So Grace started outsourcing his own job and eventually walked away from it, he said.
Friends urged him to start an interior design business “because he was good at it,” Grace said.
Grace heard comments, such as, “I álove your apartment. Will you help me with mine?” So he did. But Grace also knew building a new full-time career took time. The learning phase would not pay the bills.
“I was 42 when all that happened and there was no way I was gong back to school to start all over again,” Grace said. “I had the innate ability to do this. I think I’m really good at it. But to just start a business – is this something I can do? How do I brand myself? I did not want to struggle for five years.”
A friend suggested, “Just get on a reality show,” which Grace thought was brilliant. So he went searching on the internet and found that HGTV Design Star was hosting auditions at a hotel in downtown Chicago that very weekend.
“I was like, ‘That’s crazy,’” Grace said. “They wanted me to bring my resume, bring my credentials, bring my book, bring my certificates – bring every single thing I don’t have.
"And I was like, ‘You know what?’ I was living in the South Loop at the time, on South Michigan Avenue, and I’m just going to jump on the bus, grab a coffee and go wait in line with everybody else.’
After a short wait, Grace was called before five casting representatives. He had none of the requirements but was told to return the next day for a camera test.
Then he did a demo.
After that, he was flown to New York.
And then he had a couple phone auditions.
Grace landed the spot.
He moved to Brooklyn for two months during the filming and made it to the top five. Grace later learned he was not expected to do well; he as chosen because of his personality, he said.
“That show changed my life,” Grace said.