibiting their designing skills on the runway. They are sometimes asked to use daily items, such as apartment furnishings and grocery items, in their creations.
Initially, Santino was considered a below-average contestant, but he soon gained a significant edge. He won two early challenges and was in the top three during most challenges. However, in four challenges, he was at the bottom two, which greatly hurt his chances of winning the show.
Nevertheless, he stayed in the fight till the last stage of the series and was also selected as one of the contestants who were to exhibit their designs at the ‘Olympus Fashion Week’ in New York. He earned this honor as he was one of the three finalists on the show.
Based on the system of voting, along with creativity, the contestants were also supposed to have some charisma, as that would help them garner the maximum number of votes. Santino seemed to have what it required to be successful on the show, and despite his abrasive persona and his “villain”-like image throughout the show, he was perpetually considered as the favorite contestant of his fans. He ended the show at the third position.
Santino turned into a famous designer once the show ended. He was asked to be one of the judges at the ‘Miss Universe 2006’ pageant.
SuChin Pak, an ‘MTV’ VJ, asked Santino to design the dress she had to wear at the 2006 ‘MTV Movie Awards.’
In 2007, Santino appeared as a guest in the third episode of the first season of the reality series ‘America’s Most Smartest Model.’ He was invited to give some fashion design tips to the contestants.
Santino has an exclusive and elite client base and designs costumes for them on special occasions. However, his demand is not just limited to fashion choices. He also works as an occasional graphic designer and a photographer. He is also working on starting his own clothing company.
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In 2008, he was hired by cigarette brand ‘Camel’ to design their new cigarette packets.
In 2009, he had yet another huge break when he was hired as a judge for the talent show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ It happens to be one of the most successful talent-hunt reality shows on American TV. Santino appeared as a guest judge in 69 episodes of the show, between 2009 and 2015.
In addition, he has also appeared as a judge on ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race: Untucked!’ between 2010 and 2014 and on ‘RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars’ in 2012.
In 2009, he appeared in a small role in the short TV series ‘The Bartender Hates You.’ His desire of being a successful actor was never fulfilled. However, he made a huge name for himself in the reality TV sphere.
In 2010, Santino appeared as the co-host and presenter of the ‘Lifetime’ reality TV series titled ‘On the Road with Austin & Santino.’ The show featured designers Austin Scarlett and Santino as they visited small towns across the US and designed a custom dress for a woman. The show, however, was not too popular and was canceled after one season.
He has also made small appearances on TV shows such as ‘America’s Next Producer,’ ‘Oxygen’s 25iest: Bad Girls Gone Good,’ ‘The Megan Mullally Show,’ and ‘50 Documentaries to See Before You Die.’
He was also part of the 2016 documentary film ‘Dragged.’
In 2010, he played a homeless man in the “queer cinema” thriller ‘L.A. Zombie.’
He has also toured around the world as a guest in fashion shows and as a guest lecturer at several universities. He has delivered lectures at the ‘University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) and the ‘Fashion Institute of Technology.’