In this still from episode 6 in Season 3 of Making It, contestant Melañio Gomez shows off a project. We ask Gomez to give us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it was like to be a contestant on this reality competition show.
Photo by Evans Vestal Ward/NBC.
Can you create under pressure? Contestants on the reality competition show Making It on NBC race against the clock to craft the best projects and get named Master Maker which comes with a $100,000 prize. Now in its third season, Making It is executive produced by Saturday Night Live alum Amy Poehler and her former Parks and Recreation co-star Nick Offerman. Curious to learn more about what it’s really like to be on Making It, we sat down with Melañio Gomez, a contestant on Season 3 which is on the air now.
Gomez is a skilled maker in a wide variety of crafts and has been creating his whole life. He taught himself painting and sewing when he was a kid simply by following his own curiosity. At Philadelphia College of Art he learned color theory and composition. And in his current role as prop stylist and set designer he creates every single day. “If I have to sew something for a shoot, I just sew it. And if I have to bake cookies, I bake them,” he says. “If I need a prop that doesn’t necessarily work, but has to look good, I have to produce it.”
A child of immigrants, Gomez’s parents emigrated to the US from the Philippines in 1958. His father, a surgeon, and his mother, a dietician, moved to New York, and later to New Jersey and Philadelphia, following jobs in the healthcare field. Gomez is the only one of the children in his family to pursue a creative career.
Gomez describes himself as a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to crafting.
Photo courtesy of Evans Vestal Ward/NBC.
When we chatted over Zoom last week, Gomez was on a photo shoot for his prop stylist job and took the call in his car. We both showed up wearing black and white striped t-shirts, a detail Gomez noticed and right away. “Look, we’re twins,” he said.
Gomez first learned about Making It while living with his husband, Chris, in Brussels. For fun,he’d been hosting creative weekends for groups of men. “It was an idea from a really good friend of mine, who’s also a prop stylist who lives in Minneapolis,” he explained. “In a vintage store, he found this book, Man Craft. It’s completely sexist. It was just crafts for men from like the 60s and 70s. It had leathercraft and woodcraft. And he thought it was so funny that he decided to have a weekend called Man Craft.” Gomez loved the idea and continued to host meetups while living in Europe. It was a participant at one of these events that tipped him off about the show. Then, friends at Martha Stewart Living, where he worked for seven years including as Home Editor, also recommended it, so he bought the whole season to watch on a plane trip. Then he bought Season 2.
“For me, I loved the personalities that were on the show,” he says. “You do say to yourself, could I do that? Could I do this show?” He also liked that the show is good-natured. “It’s a nice show. There’s no hitting people up yet against each other. Life is hard enough that I don’t need to watch that.”
When he and Chris moved to San Francisco, and then the pandemic hit, he decided he might as well audition. The process required first sending in an audition video and then completing an audition project similar to a project featured in a previous season. Gomez’s assignment was to “make a food that isn’t food” and it’s safe to say he took on the challenge wholeheartedly. It was the middle of the pandemic and most stores were closed so he headed to Lowes. “I ended up making a cheese board with everything from a hardware store,” he says. “I just walked up and down the aisles and sort of looked at things differently.” This included gouda made from furniture feet, a baguette whittled from a 2×4, rosemary sprigs made from trash bag ties, and more. “My partner when I was doing this he’s like, whoa, you’re spending a lot of time you know, you’re really into this. The dining room was a mess. But it was really fun.”
Clearly, the casting agents were impressed, too. While on a Zoom call with his nephew the phone rang delivering the news that he’d been chosen as one of 10 contestants on Season 3. Filming would begin just two weeks later.
Pictured: (l-r) Chelsea Anderson, Jessie Lamworth, Melañio Gomez, Adam Kingman, Becca Barnet on camera during Season 3 of Making It.
Photo courtesy of Evans Vestal Ward/NBC.
On the set, Gomez says he was impressed by the sheer number of cameras.
“There’s a camera on you the entire time. You have these two huge cameras and one is on your face and one is on your hands. Every time you run out of the barn, there’s someone on a mic saying, ‘Melanio is coming out of the barn. He’s about to spray paint something!’”
Despite being constantly filmed, Gomez says he still felt creative. “As soon as I introduced myself to my cameraman, I felt more at ease,” he explains. The amount of footage to create a one-hour episode astounded him. “I remember when I wired my lamp incorrectly and it didn’t go on. I mean they caught the sheer panic on my face! Beads of sweat coming down my brow with five minutes to go. Yeah, they catch it all.”
Before becoming a contestant on Making It, Gomez’s only formal on-air experience was the media training he went through as a Martha Stewart employee. “Luckily, all my segments [at Martha Stewart] never aired. I was so happy,” he jokes.
At first, Gomez planned not to tell anyone about the show. “I just thought I’d do it. It would be fun. It was a pandemic; all my shoots were canceled. I’m like hey, why not?” But it turned out he needed his family members to sign a photo release for a challenge that required the use of family photos. Once they found out, he says his family has been incredibly supportive, chatting over text while watching each episode as it aired.
Gomez says a common question he gets asked is if anyone crafty could be a contestant on Making It. His response? You have to be able to work fast. “You really do have to have your time management down. Because that time is pretty unforgiving on the show. They don’t give you any extra time ever. Fast thinking is probably one of the keys to being on a show like this.”
Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.