'HGTV Design Star' winner Emily Henderson spills show secrets

When Emily Henderson moved the nearly-3,000 miles from Oregon to New York City, she didn't have a plan.

When she found herself with bills and rent to pay, Henderson took on a variety of odd jobs including dog walking and bartending before she landed a design position at Jonathan Adler.

Henderson fell in love with home decor and when a friend pushed her to sign up for "HGTV Design Star," she reluctantly agreed.


"I'm not supposed to say this but it was the best and worst six weeks of my life," she told us.

The designer, who has teamed up with Air Wick's new Freshmatic and Pure products, told us she at first regretted giving up her job to appear on the competition show.

"I started the show not doing well, almost getting sent home on the very first episode," she said. "And so, what you don't want to do is sacrifice all this time and the giving up [your] jobs to go on a reality show and go home first."


Luckily for Henderson, things picked up and she ended up being the season 5 winner. The show premiered in 2006 and ran for seven seasons.

"The anxiety of not winning or not even getting close was really, really stressful, but then I stayed in and it was so much fun, it really was, and I end[ed] up winning."

But winning took a lot of hard work, she explained. The show shot over six weeks and Henderson and her fellow contestants woke up at 5 a.m. every morning, went to bed at midnight and repeat.

"It was extremely stressful... waking up at 5 a.m., doing these insane challenges that didn't make sense in a lot of ways... and do it all over again the next day."

Does the designer and mom recommend the experience?

"If you think you can win, you should try and do it," she said. "But if you don't think you can win, then it's a lot of sacrifice for the two weeks you might be on camera."