Black Listed

28 Apr

Last week I watched the finale of this season’s Project Runway. I have commitment issues so its rare that I watch a whole season of any show, but this season was really good. From the first episode I knew this Dominican-American designer Emilio Sosa was going to be a front-runner. He won the first challenge with an immaculately tailored dress that served as a foreshadowing for his place in the finale at Bryant Park for New York Fashion Week.

After showing an amazing collection at Fashion Week as a part of the final three,  Emilio received the best critique however he did not win. Emilio left a bridesmaid and not a bride. This isn’t the first time this has happened…what has happened you ask? Ok I’ll say it…this is the fourth time a black designer made it to Bryant Park and didn’t win. Why can’t Black designers win Project Runway?

I’m not talking Black designers like Mychael Knight who showed at Bryant Park during Season 3 when he sent an overworked and over-styled collection down the runway that likened to a Baby Phat collection. I’m talking a designer with a strong aesthetic and advanced technique. It all began Season 1…The finale came down to Kara Saun and Jay McCarroll.  Kara, a celebrated Hollywood costume designer, won most of the challenges throughout the season which led her to the finale at Fashion Week. Jay who never won a challenge but received high praises also made it to the finale. The two presented very different collections; Jay’s being a collection of mainly separates inspired by urban commuters while Kara’s was inspired by the movie “The Aviator” and made up of decadent gowns with furs and leather. Kara who seemed to be the front-runner all season lost to Jay and I was shocked. I thought to myself “What are the judges seeing that I am not?“. With the same budget as the other designers Kara presented a collection that looked like it cost ten times as much.

Season 5 runner-up Korto Momolu said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly’s

“You get that far, and you want to win. You feel like you’re gonna win. With all the judging, what they said, I feel like I got the best critique. It’s almost like they played me.”

Korto also suffered the same fate as Kara Saun four seasons earlier. She received awesome critiques, won more challenges than the season winner Leanne Marshall, presented a stellar collection at Bryant Park, and lost. I’ll admit, I did thoroughly enjoy Leanne’s finale collection; it was right up my alley. But when it came down to the judging Korto was getting the best critiques. So why is it that even with the best critiques Korto didn’t win?

It seems like Black people cannot win on this show. All season long they win the challenges, become the forerunners of their season, show at Bryant Park, and don’t ever win. From the start of this most recent season Emilio was the star of the show. Like Kara Saun he won more challenges that any other competitor, and like Korto Momolu he constantly received the best praise compared to any other competitor; and still he lost. By this point I was outraged! I had to tun the television off! I couldn’t believe it. How could another Black designer lose the show? How could another designer who won more challenges, produce greater work than any other competitor, and receive the best critiques lose the show?

If Projet Runway is around in a few years I would like to tryout for the show but I cant help but feel like no matter what I produce I can’t win the show as it isn’t designed for Black people to win. I have this fear of making it to the show and being added to the long black list of Black designers who compete, compete well, and go home losers. Or then again…maybe I can be the first. Maybe I can be the first Black person to win Project Runway and do it for those who would’ve come before me.

5 Responses to “Black Listed”

  1. Schey Butta April 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    I totally agree with everything you mentioned. I surely thought Emilio was going to win.

  2. Sarah May 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    I really keep wondering if its possible too. I’ve only just started watching Project Runway after people kept telling me about it for years. The one thing that is making me really dislike it is, i keep seeing every black person “be out.” It’s quite sickening, especially when they often times, in my opinion, just have a different aesthetic.

    Maybe, because of a different cultural influence (though i am not sure of the history of every contestant block or white. They are PROBABLY not always tho, blessed by supportive families in circumstances that could support a design school or an interest in something that is not a job) they just are not going to make something that fits the ideas of high fashion. and that might just put them at odds with the jury. i mean lets face it, is it a jury of peers? And by that i mean: where are the colored judges? Are there a lot of colored people in high fashion? I’m not trying to step out of bounds here, i just have questions.

    in case you were wondering, i’m white.

  3. Lita December 31, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    There are not a lot of colored people in high fashion and project runway wants to keep it like that. I thought i was the only person who felt this way about Project Runway why isn’t anyone saying anything like Wendy Williams or comedians. oh well… people should stop watching Project Runway.

  4. Sojourner August 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    For many seasons, watched the show with baited breath thinking that this time will be different for the often times lone African American designer. I told myself that I would just stop watching the show and not provide my support, but today I happened on a marathon and saw that the cycle has begun again with a young Black woman receiving great praises for her designs. Yet I’ll just wait until the end of the season to find out if she has broken the mold and wins Project Runway.

  5. KB September 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    all black designers have been prejudiced by this show, and im beggining to think they’ll never win, i think Micheal Kors is jealous of black designers because he thinks they will still his spotlight and Heidi pretends to be non racist because she was married to a Black person while in actual fact she is still mad that a black woman, Tyra Banks is the best model any one of them will ever wish to be…but im very glad that Kera Saun became the most successful person to ever come out of that show, the very talented Micheal Knight is still going strong…and Koto i wish she is still doing something and amelio will bring out his own collection soon

    Kera Saun, Koto, Micheal Knight and Amelio…those are the best designers that show will ever see

    Go Kera, keep going strong dear, your way better than they will ever hope to be!!

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