March 09, 2006 10:00 AM

Aspiring fashion designer Chloe Dao is one step closer to making her dream a reality. The artist from Houston captured the top prize on the second season finale of Project Runway, Heidi Klum’s hit Bravo show pitting wannabe fashion designers against each other.

“Are you kidding me? No way!” said a clearly surprised Dao when her name was called.

The judges selected her over the two other finalists, Daniel Vosovic and Santino Rice.

“We loved what you did,” said show host Klum.

The judges included designer Michael Kors, Elle editor Nina Garcia and actress Debra Messing. They cited construction and fit of the designs Dao displayed during New York’s Olympus Fashion Week in choosing her as the winner.

The choice of Dao was somewhat surprising, as her commitment to design had been questioned during the course of the series. The result also differed from what readers predicted: In a poll, 60 percent of readers picked Daniel to win, followed by Chloe with 30 percent of the votes and Santino with 10 percent.

On the show, 16 contestants compete against one another in deadline-driven tests to see who could create the best designs out of unusual material, such as redesigning the clothes they were wearing into a party outfit.

The top prize includes $100,000 for Dao to start her own clothing line, a layout in Elle magazine and 2007 Saturn. Plus, there’s the recognition that goes with winning one of TV’s most popular reality shows.

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