Project Runway Season 10: Fifty Shades of Rage

It was the “real people” challenge on last night’s Project Runway and you know what that means… One of the designers had to pitch a fit as though forced to make a dress for an elephant instead of a perfectly lovely working mom (although now we’d kinda like to see the designers make elephant dresses too. How cute would that be?).

the judges from last night's episode sitting on a stage
I don’t know—the trunk area looks cheap to me.

The challenge: Create a new look for an everyday woman whose friend thinks she needs a makeover. Also she gets a hair makeover.

Guest judge: Alice Temperley

The winner: Fabio and his too-cute-for-words client.

The auf’d: Nathan. Nooo! It should’ve been Ven.

Ven and his model and her friend on the runway
The Jerk Store called. They’re running out of Ven!

Every season, you guys.
Every season there’s a challenge that makes me yell through my magical cable pipeline to the Parsons workroom, “HAVE YOU PEOPLE NEVER SEEN AN EPISODE OF THIS SHOW???” And every season, it’s the same challenge—the so-called “Real Woman” challenge, which, I’m not even going to get into why they need to stop calling it that, because you already know. I will commence calling it the Non-Model challenge. And, though Annalee has more below on just how solidly Ven blew away the challenge’s past complainers with his dick behavior, let’s remember that the last contestant to make his Non-Model cry was Jeffery Sebelia, winner of Season 3. And it was a fellow contestant’s mother. So really, Ven was just trying to get a lock on Fashion Week.

(As Tim Gunn might say: “NOT.” Oh, Tim. I want Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey to reunite for one more Wayne’s World just so you can say that in its proper context.)

This Non-Model challenge was a little weird, though. The initial fakeout, in which Heidi introduced a bunch of people who, as Elena noted, “Look like they have nothing to do with any kind of fashion,” and then revealed that—ta da!—these folks had actually nominated a whole other set of folks for makeovers, seemed a little pointless. It would have been more of a shock if, for instance, the designers’ models had initially been presented and then revealed that THEY had nominated Non-Model friends for makeovers. Maybe the producers thought of that. Maybe the models don’t have any Non-Model friends. In any case, it didn’t have the hoped-for pizzazz.

And it got a little confusing, subsequently, when the chyrons identified the “friends” and the “clients.” How much of a say were the friends getting? Given that a big part of the project-placement parameters for the makeover involved L’Oreal’s Johnny Lavoy working with each client on a hair-and-makeup transformation (again, this really fell short in the pizzazz department), it was unclear exactly what the role of the nominating friend was meant to be, and how much their opinions would end up being considered in the final judging.

Prediction for next week:
Dmitry will either get the win he’s been so anxious for, or realize that making the same dress over and over is not necessarily the best way to get that win, and then enlist his brother the professional hockey player to go Tonya Harding on one or more of the other designers.

The Gunn Show:
While the Non-Model challenge always brings out the ass in a select few contestants (hey, Olivier, gotten over your fear of hips yet?), it’s also the challenge that reminds us of what a treasure Tim is—humane, compassionate, awesome. His exchange with Ven, in which he pulled mock-horrified faces at Ven’s outraged description of how HUGE and ALSO OLD his client was (faces which were clearly lost on Ven), was priceless. And, in saying goodbye to poor Nathan, he of the “non-hooker mesh” illusion sleeves, Tim made sure to say that he was sorry the season was losing someone with “profound qualities of character.” (Extra classiness points for not pointing and gesticulating at Ven while saying this.)

- Andi

Tim Gunn from last night's show, with a remark about how all women are real women
He’s a gem.

Dear my neighbors, Please blame my shouting at the TV on this guy.
Ven! VEN!!!!!!!!!!! Holy Lord & Taylor accessories wall, where do we even begin with this guy? To anyone with eyes and/or ears, it is obvious but nonetheless necessary to state that Ven is the fatphobic WORST and that everyone on ProjRun knows it. With every belittling comment made about his client, with every whiny complaint about his “unlucky” circumstances, and with every “Oh no, this belt is too small for you, let me get another. Oh, that’s too small too…” all the other designers were ready to throw literal daggers at Ven’s dumb face. Way to problematize a non-problem, dude! It’s not like you were dealing with the classic “I’m a client who wants everything that’s in poor taste” (sad to see you go, Nathan). And no one had the misfortune of a demanding diva. Ven managed to a take a woman who had an easy objective—stylish clothing that is comfortable and work appropriate—and make her feel undeserving of his time, ashamed of her body, and hideous without his help. To read this Q&A with Ven from Lifetime’s site, you would think that this challenge would be a (likely Ven shaming) cakewalk: “I don’t think I have weaknesses as a designer. I know how to handle situations and I’m always learning something new.”

All throughout Ven’s moping about having the largest client in the workroom, I couldn’t help but think, “Um, aren’t you the largest designer in the workroom?” Not that any designer’s size should be part of the show, but the discrepancy between Ven’s fat-shaming of his client and his confidence in himself was confusing. One likelihood is that Ven has internalized shame about his own size and projects it on others. However, what I think is even more of a possibility is that Ven harbors a double standard regarding the importance of looks for men and women. As a man, his value is derived from his talents (has he told you about his fashion school awards yet?). As a woman, his client’s value is derived from her looks. And as a client who isn’t a 20-something professional model, her values barely register on Ven’s radar.

Does Ven just not get how mean and unreasonable he’s being, or does he not care? Since he comes from the Kardashian school of monotonic speech, it’s hard to say. In the end, it’s probably a mix of both, and it ultimately doesn’t matter. While I appreciate that the judges acknowledged Ven’s generally piss-poor behavior by faking a double elimination and leaving him last on the stage, I also wish they would have considered the challenge. Nathan, Ven, and Sonjia all had failing designs in some sense. However, Nathan and Sonjia had pleased clients, despite the judge’s opinions. It was heartbreaking to see Nathan exit while talking about how much he enjoys empowering people through fashion, because we all know that had he been assigned Ven’s model, she at least would have left the show feeling beautiful and deserving.

Assorted thoughts:
Unprovoked outbursts be damned, I love Elena and I don’t understand why! Blame her constant shifting between no bangs and blunt bangs, barely any makeup and GIANT false eyelashes—she is comedy gold. And in a week where cruelty was king, it became obvious that Elena’s supposed mean streak is just a manifestation of her own nerves and high standards. We could all use a little of her lady armor ways!

Predictions for next week:
All I was able to understand about next week’s challenge (in between flashes of Ven-fueled hate rage) was that the contestants are designing something to be mass produced. That and all of the ladies seem to be imploding? And Ven is continuing a villainous-streak with his “Men are usually stronger designers” soundbite. My prediction? That I will continue to yell at my TV.

- Annalee

Fabio hugging his client
This is what a satisfied client looks like. Cute!

Learning to like you…
If the cloud of Ven’s douche-y behavior had a silver lining last night, it was that it gave some of the other designers a chance to be utterly likable. Not only were Elena, Gunnar, Nathan, and the gang completely disgusted with Ven’s nastiness, we got to see them interact with their clients in heartwarming ways.

At the start of this season, I liked Sonjia and that was about it (still love you, Sonj!). Fabio seemed like a freegan bore, Gunnar was too whiny, Dmitry was a complete sourpuss, and Elena was just plain mean. (Yes, I was too quick to judge. Give me a break; it’s reality television!) Who knew that by episode six my notes would be filled with lines like, “Fabio and his boyfriend Jason are so cute! And the cat!” and “I am seriously SO into Gunnar right now! I want to watch a talk show that’s just him and a bunch of sweet older ladies all being nice to each other.” And I do! (Note: Annalee suggested the show be called Cute Ass Dress. Are you listening, Lifetime?) And Dmitry has turned his frown upside down in a big way. I love him now!

Dmitry and Sonjia hamming it up
Not sure what’s happening here, but it’s the BEST.

Ven, the shittier you get the cooler everyone else gets. Keep it up, I guess?

Predictions for next week:
Based on that “men are stronger designers” comment, my prediction is that I throw something at the TV. Better lock my valuables up now in anticipation of my Ven rage.

- Kelsey

Previously: Going, Going, Gone; Double Up

by Kelsey Wallace
View profile »

Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

16 Comments Have Been Posted

I cannot for the life of me

I cannot for the life of me think why this "designer" is still on the show. Maybe I missed something about the designers dress that was ousted but I know I didn't miss the stupid remarks made by Ven. I have watched Project Runway so many times, and this is the first of this season. I am what is considered a plus size woman and the one Ven had to design for was in no way my size, or for that matter big. There are so many ways he could have said "I can't find a belt in your size here" that would have not made her feel like she needed him to make her a moo moo. One such would have been "I cant find the belt I like for this outfit" but he just didnt care!! He's an ass who needs to go SOON!!

I agree...

I cannot understand either how Lifetime - a TV for women - let this pseudo-designer continues on the show. If it were Bravo, I could understand it - but I think the show should include policies for behaviours that have some sort of prejudice against another person - be this person a contestant, a judge or a guest. Anyone who makes any comment that shows any type of prejudice should be automatically kicked out of the show, especially against women and their body type - duh!! I am not so much disappointed at this Ven guy, who happens to be fat and ugly by the way, or on Heide and the judges for not saying bye-bye to him, but the network should have some sort of clause in their contracts against this type of behavior. As a professional designer, I think this guy has not future, I just hope for the sake of the show, he leaves it asap.

I haven't even seen this

I haven't even seen this episode yet, and already I love this article so hard it hurts a little. My growing admiration for Ven, based on his designs? Totally neutralized. I am anticipating a lot of yelling at my screen. (That's how it goes in our house. My brother-in-law yells at sports, I yell at Project Runway. We both try to avoid doing it in front of the kids. Or at least without swearing.)

I know everybody has different strategies for these reality shows, but it always boggles my mind that more people on Project Runway in particular don't realize that <i>every single person</i> watching the show is someone who could potentially hire you. And go in with the mindset that I am going to show that I can make every client look great, and work fantastically with others, and that way even if I don't win the whole thing, people will be tripping over themselves to hire me, whether it's some big design house giving them a dream job or just thousands of regular girls dying to order their stuff on the internet.

And yes. You all know the "real woman" episode is coming, just like the unconventional materials, and just like the teams episodes. Stop whining already.

My husband and I are huge PR

My husband and I are huge PR fans and have watched almost every season together (he got me hooked on it, damn him). We both wish they would STOP ripping the designs apart in front of the non-professional models. It's obvious it makes many of them feel terrible, especially because most of them like what their designers make.

I was very upset to hear what

I was very upset to hear what Ven was telling his client. I think he was very rude and unpleasant. Other than that the episode was great. It was amazing to see all these women trotting down the runway with those huge smiles on their face.
I think that beside few exceptions all the designers did a wonderful job!

Love these recaps

I was hoping you would do a recap for last week's episode too, because Dmitry was my favorite thing about it! His "one way monkey" comment about Ven was the best thing ever.

nobody ever talks about. . .

I missed your commentary last week, when Tim would have had to step aside for you to feature Joanna Coles fabulous line . . . [her breasts] "looked like two puppies wrestling in a sack". I miss Johanna.

What about cute dred girl who does butch-chic? I don't even know her name b/c she doesn't make enough drama to get featured, but I was really suprised and pleased with her little cocktail dress that her client obviously loved. And no knee-length shorts underneath!

I also wonder, what with all the product placement, why the judges outfits don't get mentions. I freaking LOVED Heidi's r/w/b dress and want it badly, even though I am a "real woman" and would probably do obscene things to those stripes that would make Ven's head explode ;-)


Eh, the Ven stuff is overdone. Every time there is one of these challenges, you KNOW the winner will be a designer with a shapely, attractive client, and the loser will be a designer with a massively overweight person who often has body issues as well. The MOMENT they were paired up any Project Runway viewer who has seen it before KNEW who would do well and who wouldn't. Come on... less physically fit, attractive people simply do not look as pleasing to the eyes as more physically fit, attractive people, and not one judge actually has the ability to see "past" body. It didn't help that Ven's non-model seemed to have a VERY flat persona/affect.

Leaving aside the fact that you're equating weight with beauty

The point of the challenge is not to show off who has the prettiest model, it's to make attractive clothes, that work for the client within the parameters of the challenge. The fact that the model is not the conventional size 00-4 shouldn't have much bearing on what the judges think of the design. The problem with these challenges is that the designers are usually SO used to designing for very thin women that their brains shut down when they need to design for someone who isn't a runway model. I don't think the designers who have thinner clients in the "real woman" challenge win because their clients are thinner, I think they win because that's what they're more comfortable designing for and the designers with the larger clients panic and tend to make horrible, ill-fitting clothing because they have no idea what to do.

Oh, it absolutely isn't

Oh, it absolutely isn't SUPPOSED to be about showing off the prettiest model, but in the end that is what it comes down to. Notice that on the "design for the designers" challenge Kenley and Irina were in the tops, both of whom are traditionally attractive/nicely figured (even though Irinia's dress was a bit sketch), but Mila (who is older and not terribly attractive in a traditional sense) was in the bottom?

Nina and Michael and Heidi TALK a good game, but in the end they are people who are used to looking at certain figures and seeing certain shapes. When you get outside of their usual area of comfort (not to mention the usual comfort zone of the designers themselves) they simply cannot distance themselves from their original notions of beauty.

I do agree that often the designers get a bit of brain lock because it is SO far outside of their usual work, but that is to be expected; very few fashion designer designs for larger women. When certain designers get a single day to work with a more "model" shaped woman who are similar to every woman they have worked with and similar to what the judges are used to looking at, and other designers have to work with much larger women whose figure is so far removed from what both the designers and the judges are used to... well, it doesn't make for a very fair competition.

Michael Kors has an entire

Michael Kors has an entire plus size line. He knows how to design for large women.

I would absolutely watch

I would absolutely watch "Cute Ass Dress"! Gunnar has been a bit eyeroll-inducing for me so far, but I just loved him in this episode! He and those ladies were having such a great time, and he really got what he was supposed to do with the challenge. And he did it with a woman who was (gasp!) not a size 2 model.

You made two points that are

You made two points that are oh-so-true: Ven is terrible and Tim Gunn is everyone’s hero. I’ve always disliked Ven, so I wasn’t shocked when the insensitive comments started to spew from his mouth. A few gals from my office at Dish and I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of this big, fat man insulting his poor client’s weight. On the other side of the spectrum, like you said, Tim Gunn is the epitome of fabulous! I wish I could put him in my pocket so he could give me daily advice; don’t you?! I think I’m going to start recording every episode of Project Runway that I can get my hands on, just so I can replay every scene he’s in and pretend that I have my very own Tim Gunn. LOL! It might be a trying job to ask of my DVR but, luckily, I have the Hopper DVR, with tons of memory space, so it won’t be a problem. Forget Gunner’s talk show. We need a Tim Gunn Show!


I am so in love with Gunnar. I would spend all my time watching "Cute Ass Dress." I would DVR the shit out of it and watch it with a pint of Ben and Jerry's during finals week. Can it be a thing? Please?
Also, I hate Ven. And my poor roommate who knows nothing about Project Runway had to sit through an hour of me screaming, "NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU THINK VEN! JUST GO HOME!" My roommate and I are both very upset that Ven did not go home. And I'm very upset that Ven seems to have made me like Christopher. I thought he was going to be my villain this season. I was already all set to dislike him. But then Ven. With his mouth and his words and his refusal to stop saying words over and over.

Project Runway

My thoughts exactly. I was hoping that a feminist website would address Vin's despicable behavior. I watch PR because I'm always fascinated with anyone's creative process whether the end result is a fashion item, a painting or a poem. But last week I was ready to quit this show because Vin behaved so badly with no real repercussions. If I had to hear "real women" one more time.... I'm glad that even Heidi rejected the concept that tiny women aren't real and real women must be plain and fat. I'm also glad that someone mentioned Vin's size. I know size doesn't matter but hypocrisy does. Thanks, Bitch, for all your good work.


I'm late to this convo because I'm a little behind on my Hulu viewing...but I will say that before watching this episode, I watched a marathon of "Say Yes to the Dress." For those that don't know, it is a show that fits brides-to-be with wedding dresses. What I learned from this juxtaposition of shows is that the fear of PR designers about fitting big women is complete bullshit. The wedding dress industry does it all the time...and WELL. White is an unforgiving color, but wedding dress designers still manage to make dresses that are flattering to big women. We are talking from couture to avante garde. So if designers like Ven (and I am not just picking on him, unfortunately many designers have this mentality) cannot do is NOT the is not her is YOU. If wedding dress designers can do it--and in fact, they HAVE to because pleasing all sizes of customers are their bread and better--then you can do it. You just don't want to. So shame on you for that. Shame. On. You.

Add new comment