HGTV star tells local Girl Scouts ‘believe in yourself’
BY EMILY SINER Correspondent January 11, 2012 7:26PM
HGTV's Meg Caswell-Holladay, from Design Star, hugs Isabella Nugent, while she was visiting her Girl Scout troop 20070 at Queen of Martyrs Church in Evergreen Park, IL on Tuesday January 10, 2012. She was sharing some room makeover tips with the scouts while mentioning she was a scout herself | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 13, 2012 9:19AM
Twenty-two Girl Scouts and a few of their mothers huddled around a laptop Tuesday evening to view a replay of the Season 6 finale of HGTV’s “Design Star.”
On the screen, Chicago’s Meg Caswell stood before a panel of judges for the final critique of the interior design work she created for the show’s competition.
In real life, Caswell stood next to the laptop screen as they all watched the episode from September.
Caswell ended up being named the show’s winner, making her an HGTV interior designer and show host. It also made her an authority when she spoke to the Troop 20070 girls about chasing their dreams, just as she had.
“You have to have confidence in yourself to know that, whatever you want to do in this world, you can achieve it,” she said.
Caswell, a former Girl Scout, originally wanted to be a criminologist but switched careers after realizing interior design was her passion. She got a degree in interior architecture from the Art Institute of Chicago and then set her sights on television.
“I wanted my own TV show, and I achieved it,” she told the girls during their meeting at Queen of Martyrs School in Evergreen Park.
But, she added, “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
While filming the show, she lived with her competitors for two months and had minimal contact with the outside world. Three weeks before the end of the season, she lost feeling in her hands, which she didn’t regain until a month after the show.
“Every time I picked up a paint brush, I did it with pain,” she said. “It was just another obstacle I had to overcome.”
Caswell now hosts “HGTV’s Great Rooms,” where she redesigns rooms in the Chicago area. She asked the girls what they want to be when they grow up.
“An actress,” said a girl in front of her.
Caswell looked her in the eye.
“You can do it. You can do it if you believe in yourself,” she said.
She also talked about being a good sport — she and her competitors had to collaborate, even after some of them had been eliminated — and about giving back to the community. She said her grandfather, a philanthropist, taught her that success is defined by giving back.
“I have a feeling that a lot of people here are going to be very successful,” she told her young audience.
After answering questions, Caswell handed out floor-plan templates so the girls could redesign their bedrooms.
“My daughter is really into interior design,” said Lisa Ellerbeck as her daughter, Grace, drew her room. “She couldn’t wait to meet a real interior designer.”
Michelle Nugent, the troop co-leader, has known Caswell since college and invited her to speak.
“The person that you see, that’s exactly who she is — charismatic, charming, giving,” Nugent said.
Many of the girls seemed to think so. They listened attentively, laughed with Caswell and asked her to autograph their floor plans. And as they watched her on the laptop screen nervously waiting to hear the judges’ decision, they were rooting for her.
“And the next Design Star is … ” the show host said. One girl covered her mouth with her hands in anticipation.
“ … Meg!”
Everyone, both on screen and off, started cheering.