Barbara Nitke / Lifetime

'We All Understand That There Is A Game Being Played' - Sam Donovan

Project Runway All Stars's controversial alleged flirt on Kini, Ken, Mitchell, Buffy, and meshing (hee) with the judges.

Our Players

Hello, I'm Project Runway All Star designer Sam Donovan.
Hello, I'm East Coast Editor Sarah D. Bunting.

The Talk

Hello. It's me, your lawyer!

[laughs] What did I do this time?

That's for you to tell me!

Oh, Lord. [laughs]

So I'm not sure where to begin, so I guess I'll start with the end. Did you rewatch the finale or no?

I watched the end of it, um, and a little bit of the workroom stuff.

Okay. What did you think of the winner?

Um, well, [clears throat] obviously on a personal level, I am very happy that Dom won. Um, from a design level, I think that she was definitely the best designer left standing, but I was actually very surprised at how positive my initial response to Kini's collection was, to be honest.

That's where I was at too. My esteemed colleague, Tara, was absolutely in the tank for Dom from minute one, which is fine, I love Dom too and I would wear everything in that collection.

Right.

'Cause she puts pockets, which is Buntnip to me but --

[laughs]

Kini's, I thought, not to repeat what we already said in our write-up but we felt like if Kini's '80s-ness had felt more intentional, that he --

Yes.

He might have won it, and that compared to Emily whose, like, throwback urban graffiti aesthetic seems to be much more, not "studied," but like it comes from somewhere and it's going somewhere, versus Kini's, which is not --

Kini, uh, watching the finale and definitely after reading what you guys have had to say about Kini…I'm sorry if I also speak very, um, deliberately. I have been used to speaking English to German people.

The transcription service will really appreciate your elocution.

Kini, I kind of figured out towards the end. He's, he's trying to do something -- and I figured this out earlier but something about his collection this week made it really click for me. He's trying to design for a clientele that he knows nothing about. So he ends up taking these weird, like, Gossip Girl cues … this Park Avenue princess that he keeps talking about that, he has never lived on Park Avenue as far as I know, never has lived in New York so he knows nothing about the customer, but he takes all of these cues that he thinks that she would wear and then applies his own sort of like Hawaiian '80s aesthetic to it, and it just ends up as like a total jumble, whereas I feel like the last four looks in his collection -- or maybe not the last four, I don't remember it perfectly, but like the really brightly colored beautiful ones, I just feel like that's Kini.

And I think you're right, if Kini had just done that, I think the judges said it too. If he had just done that, I would have had a hard time taking a win away from him, as much as I am not his biggest fan.

Right. Well, and part of this is just, whatever, TV shit, but there's the judging, and there's what they show you of the judging.

Mm-hmm.

That's supposed to make you think a certain thing, like, for example, that Ken was in the discussion, which I don't think he ever really was.

No.

And also that Dom wasn't the clear winner, which I think was probably the case.

Right.

But since we've all watched TV before, I guess I should have known better than to be surprised based on their comments about Kini's that my notes were like, "The judges think that that's an A-minus collection and the others are B, B-plus."

Right.

And then Dom won, but I think Dom also has...it's not a perfect idea. But given the time constraints, I felt like she was the most herself. And that she's not working backward from this theoretical clientele, like you just said.

Right.

So I would like to ask you a little bit about the time constraints since I've just mentioned them.

Of course.

Um…the fuck?

Yeah. [laughs] When you have two red garments in a goddamn cardboard box and they're made of the cheapest shit that you've ever touched in your life and they're like, "Make a garment in an hour," and your competitor has a dress that he cut the bottom off of like, "Uh," start telling me about time constraints.

Oh my god. Well, at least that time constraint [the one-hour runway face-off] is so ridiculous that everything else just gets burned away. I'm talking more about the challenges generally.

Right.

I mean, I guess you're used to it by now.

I actually have a really interesting journey with the time constraint because I -- when I first went onto Under The Gunn, which is a legitimate Project Runway season!

[laughs] …Overruled!

[laughs] Well, I…

We'll talk more about that later, but: yes. On Under The Gunn.

When I went on to Under The Gunn, my ex-boyfriend at the time, [who] I lived with through my sophomore and junior year of college, basically begged me not to do it. He also is legitimately a lawyer, so...

[laughs]

I've sent him all of my contracts. He's begging me not to do the show twice, and I'm always like, "Well, I've already signed it." And he's like, "Why do you send me these things?" But he begged me not to do the show because he was like, "I've lived with you. I've seen you work. You are the biggest procrastinator in the world. You never get things done the way that you want them to." But the sort of beauty of that is that I was used to working on a very tight deadline, so I was used to making entire final projects in 12, eight to 12 hours.

Right.

So going onto Under The Gunn, I was like, "This is just another one-nighter." But when you do like 12 one-nighters in a row, that's when it starts to get tricky.

I feel like Tara and I bring this up in like every discussion we have about the show, no matter which franchise it is, that it's like…for a design competition, it ends up being the sense of assessing much more who is able to stay right in the middle of the fairway and not crack up under the pressure of having to come up with, you know, a contrived idea and execute on it in, realistically, 12 to 18 hours because -- it's not like you guys get to work straight through, yeah? You're being pulled out for talking-heads, and you have to eat and blah blah blah.

Well, it's funny. They always say, "Oh, yeah. We force the designers to eat." They don't really force us to eat. [laughs] They imply that we should and they will get in trouble if we don't, but … I guess I hear what you're saying, but I think at this point, it's been a talking point that's sort of driven into the ground so much that -- especially for All-Stars, like, we all know what we're getting into.

Right.

And we all have sort of a set priority that we want to accomplish, going onto the show. Personally I wanted to show that I wasn't just a circle skirt designer. [laughs]

Right.

That I could do more than that. And I kind of knew from the beginning, I mean, I got the call to be on All-Stars ten days before the show started filming, which I'm probably not supposed to tell you. Um, so I had a very good feeling that I was not slated to win this competition. So I just, my priority became [to] push this show, sort of like Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race, push this show towards fashion, push it towards creativity, make it a creative contest, like, don't let it be The Kini Show where Kini just, you know, drags out a bunch of Alexander McQueen knock-offs in record time and takes the crown by default.

Was that your sense of, when you walked in on the first day and shooting started, was that your sense of where things were headed -- that this was gonna be the, not "victory lap" but sort of settling the score, "justice for Kini"?

Yeah. I have had a great pleasure of getting to know Mondo Guerra on a very personal level, and I know on his season of All-Stars, there were a lot of people, a lot of designers who were like, you know, "Fuck it, Mondo doesn't have to do anything. He's going to win the season by default." And he ended up winning. Um, and I think there was a strong sense within several members of this cast that that was likely to be what happened to Kini as well. I know that it was definitely an opinion that resonated very strongly in the group of friends that I sort of ran in in the cast. So it was somewhat of a surprise to me to see that Dom won, and even getting on the internet this morning, like, I've known for nine or ten months that Dom was the winner, I "knew" but I just still had this doubt in my mind.

Nitke

Nitke

[laughs]

That there was no way, they were never gonna take the win away from such a fan favorite, but I think that Project Runway...to an extent, producers are making certain decisions, whatever, but at the end of the day, you have to do the work, and I think that Dom did the work and there was just…she never really stumbled during the main season. Her collection was beautiful and artistic and fantastic, um, and to take it away from her to give it to Kini, who sort of, I don't wanna say "whiffed" his collection again, but made so many of the same mistakes. I just feel like it would have been so unfair to Dom, as much as I kind of liked his final collection.

I can see that. I think presented with it, and granted I didn't see it in person, and who knows how the judges influenced each other...I would have given it to him, but I certainly wasn't upset. Based on what I saw on Twitter, people were upset, um, about this win in particular and also that previous winners can come back at all.

Mm-hmm.

I'm not in a place where I'm gonna get hugely upset about this, but it did seem at least to us, and I've been saying it throughout the season, like, "Well, this is --"

"The Kini coronation."

Yes. "This is how we rectify the, whatever, mistake --"

I don't think it was a mistake.

I don't either, but --

Kini with his finale collection … he made a ball gown with you know, uh, more of a curtain-looking shoulder treatment than Scarlett O'Hara, and put a jockstrap on it. I mean, it was a fucking disaster. It was a mess. But that's Kini, like, he gets criticism in his head and he can't let it go.

Which is why I think you see so many designs from Project Runway that he had success with on his season, because you know, he doesn't really, as you guys said, there's no real intention with it. There's no real voice, almost, of what he's trying to do, he's just trying to win, you know?

Right. Which in the end is two different things, and he can sew really fast, which helps.

Right. That's great, but you know, they all got sewing help, so…

Yeah, true. Do you feel that that same tendency of his to get a criticism in his head also had something to do with his kind of fixating on you as a -- source of injustice for him? That was phrased horribly. Do you know what I'm saying?

I think that Kini ... I could sense a hostility from him and Ken and Alexander, um, but I never felt that kind of obsession that it sort of came across as on television. And in reality television shows like Project Runway, you know, we all understand as contestants, because we're viewers of the show we all understand that there is a game being played. And I think that Kini saw that whatever game that I was playing -- which really to be perfectly fair, the game that I was playing was, "Fuck these people. I'm just gonna do creative interesting things even if I can't sew them perfectly."

Kini's game, and to somewhat of an equal extent Ken's game, became making me seem, like, bad. And I almost feel like if they had just let it go, you know, me going up in the elimination against Emily, maybe it would have gone another way. …I seriously was contemplating just walking back on onstage and being like, "Nope. Take her, I, I can't do this anymore." Like, please, I don't want to go back into that room and see those people.

Right.

Um, you saw a very small part of the conversation that Ken and I had, and a lot of the pieces of it were the pieces that did upset me but the piece that really angered me was...I don't necessarily wanna say "anger" but I felt sort of insulted by it, because I realized that it was for a game and it didn't seem honest. He said something on the lines of, "You don't know how to pattern-make." And he pointed to the dress that I had, you know, put together in five or six hours as kind of a "save," and I was like, "Well, how would you expect me to pattern-make that?" Like, it's not a body-slimming dress like you do every single challenge but that doesn't mean that I don't know how to pattern-make. So I don't know.

Ken just, Ken and Kini's game sort of became tearing me down when they could have … who knows what would have happened or what would have been the result if Kini had just focused on being the sort of bubbly person that I think that people had gotten to know him as in Season 13.

Yeah, I don't think that played well, at least for me.

Right.

Ken is…you know, Ken is going to Ken, and --

[laughs] Yes, she is.

I did feel at least in his interactions with you as though that was gaming of a different sort, that that was his shot at redemption, and having that emotional comeback with viewers of the show. You know, "I've matured, I can get a grip, I can confront situations in a grown-up manner and not be, whatever, throwing irons at people" or whatever it was he did. I think it was actually an ironing board, excuse me.

Ah, yes.

Ken flipped out on Alexander before throwing the iron.

Got it.

It was funny 'cause I, I felt that way about Ken too until towards the end of the season, I don't know what happened. He became very good at keeping his anger off-camera … but there were just instances where I was like, oh, wow. Like, I know you're mad at the crew because we can't go out and party or whatever, but maybe you need to chill out a little bit. But I was rooting for Ken the entire season and they...I was asked so many times, so many leading questions, so many. "Do you feel like Ken's bullying you? Do you feel like Ken's behavior is, is out of whack? Do you think that like, you know, he's going back to his old ways?" And I was like, "Listen, he's my friend. Fuck yourself." You know?

So I'm sure that at some point, I said something and the producer used it and they were like, "Ken, Sam said this shit about you." But you know, I don't know Ken well enough to say whether or not he's made great strides or he's backed up into some crazy hole of anger. I don't know him that well. The Ken Laurence that I got to know on this show was someone who was full of life and laughter. He kept the entire cast laughing all the time, but he's just doesn't know how to let go, if that makes any sense?

Right.

And I think that's something that he struggled with too. I think that he was having trouble letting go of how he was portrayed on his season.

Right.

And I agree. I do think that he was so concerned with portraying that he had matured emotionally and I believe 100% that he put a lot of work into maturing, because he was -- the producers were telling us, like, you know, just be careful. Tim Gunn himself was like, "I'm so sorry that you had to deal with Ken," but that just wasn't my experience for the most part. There were moments where it was just bad, but for the most part, he is a sweet, kind, hilarious person.

I always loved to see Ken. He could be on every season as far as I'm concerned, because his phrasings of things are like music, and he knows what he's being asked to do in talking-heads, and he does it, which I love. Do I necessarily want to go on a show with him? 'Cause sometimes you can see, even on the other side of the screen, you can feel that cloud...

Mm-hmm.

Of someone's anger that just sort of starts sucking the air out of the room, you can feel that happening with Ken sometimes and it's like, "Uhh. That seems difficult."

Right.

But at least that's out there. My issue with Kini this season is that he was -- with the bitchy sulking and the shit-talking, which all seemed to stem from, like, "I did 90 percent of the work on that and Sam gets the credit," like --

Oh, honestly.

Whatever happened, if that's your perception of the situation and you're pissed, use your words. And after a couple of weeks, if you're not gonna say something to Sam about it, I absolutely cannot be on your side about it anymore.

Well, it was, it got brought up several times and Kini started asking me to tell [the judges] not off camera. So you knew that this was an attempt to sort of make me seem bad. He would ask me on camera, you know -- I say "ask" like it was a suggestion.

[laughs]

"You need to tell the judges that I made your look or I made your top," because I don't think that Kini ever asserted directly to me that he made my entire look, because he didn't and I have been -- again, I really get angry and I really get offended and I understand that there is a game to be played, but I told the producers to their face that I would walk off the show if no one brought up to Kini that he was directly knocking off an Alexander McQueen dress in the couture challenges.

[laughs] That's awesome.

I was like, "Are you doing a fashion reality show or are you doing a reality show wherein fashion takes place on the periphery?" And it never made the cut but Zanna said to him, you know, "Have you seen Alexander McQueen's fall 2010 collection?" And then, to Kini's credit, he owned up immediately and said, "Yes, it was in the dossier and I didn't really know who or what that was, so I decided to just pick the best dress and make like an extravagant version of it."

And isn't this something -- I could be wrong and I'm not trying to slander the guy, obviously, but I feel like this was something that came up in Season 13 as well. Or is that what you're talking about?

It also came up in Season 13.

That I feel like someone said the words or Tim Gunn was like, "Well, here's the thing, about Alexander McQueen's work. This…is it. You are doing that and maybe, you know, rethink that." Anyway, sorry to interrupt. It just struck me that this was not a new concern about his work from mentors.

Well, that's what I kind of mean when I say he's trying to design for something he knows nothing about. When you're trying to do something that you don't know, you're instantly gonna gravitate to the first conception of it that you're seeing. And he openly said, "I've never studied the Baroque period," which is fine, but there's a difference between taking cues from a dossier and applying your own aesthetic to it, and just taking a dress and making a version of it. There was plenty of stuff in that dossier, you know, high necks, extravagant detail, metallics, embroidery, beading, big shoulders, like that kind of thing. You see Ken sort of did his Dynasty version of Baroque, that he won with it.

I just don't think that Kini's mind works that way. I don't think that he can take cues. I think that he can just see the bigger picture. …I am gonna get so much shit for this. [laughs]

Let's talk about Under The Gunn for a second. Um, "a perfectly legitimate Project Runway Franchise™."

It is perfectly, completely legitimate. [laughs]

… Did you feel that Under The Gunn prepared you for the standard "version" of Project Runway, which All-Stars isn't exactly, but it's pretty much the same framework. Did you feel more prepared because your time constraints had been much crazier in Under The Gunn? Did you feel less prepared because you weren't gonna have a specific mentor? Did it make a difference? Did you feel like watching the show prepared you more than being on Under The Gunn did?

I think that Asha and I were actually at somewhat of an advantage having been on Under The Gunn because … on Project Runway, we heard this from every single designer that was on Project Runway and received critique from the judges. The judges basically just ripped you to shreds for no reason, they just make you, they tear you down to make you feel like shit. Asha and I would listen to this and we…that had never really been the case, like, Jen Rade would try to make some sort of one-off comment every once in a while and we'd be like, "Okay. Yeah. Claps for Jen Rade. She made a joke, everybody." Um, but Jen Rade, I love Jen Rade. I really do. She made that show interesting.

Um, so when Asha and I came on, we didn't have those expectations of being like railed into the ground by the judges for basically expressing a point of view. And I think that a lot of the Project Runway designers did, which is why I think if you look at the first show compared to how the show sort of developed, everyone was a little timid in the first runway show of the season.

And you heard the critiques; Isaac and Georgina are so respectful of the trials and tribulations of making a million and a half dresses. [laughs] In two months or whatever. They're just such respectful, intelligent people. I know that it probably wasn't fun for the cameras to listen to because, you know, they would sort of get through what they wanted to say and then all of a sudden they would crack off one-liners like, you know, we knew it was kind of being fed to them … but just, they, you genuinely feel like they care about your progression as a designer during and after you leave the show, and I feel like that about Alyssa as well but Alyssa was more like comic relief in a way, like, I know that this sounds like propaganda bullshit and it might be that they just sort of like brainwash us into thinking [this], but I legitimately felt Alyssa wanted us to feel good about being there.

Heidi and Tim and Nina and even the judges on Under The Gunn, they think too much, they're thinking way too much about, you know, "Oh well, how is this gonna come across?" And then Alyssa's like, "I don't wanna wear high heels today," so they shoot her from the waist up or whatever. She, there was just something so genuine-seeming about her that was really, really sweet. And again with Isaac and Georgina, no matter what the critique, they always found something positive to say. They always, it really felt like they were paying attention to the designer's growth. It really felt like they were paying attention to what the designer was strong in expressing and what their deficiencies were. I think that everyone regardless of, you know, win, lose, Fäde to Dom, I think everyone sort of learned something about how they can further enhance their success after leaving the show.

Yep. The thing I like about these judges compared to the ones on other iterations is that although sometimes you do get the feeling that they're reaching for whatever one-liner, manufactured or not, that when Michael Kors would do it or when Heidi Klum does it, it is at someone's expense.

… I think that everyone is cognizant that Project Runway, it's first and foremost a television show. You know, it is not a competition that would happen in the fashion industry outside of a student level. It is a very hard competition to sort of gauge a very um, in-depth perspective on a designer's talent, due to the time constraints -- and I'm not talking about the time constraints based in, like, sewing; we can all sew pretty quickly, it's fine, you can throw something together. But to have so little design time, so little opportunity to do research, if any, is really just so very far removed from what fashion design is to a lot of us. To have 30 minutes in Mood when I've worked in fashion companies where we'll fight over you know, two different black taffetas for three months, and I'm not kidding. That's not an exaggeration, and we like fight over it for design reasons, for quality reasons, for political reasons, you know, where is it coming from, do we know if it's from a, a sustainable, socially responsible company? You know, you've had all of these concerns, outside in the fashion industry that just don't apply to Project Runway at all.

Well, that's so interesting to hear you say that because I do a little sewing, which is like basically just taking vintage dresses and putting a pocket in.

Yeah. That's where some Project Runway people have been.

[laughs] But the way I think, in terms of doing any project including, like, rearranging the living room, my ability to visualize without having shit literally in front of me or in hand is nil. It's like a delay of some kind; in order to know how the room is gonna look with the furniture in a different place, I have to literally move everything and then be like, "No," and move it back. So my take on the, like, "Let's sketch and then go to Mood," I'm not even gonna bother sketching because until I get to Mood and actually get fabric and start sewing it, fuck it up, cry, seam ripper, start over -- this is just my process, in order to learn how to do something, I have to do it and, you know, screw the pooch like five times.

So it's interesting to hear that for, you know, actual designers and not fools like myself that where you would like more time is on the front end.

Yeah. Just give me the challenge, you know, the night before so I can sleep on it. I think you guys even brought this up that challenges, the way that they're constructed needs to be changed, and I think that the way that they can be changed is like, it's like fucking RuPaul's Drag Race. They give them every single costume challenge before they even show up. So that they have time -- you knew exactly what the costumes required are gonna be for the most part, so you know --

And you have the whole lip-sync list as well.

Right, so you have an idea going forward, and I just think that Project Runway is so paranoid about spoiling the end result potentially. It's like, no one fucking cares that much. [laughs] I'm sorry. And there is a reason that people don't fucking care that much, and it's because there's not a lot to fucking care about when you're looking at, you know, the 2055 Runway where they went and got clothes from a thrift store and ripped them all up and made a collection for 50 years in the future, from Season 1 and then it's like, right. Uh, get fabric. Now, switch fabric.

If you're going to have a competition like Project Runway, allow it to be a creative competition and allow it to be a competition where creativity is rewarded as opposed to like, "Oh. That one can sell."

Right. Or "That wasn't offensive and there was no ass cheek so I guess it gets through for another week." Which in the beginning is fine, and sometimes that's too much for some of these people. We sort of wish -- we understand that there are sponsors and they have to be serviced; I live in the world and I write about TV for a living and I understand reality, and reality TV. But I sometimes wonder…like, I was thinking about this when we were talking about Kini and the Alexander McQueen comments. Why aren't there more challenges based on actual designers or very specific movements like Dior in the '40s? Like, "Vogue from 1982, French Vogue. That's your inspiration."

Yeah.

I feel like that's a real opportunity to let the viewers in on more of the thought process and the history of fashion and the history of design, 'cause you know, what do I know? I'm wearing head-to-toe Gap right now.

Hey, so am I. Let it go.

… What designers from this season of All-Stars do you feel like we didn't get to see enough of? Who's underappreciated, besides you of course?

I don't think I was underappreciated, I was appreciated just enough.

[laughs]

I haven't felt that appreciated since the time that I went to Fire Island, and don't remember any more of that story.

[laughs]

Actually, I uh, that trip to Fire Island happened right after I got kicked off Project Runway and it's no wonder I don't remember that one. Woo hoo.

You took the ferry to oblivion; I've been on that ferry.

I mean, I think that was his name. …I do think that my elimination was bullshit when I got eliminated but at the same time, I think that I should have been eliminated the week before probably, just because I love Emily and my dress wasn't constructed all that great, but I'm pretty sure I've already said that somewhere.

I don't think you got to see enough of Emily. I got to spend like two days with Emily in San Francisco and anyone who can manage to do that should, because she's just such a fascinating human being. She's just so very real. Like you said like everything about of her is so just from the heart and soul. It is from experience. She's not reaching. She's not trying to be something she feels she should be. She's just such a genuine human being and I wish that you had gotten to see a collection from her because --

Lifetime

Lifetime

Me too.

I mean, let's face it. Ken made a fucking Kohl's collection. He made a student collection, I'm sorry, and Dom killed, but Dom is always going to kill. So it just would have been so much more interesting to me to see what Emily would have produced in such a short amount of time with such a huge amount of money. I just really think that we didn't get enough from Emily that season, I really don't.

Even before seeing Ken's, I kind of knew that it was down to Dom and Kini and it was just like, I would so much rather have seen Emily's even if it blew up on the launchpad, it would just be way more interesting to me.

And that was the argument that I made because they asked us why we should be in the finale. Um, for the top four, and I said -- because they would always say, "Sam, you have way too many ideas," and it's like, okay, give me eight looks. Give me eight looks and I can show you my thought process. I think Emily's or mine would have been, could have been train wrecks, complete train wrecks and probably not sewn perfectly, but they would have been interesting. There would have been some texture, some prints, some colors, some weirdness --

Some…mesh? [laughs]

Girl, you know that they were all like, "Sam, uh... " I think actually Alyssa asked me, if we put you in the finale, are we going to see mesh? And I'm thankful that I said yes. [laughs]

Oh my gosh. Eight mesh jumpsuits.

Eight mesh jumpsuits. [laughs] Oh, wow.

It would have been so amazing to just be like, "…What? …This one's cut on the bias, what? They're totally not like each other."

"I painted this one rainbow!"

"This one looks like a kite, fuck you guys."

[laughs] "This one I designed to be the slap in your face, Alyssa."

Oh god, Alyssa. Well, now you have to do it. This is me daring you to produce a capsule collection of mesh jumpsuits.

I did do a collection, and Sarah it's going to be in a YouTube video of mine that I do, and everyone should follow my YouTube, but I did do a collection for spring, that had a lot of mesh in it. I think there were, let's see...one mesh look, two mesh looks, three, four, five, six.

That's it? [laughs]

D. Robertson Fay

D. Robertson Fay

Wait. Seven, eight. [laughs] It's like eight or nine. Out of a 15-look collection, but what're you gonna do.

That's awesome. You gotta be you.

I can't not be me. It is my one true failing as human being and my one true success as a reality television starlet on the rise.

So what is the most annoying crit that you got either from us or from the judges this season? That you feel we-slash-they got completely wrong and you were like, girl bye.

Well, I will say I don't know if it was a critique but people would accuse Isaac and me of flirting and I don't know how -- I can't speak for Isaac and I don't, but I don't think that he would have been flirting with me or would have let that cloud his judgment. My perspective on the whole judge-designer-relationship -- they would get fucking bored, like, they could barely be bothered to watch the goddamn runway show. Like when Valerie or Stella would talk, they would openly be rolling their eyes and when Ken would like glare at them, they would just like stare at him in incredulity because they're like, "You little piece of shit. We are dragging you through this competition."

It's like, if this was like a competition where you ended up with a job with one of these designers at the end of the day? Like half of the people would have just been wiped off [the show] in the first episode. And that was actually another thing that I told Ken, because I was like, "Ken, just be like this warm, bubbly person that you are in front of the judges," and he was like, "No, I wanna show them that I'm a professional." It's like, "Okay. Well, being a professional doesn't mean being like a stone-faced jerk. It just means being able to translate your personality with something that works for the room."

I thought that that was kind of upsetting that people thought I was flirting with [Isaac]. I was just trying to make them laugh and I did, and I think that's why they kept me around so long if nothing else, is because I would go in and I would try to make them smile every day, like just listening to someone defend the, you know, artistic stand that they were making and how it wasn't something to be judged or laughed at. It's just like, "Shut the fuck up. You stapled the dress together, no one cares. Just treat these people like people." And that's just what I did, and it sort of saddens me that it came off as like a manipulation of sorts.

But the critique, when Alyssa said that it felt like a slap in the face, like, that was a legitimate slap in the face. I think she said that about my -- was it my athleisure look?

She said it about two things.

It was one of Ken's looks and one of mine and they happened two weeks in a row.

That really bothered me because that [mermaid look, vs. the athleisure look] was one of the looks where I really, I really tried to give them modern runway fashion, and it wasn't the best constructed thing in the world and a cropped top and a pencil skirt isn't exactly unheard of, but you know, I really thought about how I would be translating the concept and translating this idea of this woman who has never had to wear clothes before and they were like, "How is she covering herself?" And I thought, like, there is that scene where The Little Mermaid shows up and she's covered in seaweed and I was like, "What if she like got cotton net and she's..." It was just sort of like this, this picture in my head.

I think there was also an America's Next Top Model photo shoot where they had to do...it was in Cycle 15. The one that Ann won, that super-tall girl. They had to do a crustacean underwater type of photo shoot where they were sort of covered in sea creatures and things, and I just thought of that, like cotton net covered in seaweed, glistening with sea water, and you know, funny, I didn't staple a ruffle on my model's back, but fucking ruffles, man.

Well, and just to use the phrase "slap in the face" about…you know, it's a reality-TV competition. Let's not pretend that someone, like, removed their glove and slapped you in the face and now there has to be a pistol duel in the courtyard. Bring it down a notch.

I have to say about that challenge. That was one of my favorite challenges over the season because it was an actual design brief. It was recreate a modern interpretation of what these princesses would look like, and I loved almost everyone's look that challenge actually. I think everyone did a really strong job and apparently, the internet disagrees but you know what? Most of the internet wears Kohl's, so…

Sorry, internet. I don't mean to be a cocky narcissistic bitch but when you look like this and you're this talented…I'm kidding.

[laughs]

You're gonna publish that and it's not gonna have the tone of voice that construed it as sarcasm.

Well, we'll publish that line too, so.

[laughs]

All right, before I let you go I have two questions, they're quick and we ask them of everyone we interview since this a TV site. What is your favorite show that you're watching right now.

Ooh. Stop it. Um, I mean it was RuPaul's Drag Race until they eliminated Chi Chi DeVayne. And I was mad. I'm finally catching up on the House Of Cards and the Outlander. But I'm gonna have to illegally find those online because I can't watch the most recent seasons. It's killing me. I just watched the end of Season 3 of House Of Cards and oh my god, am I so ready to illegally download the rest of it.

You definitely are. That excitement is not misplaced. And what is your favorite all-time show? Like a formative TV show of your youth. Doesn't have to be good.

Come on. That's a leading question.

Not really? You wouldn't believe the shit people say. [laughs]

Ah, fuck my life. Okay. I have so many though, like, I'm 25. My entire, I was raised by a television. What are parents?

Probably, my favorite television show ever, that's the question, right? I mean, obviously Project Runway was what pushed me to become a fashion designer but: Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Good answer.

Screens: The WB

Screens: The WB

Really shaped my perspective on humanity. I think much in the way that Harry Potter kind of did. It's this show that I compare all other shows to, because I watch television now and I'm like, "Okay. So this is happening so that this can happen by the end of the episode." I don't feel like that was ever the case with Buffy. I felt like the plot was so perfect and I feel like myself as a gay television viewer, this is why I watch reality shows and why I can always tell you who was gonna win what shows. I just feel like I never really knew what was gonna happen in Buffy and I was always so excited to watch the characters develop, which isn't something that happens anymore. Um, and just get lost in this, this fantasy world.

That's a nice long answer.

Thank you, I try.

That's all I got.

Oh, I want this interview to go on forever but I'm sure that we'll be talking again when Lifetime files charges because I did it.

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