Project Runway has returned for its 16th Season. The reality dress designing show has proven to be a firm favorite in the reality show genre and prides itself on having greater credibility and integrity than some of the bottom feeders of reality TV. This year they are embracing a diversity theme with the introduction, for the first time, of models of different sizes and shapes. The models range from size 22 to size zero and the challenge each week for the designers is to produce beautiful, inspired creations for models of different sizes, according to the weekly brief. Tim Gunn is back to mentor the 16 new hopeful contestants and the lovely Heidi Klum hosts.
The stakes are high. As usual, each week, one up and coming designer is eliminated from the show and returns home empty handed. The lucky winner will scoop a prize fund of $100,000 to launch their own line, a fashion spread on the pages of Marie Claire magazine, a trip to Japan and a coveted collaboration with a leading department store to produce a limited edition line.
But is everything that we see on our screens actually real? Is it possible that Project Runway is fake? Over the years rumors have surfaced that the show is fake. Producers have vehemently denied any storyline meddling. They claim that the judges have no interaction with the contestants and the producers have no role in deciding who is eliminated. The competition is fierce and many contestants and producers have commented that it is actually tougher in life than it is portrayed on TV. The aspiring designers rise around 5am and get to work long before most of have had our breakfast. The process is intense as they battle against the clock and each other and the sketching, cutting and making.
The reason why many reality TV shows are scripted is because, frankly, the lives of reality show contestants is often mind-numbingly dull. With Project Runway the relentless pressure of challenges, lack of privacy and lights and cameras on contestants for 18 hours a day ratchets up the intensity of the experience for viewers and would-be designers. Another tool which is used to heighten tension is isolation from friends and family. These approaches along with the “creative” personality types cast seems to be a winning formula for Project Runway. Producers need to add little spice or scripting. Nonetheless one contestant, Diana Eng, in Season 2 was asked to fake her wake up scene after she botched the scene by screaming when she opened her eyes and saw a camera in her face. They got her to pretend to wake-up again.
Season 4 contestant, Jack Mackenroth has gone on record to claim the show is totally fake. Whether this is motivated by sour grapes we can’t tell but Mackenroth claims that the producers essentially decide who is in and who is out and then the footage is edited to encourage the viewer to agree. Over the years there have been some questionable decisions which might support this. Gunnar Deatherage, who was very much cast as the villain of Season 10, complained that he was harshly criticized for a sequin dress that he had created by Heidi Klum. Klum was wearing a red sequin dress similar to Deatherage’s piece. However even the Deatherage and Mackenroth admit that the work is absolutely genuine.
Is it possible that Project Runmaw is Fake? Whether the show is a total sham or the genuine article we’ll never know but we simply cannot rip ourselves away this season.