Heidi Klum dishes on the new season of “Project Runway”

In anticipation of the new season of Project Runway, which premieres Thursday night on Lifetime, Heidi Klum did a conference call with journalists about what to expect this time out, and who is her personal favorite of the designers. (Hint! He’s gay!) Here’s an excerpted version of the interview.

Question: Who can we expect to see as guest judges [this season]? Klum: Obviously I can never give too many guest judges away, but some people that I was allowed to mention was Patricia Field. She’s very well known for doing Sex in the City, The Devil Wears Prada. She does a lot of full movies and television. For our very first challenge that we did in Times Square we also had Lauren Graham. I can give her away. A lot of people did see her when she was out with us here in Times Square. Hayden Panettiere has been one of our guest judges. Also Krysten Ritter, and I think I’m not allowed to give anymore away.

What’s it been like being back for the tenth season for you, as the host and judge?  It’s been amazing. It’s been ten years and we all would’ve never thought that we would make it this far. Michael always says that we’re on longer than I Love Lucy, which we always laugh about and I can’t believe it. Ten seasons is a milestone. It’s a long time. And I have to tell you even though we’ve been doing it for ten seasons I still love coming to work every season. I love being with Michael and I love being with Nina and Tim. They’re all so much fun, and we have become a family. It is always exciting to see these new designers, to see their story. They all have a different story to tell and they’re all passionate.

Can you tell us how you think this group of designers compares to past groups, in terms of talent level?  It’s always hard to compare because I never like to say that this season we have more talented designers than previous seasons because they were all always talented. And each year fashion evolves and fashion becomes different and so do our designers. I think we have some on this season that are not that talented and we quickly see that. We have some that are really amazing that have come up with new things where we sit there and we’re like, “Wow, we haven’t seen anything like that,” or, “You have a different technique.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

“Project Runway” crowns a gay winner — we just don’t know which one yet

Ever since Project Runway moved from Bravo to Lifetime two years ago, its entertainment quotient has taken a nose-dive. Season 8 was the most boring until the current season, an All-Stars edition which brings back players from Seasons 1 through 8. (Season 9 also crowned a controversial winner, someone who had been a designer for only a few months.) This version has been marred by dumb competitions and a substitute slate of less interesting judges. (No Tim Gunn! No Heidi! No Michael Kors! No Nina Garcia!… OK, that last one’s not so bad.)

But the one thing you can say about this season is: Whoever wins will be a gay guy.

That may seem like a ho-hum moment, but considering just how gay the show is — from the judges to the mentor to the contestants to the audience — it’s rather remarkable how poorly the gays have fared over the years. Last season, every male contest was gay (though one claimed not to be but… I mean, c’mon!); two were in the final three, but lost to a straight woman. Since the beginning, at least seven gay men have made the top three, but none has won since Season 4′s Christian Siriano. He may even be the last truly deserving winner.

That changes tonight. In the second of the two-part season finale, the three finalists are all gay: Austin Scarlett (Season 1′s fourth placer), Michael Costello (8′s fourth placer) and Mondo Guerra (8′s runner-up). Kenley Collins was kicked off fourth.

The fact Kenley and Costello stayed in the running so long — or that either is considered an “all-star” — is another one of the problems with the series: You become acutely aware what flashes-in-the-pan some of these designers were, and that they got further on the show than their talents would bear out. (Costello continues to steal others’ ideas, then drape a goddess dress to eke through.)

Mondo was the deserving loser a few seasons back, and Austin has become such a fun personality over the years (especially after his travel-fashion series with Santino Rice), so our loyalties are divided. But we’ll be watching for sure.

So … who do you hope wins?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas designer Oscar Fierro’s off to a rocky start Tuesday night on NBC’s “Fashion Star”

Last night, NBC premiered its new runway show Fashion Star, which  hopefully will prove better than the tepid Project Runway All-Stars over on Lifetime. I’m sad to have missed the first episode, because among its cast of designers is Oscar Fierro, the local designer I spoke with in 2010 prior to his fashion show at Station 4. I would love to have seen how his spitfire personality works in reality TV competition. We already know him from his fashion policing with Gabriela Natale on SuperLatina.

Star, hosted by supermodel Elle MacPherson, has a similar premise to Runway in that designers create fashions in limited time and materials; sometimes, more than one designer gets eliminated. And the designs created for the show are available immediately for purchase. Judges include Nicole Richie, designer John Varvatos and another Texan, Jessica Simpson.

Fierro deems himself a diva in his designer profile, but Rolling Stone cites Fierro as one of the show’s highlights, despite a not-so-stellar start to the competition. From Rolling Stone:

One of the highlights of the show comes when the comical, Salvadorian, top-hat-wearing Oscar Fierro, 37, is introduced. The Texas-based designer proclaims to be like a “cartoon” and has a lot of dedication because he’s crossed three borders and knows what it’s like to go hungry, or so he claims. But does Fierro, who is evidently going to be the show’s drama queen with his constant crying and backstage shit-talk, knock over the buyers with his designs? Not so much. The short cocktail dresses, seen in off-the-shoulder green satin and glittery black, are items seen daily at Forever 21. Richie doesn’t like the offerings, saying, “I want to see what I saw in the studio.” Varvatos chimes in, “I have seen what you do in Miami, and in South Beach.” Fierro retorts, “You have seen it before, but not with my label.” Needless to say, he doesn’t get any offers.

 To see Fierro’s fashions from last night’s episode, click here, here and here. Watch his profile video after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Butch vs. Femme

How fit does your ride need to be? We compare the elegant efficiency of the Toyota Prius V with the ballsy bravado of the Subaru Impreza

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

There are two ways to achieve fitness: Either become a gym queen and work your sweet little ass off on the stair climber, or go full nerd and starve yourself to thin. Depending on my mood, I can use a good aerobic workout and look buff for my hubby… or I just savor the grilled chicken salad (or veggie burger), kick off the sneaks with a book about a geeky car, and ponder Our Creation.

In the world of five-door compacts, the recently re-designed 2012 Subaru Impreza likes to be worked over hard while the new Prius V thinks its way to saving green.

Impreza

GYM RAT OR DIETER? | The hybrid Prius V, above, is surprisingly roomy and powerful.

Family heritage
Impreza: Generations of rally champs.
Prius: Golf cart, Previa mini-van.
Alter ego
Impreza: General Lee.
Prius: KITT.
Gay persona
Impreza: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Prius: Michael Kors, Queen of Project Runway

Horsepower
Impreza: 148.
Prius: 134 (gas) + 80 (electric).

Number of driving modes
Impreza: 2 — Fast and Furious.
Prius: 4 – Standard, Eco, EV and Power.

Drag coefficient
Impreza: Sexy in satin.
Prius: 0.29, you tart.

Favorite toy
Impreza: Wiper de-icer.
Prius: Pandora radio.

Distance on electricity
Impreza: (insert favorite bodily sound)?
Prius: If we’re measuring, about a mile.

How to get dinner
Impreza: Run it down, stick it in the trunk; use Bluetooth
to call a meat processor to butcher it for ya.
Prius: Politely ask the Entune System’s OpenTable app for suggestions and NAV to plot a course.

Claims to fame
Impreza: Daddy of the wicked WRX; most fuel-efficient AWD in America.
Prius: More Prius, more petrol; most complicated small crossover ever created.

Celebrity most likely to drive car
Impreza: Crocodile Dundee.
Prius: Kardashian stepdad Bruce Jenner.

Power to the wheels
Impreza: Symmetrical AWD.
Prius: It depends on how much power needs to be transferred to the front wheels. It could come from the battery pack via an electric motor or from the gasoline engine with a continuously-variable transmission that has no set gears, but an infinite range of ratios. Hell, just forget it — bitch is complicated.

Price
Impreza: $19,000 — agile and sexy, doesn’t ask
for much.
Prius: $26,500 — a sophisticated lightweight that takes
all night to get drunk.

Prius

The Impreza has bearish sex appeal.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Prints charming

‘A-List’ photographer Mike Ruiz stands above reality TV royalty

Fashion-4

RENAISSANCE MAN | Mike Ruiz, above, designed a collection for J. Cheikh, including men’s swimwear, opposite. (Photos courtesy QC Cong Photography)

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Remember on sitcoms when the family pet would die, and the parents would break the news to the kids by saying that Sparky went to live on a farm somewhere? Well, that works in the world of reality TV, too. It’s not that all those fan-favorites or most-hated villains from the various seasons die, they just go to a different kind of “farm” after their 15 minutes of fame fade.

One such example is Celebrity Fashion Experience III, a one-night fashion show held recently at Lofty Spaces.

The roster for the event read like a TiVo lineup of guilty pleasure season passes:  M.C. Dawn Neufeld (from VH1’s Football Wives), guests Brig Van Osten (winner of Bravo’s Shear Genius, Season 3); Reco Chapple (Bravo’s The Fashion Show, Season 1); a collection from Nicholas D’Aurizio (Project Runway, Season 8, though he was a no-show due to a wedding conflict); and even pre-show nibbles from pastry chef Porsha Kimble, once an apprentice to Buddy Valastro of TLC’s Cake Boss. Add a catfight from the Bad Girls Club, it could have been a live version of The Soup.

Fashion-5Luckily, guests were instead treated to special celebrity appearance by Mike Ruiz, the hunky model/director/photographer/man of many talents: He’s made small screen appearances on The A-List: New York, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List, America’s Next Top Model and RuPaul’s Drag Race. While his on-camera street cred would have been reason enough for his appearance at this show, Ruiz was actually there touting his newest title: fashion designer.

“It’s [J. Cheikh’s] fashion line, and I was a guest creative director for Spring 2012,” he explains. “My involvement sort of grew out of meeting their team at charitable events and borrowing outfits for the red carpet. Eventually we just found a way to partner.”

The collection, based on the Dakar Rally (a famous off-road auto race), mixes and matches Northern African influenced textures and colors with structured European tailoring.

But the J. Cheikh collection isn’t Ruiz’s first time working with runway looks. He also recently created a T-shirt line (MR by Mike Ruiz) featuring beefcake images of him styled in the likes of Tom of Finland. (Funds from the shirt sales benefit one of his favorite charities: The Ali Forney Center, an organization that assists in housing for LGBT youth in New York City.)

Adding to his creative streak, Ruiz is in the midst of a book launch for his coffee table pictorial Pretty Masculine, a collection of images that deconstruct perceived ideas about masculinity.

“I wanted to combine feminine and masculine. I did things like drape beautiful floral arrangements on rugged men. It’s not what you would expect a book on masculinity to be, it’s not homoerotic,” says Ruiz. “A lot of books for the gay community are explicit; that’s not my mindset. I wanted to create a beautiful, aspirational ideal of what masculinity should be. I don’t consider myself hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine; I think I am a combination of both, and wanted [the book] to manifest that.” (Proceeds from Pretty Masculine benefit New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis.)

While many in Ruiz’s position of being at the cusp of a burgeoning mini-empire get drunk on their own power and quest for stardom, he’s stayed humble, approachable and even philanthropic, encouraging people not only to give back, but also to love themselves. That sincerity has set him apart from so many of his flash-in-the-pan reality TV brethren — he seems like the only anchored, non-bitchy regular on The A-List.

“I had a rough childhood, and as a result I have worked really hard and, you know, made my dream come true,” he says. “When I see people struggling, I feel it’s my responsibility to help them empower themselves. I sort of tie that into everything I do these days to pass on the messaging and help the next generation be empowered, because it took me a while to find my footing.”

Footing…. Hmmm, maybe footwear will be his next world to conquer.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Shakin’ – Siriano at Galleria, Voter turnout continues to lag

Christian Siriano

Christian Siriano

1. As previously reported by Houstini, Project Runway Season 5 winner Christian Siriano’s coming to the Houston Galleria Payless Shoe store today to show off his expanded Payless collection, including an assortment of shoes and handbags. Siriano will be available for photos with his “fierce” -ly loyal fans. The posing and pouting kick off at 5 pm at the Galleria, 5061 Westheimer Road.

2. Voter turnout continues to be paltry. So far 40,189 people have voted, only 71% of the 55,152 who had voted by this point during the 2009 municipal elections.  Early voting continues through November 4.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

3. Yesterday Rep. Todd Akin, R – MO, who successfully introduced an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this year which would prohibit same-sex marriages from being performed on U.S. military bases, delivered a letter to the Senate calling on them to pass similar legislation.  The letter was signed by 86 members of the 435 member House, including 7 Texans, all Republicans: Mike Conaway, Francisco Canseco, Louie Gohmert, Ralph Hall, Sam Johnson, Michael McCaul and Randy Nuegebauer.

—  admin

Fierce photo-op, Christian Siriano at the Galleria

Christian SirianoReality TV is full of shows promising to produce the next top model, hot new designer, or big deal arborist (OK, I made that one up), but rare is the reality show winner who actually sticks around to have a high profile career once the cameras power down. Project runway season 5 winner, Christian Siriano, is that rare talent that makes for good TV and real world success.

Siriano’s coming to the Galleria Payless Shoe store this Thursday, Nov 3,  to show off his expanded Payless collection, including an assortment of shoes and handbags.  Siriano will be available for photos with his “fierce” -ly loyal fans. The posing and pouting kick off at 5 pm at the Galleria, 5061 Westheimer Road.

—  admin

SPOILER: ‘Project Runway’ finale

For those (like me) who sat on tenterhooks during the final innings of a heartbreaking Game 6 last night, there was another series finale of interest to the gay community last night: The Project Runway results.

In a season with more gays than usual, including a final four than included two gay men, the winner ended up being Anya, the Trinidadian designer who entered the show with only four month experience sewing.

Anya was a favorite of mine throughout the season, although when you consider what the series is supposed to be, picking a novice who probably hadn’t even seen the show a year ago seems slightly insulting to those who have labored for years honing their skills … sort of like how illiterate fitness gurus like Denise Austin get paid boatloads for “writing” exercise books while most professional writers eat soup. And gay boy Josh certain had an eye, even if he was sometime a pill. But Anya really did have a stellar season, and if a gay guy couldn’t win, well, she was a nice spoiler.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Work of Art’ season 2

“Happy families are all alike,” Tolstoy began Anna Karenina; “Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I think that sort of applies to the current slate of reality competition shows. Pretty much they all follow the same format: An “initial challenge” (reward on Survivor; quickfire on Top Chef, etc.) that typically comes with a built-in advantage; an elimination challenge (the heart of the competition), usually on a ridiculously tight schedule; judges sniping about why this gown made in 45 minutes completely out of trash bags is not runway-ready; then a panel where the winner is selected and the bottom three are singled out; interviews are sprinkled throughout with the contestants pointing out each others’ flaws.

The only thing missing from that description is the actual talent involved. That’s where Tolstoy comes in.

There are competition shows about hair-cutting, cooking, fashion designing, dancing, singing, extreme traveling and wilderness abilities; but none are more peculiar for a contest than making art. (Maybe writing a novel; the problem is, it would take years to film.)

It’s almost a boondoggle if you think about it: People’s taste may be subjective, but at least on Project Runway you’re weighing dress against dress; on Work of Art, starting its second season tonight, you might be comparing photos with sculpture with graffiti with performance art and painting. On Top Chef, contestants may literally be comparing apples and oranges, but here, it’s watermelons and race cars.  If there is a more esoteric enterprise, I can’t imagine it.

Which is not to say Work of Art is a meaningless exercise, although even more than Nina Garcia, the taste levels of the judges are at least as puzzling as the execution of the contestants. When China Chow drones on that one artist’s style recalls Keith Haring, she acts as if there could be no greater insult to a gallerist than reminding someone of someone else. Since when did Michael Kors design a dress that didn’t have some predecessor in history?

The highfalutin nature of the show means that it really fits in the Bravo stated profile better than, say, any of the Real Housewives franchises (remember when Bravo had opera?). It challenges you a little to consider what art is, and how creativity is funneled in different ways. It’s a show meant for a sophisticated urban audience. (Sarah Jessica Parker is one of the producers, as if it could have been called Art and the City.) There’s a slightly self-congratulatory aspect to it, as if you feel more cultured in evaluating artists without the bother of going to an actual museum.

So how “unhappy” is this show? Artists are temperamental folks, and pretty arrogant, but part of the fun is seeing how their egos are shaped by the others’ around them; and even some of them allow their libidos to influence their styles and their affections for other contestant.

Work of Art is no better or worse than most competition series, but I do enjoy the creative process being given equal time to all the bad behavior on TV. If that’s patting myself on the back, so be it.

Premieres tonight on Bravo at 9 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Mad Fashion’ excruciating

Bravo sends me every screener they can. I mean every one. Not only series and season premieres, but sometimes individual midseason episodes of their gayish shows. (I got a screener of the second season of Work of Art in my DVD player right now.)

So why, I wondered, did I have to learn about the new series Mad Fashion from on-air promos? Why no press releases, no screeners? Why did I have to watch it on debut night like everyone else?

Now I understand: Mad Fashion is mad bad.

In the unending trend of all reality TV shows including at least one former reality star among its cast or guest judges, Mad Fashion stars former Project Runway designer Chris March. March, pictured, was a fan favorite, a zaftig, lisping teddy bear with a drag queen’s sensibility whose droll, heavy-lidded pronouncements of fashion and outrageous designed seemed destined to grab attention if not praise from the judges. March is the star of this new half-hour show, wherein he and his crew (he spends most of the first episode, which premiered Tuesday night, introducing them it seemed) come up with tacky takes on haute couture to their horrified but equally delighted clients.

March was a hoot on Project Runway, but here, he seems catatonic and distracted, walking through the reality TV cliches (direct addresses to the camera, coyly sowing (sewing?) controversy among his staff and clients, etc., all while sounding like the bastard child of South Park‘s Mr. Slave and Roseanne Barr.

Everyone knows all reality TV is scripted, but the ability to make it feel improvised is what sets the good apart from the bad. March doesn’t possess that skill, so nearly every scene feels excruciatingly posed. Mercifully, the series forces us to endure its fake grotesqueries in only 30-minute increments. I suspect we won’t have many of those either. If Bravo doesn’t wanna preview this uber-gay fashion series to the gay press … well, that tells you something.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones