Interview: VH1’s Twinning Winners, Claire and Shawn Buitendorp

Last night, viewers watched Claire and Shawn Buitendorp, powerhouses all season long on VH1’s reality competition series, Twinning, take home $222,222,22! After a summer filled with weekly physical challenges and lots of drama, the identical mirror twins who hail from Michigan won the big prize of the show’s first season and can now take their own fashion line, Shock and Awww to the next level. I was thrilled when I got the chance to talk to the girls earlier this week about their win, fashion, and what’s ahead!

Congratulations on winning Twinning! What was the most fun or difficult part of the final challenge?
Claire: Thank you! I have to say the hardest part was the weather. It’s usually warm in Los Angeles… most days it was in the 70s or 80s but of course on that day, it was like 55 and it was raining.

Shawn: And it was raining!

Claire: We were all soaked and the whole challenge was to sit suspended in this “womb” without any handles. We had to stabilize ourselves and then it started tipping at an angle where we would fall out and be “birthed” as they said. So we’re wet now…and we have nothing to hold was very difficult.

Shawn: And you have 33.33% of winning the money at this point so the nerves are high, you’ve been with or without your twin for quite awhile now, and it’s just like “Oh my Gosh, we have to do this!” So…it was…it was a tough one.

Shawn and Claire: (laughter)

That’s tough because it basically never rains in L.A. so of all days…and then right after that challenge where you guys kept getting electrocuted.
Claire: Ohhhh. That was probably the hardest challenge of all of them just because you’re so emotionally involved knowing that you’re causing your twin pain.

So what was your most memorable challenge throughout the show? As far as the fun factor goes?
Shawn: I’d say for me, my favorite challenge was the lock and key challenge because it wasn’t necessarily the most memorable of the show since it doesn’t show our faces and whatnot but Claire and I were so in sync in that challenge. We were moving so well together and that’s why we won that challenge outright first.

Claire: I have a different favorite challenge. Mine was the puzzle because I think that showed our twintuition at its best. It was the first challenge where we employed the strategy where I would go first and complete the entire challenge and then Shawn would follow after I had finished and complete the entire challenge. We were under the impression that if no one is pulling me back, then I’m going to have all of the rope and as much time as I need without thinking she’s going to interfere.

Shawn: I just knew you were going to do that.

Claire: Seriously!

Shawn: I just knew that Claire was going to take the lead and do the whole thing first so I just sat down.

Claire: And I thought that was the best part because…finally! Twintuition at its best!

So who would you say were your biggest friends and if different, allies in the house? Although we didn’t see a lot of game play as far as psychological warfare goes because you guys were pretty level headed.
Shawn: I know, it’s interesting because Claire and I were very, very strategic with all of our alliance members. Our number one alliance from the get go was Dylan and Taylor. They were physically superior and they kept winning and winning and winning and they had the mentality that they wanted to keep winners around because they wanted to beat the ultimate winners. As did we because you don’t feel like you’ve won if you win against the losers. You know? So we were very tightly aligned with them but they said they wanted to go into the twin off. To prove our loyalty to the alliance, we trusted that they trusted in themselves. And they didn’t come back. So Claire and I moved to Adam and Cory and the show shows us more as enemies than as friends but we were tremendous friends. And then they went. I think in many ways, we were able to be friends with a lot of people on the show, which was a wonderful thing but part of it was being adaptable.

Claire: Yeah, part of our strategy going in was to be friends with everyone. Because when you’re friends with everyone, if you need them at some point, you can use that relationship because you’re not on bad terms.

So moving into fashion… if you could give any set of twins in the Twinning house a makeover, which twins would it be?

Shawn & Claire: Whoa whoa whoa whoa!

Claire: Ooooo!

Shawn: Claire?

Claire: Well. Why not?

Shawn: Why not?

Claire: I think that we would pick Annamarie and Ginamarie. We respect these ladies very much. They are very passionate…but sometimes I think that they could wear garments that accentuate their most beautiful attributes. I’ve seen pictures of them as brunettes and they have such natural beauty as brunettes and they have curly hair and I think that they are fighting too much of their natural beauty. I would just reel it back into what it was.

How would you say your style has evolved since creating Shock and Awww?
Claire: I would say that not only our personal style has evolved but Shock and Awww as a brand has evolved. Originally, we started making stage wear costumes, bedazzled, over the top costumes for stars to wear on stage. We found that while they’re lovely, our fans wanted to wear something that they could wear on a daily basis…and you generally cannot do that in a sparkly leotard (laughs) so we’ve gone to a more ready to wear look. But it’s still just as colorful and eclectic.

Shawn: When it comes to our own personal style…seeing yourself on TV, you can say, “Wow, I could have taken that even further.”

Claire: Yeah!

Shawn: So I think for us, we say don’t be afraid of anything. Go for it. Be as sparkly, be as bold, be as bright and colorful as you want to be. Why not be a beacon? I want to be a beacon.

What fashion magazines did you look forward to the most growing up?
Claire: Growing up, I would definitely say that Teen Vogue was our go to magazine. Very much so.

Shawn: Very much so.

Claire: They use up and coming designers and at a lower price point and industry designers that are attainable for a young person. I liked seeing the collages of all of the pieces together… I think it helped develop the Shock and Awww vision because you can pair a party dress and a leather jacket together and when you see the collages, you can see certain styles blending. And we want to show women that you don’t have to be held to one specific style. So when we had an article in Teen Vogue, it was beyond exciting.

Shawn: Beyond exciting.

Claire: And while I do subscribe to all of the major magazines, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle…generally I find them to be a little too high brow in terms of the fashion that I like to make. We’re drawn to more Nylon, Paper, V Magazine

Shawn: Cosmo!

Claire: Yeah! I read so many magazines. Sometimes, I find that I like the clothes in Cosmo and Glamour more than I do in Vogue. Because they look like they’re having fun and for us, fashion is about having fun, feeling good, and enjoying yourself and I see that exuded more in those publications.

Yeah. So can you talk about things you were surprised or most grateful to learn from mentor, the legend, Betsey Johnson?
Shawn: One thing that I wasn’t necessarily surprised to learn but has come up so many times is the advice to be true to yourself. Don’t design what’s trendy for anybody else. Design for yourself. Betsey is not concerned with what’s trending. She cares about…these are the types of clothes *I* like, this is what my fan base likes, and that’s what I’m going to make. That’s what makes me feel excited and powerful. So, just being true to oneself.

Claire: Another thing that we’ve learned from her is to make fashion about having fun. It’s a grueling business and there are so many people that are so consumed that they have to wear the designers and are just so immersed in it that everything has to be out of the pages of Vogue and to me, it’s more about the experience of making things that make me happy that make other people happy and building an environment around them. Having your own aura. You don’t have to be so proper and stifling because you’re in fashion.

Shawn: You can smile!

Claire: You can smile!

Shawn: And enjoy ourselves.

Speaking of fun, I’m not sure how much time you were able to have fun while growing up on the road with a stage manager dad but what cities or towns would you say have inspired you the most creatively?
Shawn: Claire and I are really inspired by history. The feelings derived from that. We thoroughly enjoyed Boston. Philadelphia.

Shawn & Claire: Washington, D.C.

Shawn: The act of learning, the act of gaining new information, that’s what made us so inspired by fashion in that…look how much we can learn about this avenue that we know nothing about. And in these cities, people are quite creative dressers. And now, I would say that New York is close to the heart. We love going back to New York. The people there dress unlike any other city. If we can keep up with them…

Shawn & Claire: (laughter)

Now, you’ve styled so many amazing celebrities from Katy Perry to Lindsey Stirling but there are just so many out there so who are your top five or so celebs that you’d like to style in the future?
Shawn & Claire: (Going back and forth) Oh! This is a good one! Definitely Rita Ora. For sure. Gwen Stefani. Oh, I was going to say that! I would say, Jessie J. Jessie J. Jlo. Oh, got to love Jlo! Demi Lovato. And Rihanna.

There are so many beauty gurus out there so who would you most like to collaborate with if you had the chance?
Shawn: Claire and I don’t follow many beauty gurus but is there a beauty brand that you love Claire?

Claire: Yeah! We love Mac. Lime Crime, they’re animal friendly and have posh, sparkly colors. There are plenty of shoe designers that we’d love to collaborate with. Sophia Webster is a brand out of The UK and if we made shoes, they would be hers. They are amazing. They are just glorious.

Shawn: They are the most beautiful shoes I’ve ever seen.

Claire: Yeah.

Shawn: Also, I love sportswear. Shock and Awww is about blending the feminine with the sporty and I love Adidas. Nike. Puma. There are collaborations with Pharrell and Solange. They’re making performance wear into clothes you can wear on the street and it’s very cool.

Claire: Very cool.

Lastly, what can we expect to see from you next?
Shawn: Well, Claire and I are continuing to work with the VH1 family and possibly host the next season of Twinning which would be very exciting. We’re also working on a TV series about ourselves moving to the big city and making clothes for celebrities while launching our brand… Also, we’re working on our first fashion show for NYFW in February. We have a full plate and we couldn’t have it any other way.

For more from Shawn and Claire, be sure to visit Shock and Awww and follow the girls on Twitter and Instagram!


  1. Great interview! The girls totally rock! It is really exciting to see the new TV series about them moving to the big city! 🙂