Heidi Klum chats about ‘Project Runway,’ future and past


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While NBC Universal and the Weinstein Co. fight over the rights to “Project Runway,” host and executive producer Heidi Klum is trying to focus on the future of the show. She’s taping the sixth season of the popular fashion design competition — set in Los Angeles instead of New York — even though it remains unclear where or when it will eventually air. On Friday, she spoke about this season of “Runway” (which concludes Oct. 15), the program’s recipe for success and what it’s like to work on the show amid so much uncertainty.

And for the latest on ‘Project Runway’s’ future, click here.


-- Matea Gold

What do you think distinguished Season 5? How was it different than past seasons?

It was not as clear to all of us I think who was going to go to the end. The season before we kind of had a feeling of which designers are going to make it into the running in the end. We always had five or six designers that we were like, every time, they’re going to come up with something good. And this season, it was a little bit all over the place. It was very literal when I said, “One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.” It was like one week, someone did something fabulous, and the next week it was awful and then that person was gone. So it was kind of not so clear for us who was going to be in the finale.

It seems like no matter what season, there’s always someone that the audience loves to hate. It’s interesting how Kenley has emerged as that person in this cycle. Was she as obnoxious in person as she’s been coming across in the last few episodes?

You can only work with what people give you. We don’t change their words. What they say is what they say. So she was the way you see her. She was laughing at people at times, she would talk back. And it is a very hard thing for these designers to be on the runway and show themselves to everyone, but this is what you sign up for. You have to take the criticism. And I don’t think she could handle that very well. But she is a good designer.

It’s amazing to see that this season the ratings are as high as they’ve ever been. What do you think accounts for the durability of “Runway?”

I think that the show gives a lot of hope to people, that if you have a talent, you can actually still make it somewhere. A lot of designers we have on the show are not practiced designers. They kind of work in their basement or they do it as a hobby. All of a sudden, they’re on “Project Runway.”

But also why I think the show gets bigger and bigger every year and is so successful is because you actually watch people with talent. People say, ‘Oh, what do you think about ‘Top Chef?’ ‘ And I’m always like, I mean, I love food, but I don’t understand. I can’t taste what they make. I can’t taste if this tastes better than that. I can only see what they do. And so I don’t get it. But I think in “Project Runway,” you can make more of your opinions, because you can actually see the fashions.... It’s not so much about them as being characters and doing crazy things, because they don’t really have time for that. Yes, things do happen and people have the occasional fights. But our show is not about that. Our show is about fashion and our show is about showing their talent.

Now that you’re in the sixth cycle, is it still fun and unpredictable for you? Does it ever feel redundant?

No, absolutely not. Because every time, there are 16 new people sitting there with a new story, with passion, with ideas, with lots of fashion. I have tears on my runway, I have smiles on my runway, because people want to be here. They want this so bad.

The show has rested up to a year between seasons in the past. Do you think fans would wait that long again to see it?

Oh, absolutely. I’m not worried about it. Obviously, I would love for it to come out so we don’t lose the momentum in terms of the fashion show. Because we’re always matching the finale of the show with Fashion Week in New York City, which is in February and September ... so if they don’t figure it out by [early 2009], we would have to wait until the end of the year. Which would be sad. But we’ve had something like that, three or four years ago, where we had to wait a whole year for Fashion Week to be filming the finale.

How does having the show in LA change the flavor?

What has been really great is that — especially with Nina [Garcia] and Michael [Kors] not being here all the time because they also have a lot of work to do in New York City — is that we’ve had so many great stars come on the show, which I think a lot of people enjoy watching. And I always love to hear their point of view, because most of time you don’t hear that. Our cast here is so excited when they see the guest judges, they just flip out.

So it hasn’t been difficult to get big-name guest judges, even with the fate of the show up in the air?

No, no, not at all. We’re working as planned. We’re already done six episodes. And we have about 2 1/2 weeks to go. We’re working away. The designers are working away.

Does anyone ask, ‘Is this even going to make it on the air?’

Not to me. Everyone is excited to be here, everyone is staying here until 9, 10 at night. And everyone is very positive. Because these designers, you’re blown away with what they do. We’re all happy to be here and we’re all happy to be working. So we all hope it will come out as planned.