‘Project Runway’ contestant, East alum speaks during Diversity Week

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During his time at Cranston High School East, Jamall Osterholm openly admits school was “not his thing.”

Except for his art classes, that is. He lived for them. Art is what got him through four years of high school.

After graduating in 2013, Osterholm went on to attend Rhode Island School of Design on a full-ride scholarship. After he graduated from RISD, he set his sights on pursuing his dream of being a fashion designer.

He has realized those dreams, and has been a contestant on the most recent season of Bravo’s hit television show “Project Runway.”

During a recent return visit to Cranston East as part of Diversity Week, Osterholm spoke about his childhood and how he came to live in Cranston.

“When I was 5 years old, due to gang violence, gun violence and drug violence, my father was taken from me. I came to live with my Italian grandmother, and it was the biggest blessing for me. I was able to live in a safe and stable home environment,” he said.

Osterholm spoke about his dedication to his dreams.

“I failed a lot of classes, I was a hot mess. But I stuck to what I wanted to do, and that was my art. Even as a child, I took my art and my drawings extremely, extremely seriously,” he said.

Osterholm spoke about always remaining true to himself and not letting his circumstances define him. He also credited many members of the Cranston East faculty and staff with helping him get through the four years of high school.

“Jamall is such a wonderful young man. To see him grow and mature in front of our eyes, and now to see his success, it only proves that if you put in the effort, anything is possible,” social studies teacher Kim Salimeno said. “The issues he faced and conquered are all things that will bring him greater success in the future.”

Osterholm’s presentation brought out several retired teachers who inspired him during his years at Cranston East, and they praised his talent as well.

“Jamall was always a good kid,” retired guidance counselor Nancy Riley said. “We truly care about our students and want all of them to succeed. While everyone has different hurdles in life, it is how you approach them and move on that marks your character.”

Osterholm told the audience that part of his design aesthetic comes from his search for his true identity.

“I truly cannot identify with one design type. As a young designer, as a gay designer, I design what I am feeling in the moment. A lot of it is dark, a lot of it is futuristic. I play with gender roles and identity,” he said.

At the end of his presentation, Osterholm answered questions from the students about how to follow him on Instagram, his future design collections and his experience on “Project Runway.”

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