Just imagine it: The world is locked in a pandemic. A huge aspect of your career has been put on pause and there’s no hint of when it will start back up. Then the phone rings. You’re offered an opportunity that will show the world your multifaceted talents. Well, that’s exactly what happened last year for Tony Allgeier.
Most of us know Tony by his drag persona, Alora Chateaux. But he is also a jack of all trades when it comes to design and that made him exactly what HGTV/Discovery+ was looking for when they were casting their new show Design Star Next Gen!
Tony was whisked away to California last fall to film the show with seven other designers, all competing for $50,000 and a job as host of their own show on HGTV. But how exactly did Tony get to this point in his career? And what is life like now that the show is airing? Recently, Allgeier shared with me what this whirlwind has been like for him.
Tony studied at Pittsburgh’s own LaRoche College, graduating in 2010 with a B.S. in Interior Design with a minor in Visual Communications. With degree in hand, he hit the ground running.
“I started my career with a job in flooring & decorative tile design, which lead me to become a designer at a furniture dealership. After that I decided to move forward as an independent designer creating great opportunities in both the high end residential & commercial markets,” said Allgeier. “For the past 6.5 years I retained my freelance career while also being a full-time product representative for a multi-lined rep group. I currently am working on my independent career as a designer with current projects including interior design services, upholstery, graphic design, sewing & construction.”
Not stopping there, Tony has taken those skills and applied that to the other major aspect of his life: drag.
“I consider all that I do to be under the heading of ‘design’, including my work as a drag queen. Drag allows me to express myself visually through color, painting, construction, sculpture, performance & entertaining,” he said.
Tony embodies the phrase, “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready!” When the phone call came, he was definitely ready.
That phone call came in early 2020.
“I was contacted by a production company prior to the shutdown,” says Allgeier. “I had many many interviews & tons of paperwork to fill out before I was chosen to be a contestant. Once production was allowed to create the show, they sent me a contract and the rest is history.” That history included flying to L.A. in October, filming into November, and then returning to a Pittsburgh winter with a huge secret in tow.
Finally, after sitting on that secret for a few months, the cast was announced and Design Star Next Gen premiered on February 24!
To say Pittsburgh was enthusiastic about Allgeier’s participation is an understatement. Alora’s fans flocked to social media to show their support. Interviews with the burgeoning star appeared in local newspapers and on morning shows. After the first couple of episodes, Tony says that the reaction has been “overall super positive.” He adds, “Thankfully I surround myself with amazing people and am so fortunate to have the support from so many people.”
A major aspect of this season of Design Star is branding and social media. Host Allison Holker Boss summed it up quite simply on the premiere episode: “To be a successful designer nowadays, you need to be able to reach as many people as possible on as many platforms as possible.”
Tony took that advice to heart and has broadened his social media presence in varied ways since the show started airing.
“I try to have fun with social media as best as I can,” he said. “I mainly just try to be true to myself and my design process more than anything.”
Faced with the challenges the pandemic threw his way, Tony had already embraced social media. He performed at many a digital drag brunch and moved his weekly gig as the host of drag bingo to Facebook. With the ever-changing world of social media, though, Tony has found he is doing more getting ready than staying ready.
“It has been an interesting journey, especially making a new design profile (@AllgeierDesign) because I had in the past only showcased my drag account (@AloraChateaux). Slowly but surely I am working to find my social media voice and having fun in the process,” he said.
Part of the fun Tony is having in that process includes hosting a weekly Q&A on Facebook after watching the episode. He hosts that show as Alora live from the stage of the Blue Moon bar in Lawrenceville.
Alora Chateaux, Allgeier’s drag persona, was born almost nine years ago.
“When starting out as a new drag queen the first place I performed was at the Blue Moon. I was terrified, but they welcomed me with open arms,” he said.
The Blue Moon can be considered a sort of gateway to fame. Many queens who have performed there regularly have gone on to tremendous success: Sharon Needles and Alaska, past winners of RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, and Dixie Surewood, former Miss National Comedy Queen, just to name a few.
Now that Allgeier has joined those ranks, he is definitely grateful for everything the Blue Moon has provided him.
“The Blue Moon is truly my home…the people, the acceptance, the platform of being able to create whatever you want! The Blue Moon has shaped me into the person that I am today, realizing my abilities as a public speaker and giving me the opportunity to speak my mind, creating an atmosphere of positivity and acceptance,” he said.
Allgeier is now a strong proponent of the Blue Moon ‘experience.’
“No matter where you are in your journey in self-acceptance or the journey of performance, it is all a journey, an exposure, a feeling that you must let out. In the queer community, there can be so much judgement and criticism. We should all be more like the Blue Moon and uplift one another for the people we are!,” he said.
“The Blue Moon isn’t just a place…it’s a way of life,” one that Tony has embraced wholeheartedly and look where it took him!
You can find Design Star Next Gen on the streaming platform Discovery+. New episodes are released weekly on Wednesdays. Tune in to the show and then make sure to find Tony/Alora live on Facebook on Wednesday nights around 9:30 p.m. answering questions about that week’s episode.
Tony has already made Pittsburgh proud and deserves all the support we can give him! After all, Tony Allgeier is our Design Star, and he’s shining bright!