[On Friday’s ‘Styling the Kentucky Derby’ post, fashion blogger Cameron Miquelon talked with former-‘Project Runway’ contestant, Louisvillian Gunnar Deatherage, about his Derby and pre-Derby work styling the ‘Run for the Roses’ fashion show, the band A Lion Named Roar for their upcoming Barnstable Brown party and Derby appearances, among others.
Today Miquelon recounts her conversation with Deatherage about his time with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn on Lifetime Channel’s ‘Project Runway.’ — Editor]
I’ve never seen ‘Project Runway’ — I stopped watching reality shows when “The Real World” stopped being real circa 1998 — I wanted to know more about how he came to decide to be involved with the fashion-based reality show twice in a row, and the effect being on “Runway” had upon him personally and professionally:
“I applied the first time,” he began. “Was super excited to go. Got everything together. I’ve never been to New York. I was 21 — just turned 21 — and I was kind of terrified, ’cause I grew up around here, and [my family and I] never really left here. And then, for me to go to New York, knowing that I’m not going to have contact with them for two months… it was a lot.
“[The producers] sent us home on the first day, so we left a week later. We didn’t even get to sew; four of us didn’t. I was burnt out. I didn’t want to do it. I was like, ‘I’m not going to go back for anything else like that.’ I felt like I had more to offer than what they gave.
“They called me back a year later, out of the blue. They were just asking me about where I was, how I was doing. I figured it was a follow-up call. Then, they said, ‘We want you to come back on for season 10.’ I said, ‘Well, if I have to apply, I’m not coming back,’ and they said I didn’t have to apply.”
The show’s producers did have Deatherage go through the casting process in Chicago in order to figure out the best mix of personalities for the results desired from that season’s series. He then departed for New York two weeks later, filming all summer long in a bubble, something he found both crazy and interesting on a psychological level:
“You kind of get in your head as an artist, and you start to evaluate what you do and why you do it. You don’t really want to talk to everyone else ’cause you’re afraid they’re gonna use that against you or steal your ideas. It was a very strange journey.”
He added that the manipulation and mind games used to make “Runway” what it was was difficult at best to explain, noting that even the small moments were odd:
“Going to bed at night, you’re sleeping with perfect strangers. You don’t know anyone. And then the next day, you’re just going to compete against them? It’s kinda twisted. Reality TV itself is twisted. It’s totally an illusion, too. But [the producers] warp your mind and play with you and get you to be what they want you to be, and then you either give in or you don’t.”
When I brought up the fact that I don’t own a television — and therefore, have not seen his appearances on “Project Runway” — Deatherage admitted that he hadn’t watched his appearances either.
“I watched the premiere, the opening night, because as soon as I got off the plane, my friends took me to Garage Bar,” he said. “And there were 100-and-something people there wanting to watch the show with me. And that was the only one I watched.
Everyone was baffled that I didn’t watch it, but I didn’t feel the need to watch it; I just lived it,” he exclaimed. “I just went through it. I didn’t think it was enjoyable. So, I didn’t wanna watch it make me look like a bitch on TV, and then have to be brutal at the same time… it was a lot to take in.”
Though he may not want to deal with Heidi Klum’s judging skills and the manufactured drama of “Project Runway” anytime soon, when asked if he would do any other shows, Deatherage said he’d love to try “The Amazing Race,” though he would have to train for the physically intense experience. He also said that he would do a reality series about himself and his life, especially if the show focused on his projects and what he was doing for Louisville.
The only caveat: He’d have to have some control; “I don’t want to be at somebody else’s mercy,” he said.