Project Runway Premiere: Why Does Every Reality Show Have To Designate Someone The “Bitchy Girl”?

Photo: Barbara Nitke
A handful of stereotypes and some draping that just didn't cut it — welcome to Project Runway, season 14. No matter how many Emmys it rakes in or how talented its contestants are, Project Runway is very much a reality show, and that means its producers are tasked with orchestrating drama. So, the genre's familiar stock characters are conjured up, starting with brash, ambitious woman who didn't come here to make friends. While other designers were introduced with interesting personal back stories, or at least a little insight into their sense of style, Lindsey Creel was shown giving a speech that's sure to guarantee she'll be identified in watercooler discussions as "the bitch." This imposed personal brand was lent further credence early on during a moment in the work room, when Tim Gunn revealed that three designers hadn't brought their own tools. Creel wasn't going to share; in fact, in her talking head interview she suggested the three unprepared contestants be sent packing (metaphorically speaking, since they didn't bring anything). The episode eased up from painting her into a painfully one-sided, Miranda Priestly-wannabe corner when Creel was shown giving positive critiques to some of her fellow contestants. It was a nice moment, not just for Creel herself, but for the series to show that a female contestant can be rabidly ambitious without being a villain. The night's other notable moment was Merline Labissiere's awkward remarks directed at Indian contestant Swapnil Shinde. Labissiere was the drama queen of the night, singing, chatting, and inventing endless hashtags that had all her fellow contestants (who had a ton of needles and scissors at their disposal) even more on edge. Her enthusiasm would have been charming, though, if she didn't greet Shinde by saying, "But you're, like, from India. You can, like, make this happen. You can just close your eyes and make this happen, you know what I mean?" Shinde took it in stride, shooting back, "My magic wand is at home." Project Runway has so many contestants with rich backgrounds, it's hard to see the need for producers to depict them as stock reality characters. Edmond Newton tried out for every single season before finally making it on season 14. Ashley Nell Tipton sees fashion as a way for her to make the clothes that were never available to her as a plus-size kid. Kelly Dempsey got into fashion in order to make the clothes she had to get at thrift stores during her childhood new again. With the end of the first episode, they're down to 15 contestants, and each one deserves their well-told story.
Quotes of the night:
"It's the antithesis of joy" — Tim Gunn on Edmond Newton's early design "Sally Draper in a picnic blanket," — Zac Posen on Hanmiao Yang's final design

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