Make It Work, Chicago!


Posted by TVita


Today we have a very special treat. Or maybe just a special treat for me? Yesterday I hopped a train to the Chicago casting call for Project Runway — and I have a complete report from the trenches (also known as: a hallway). I even got a few moments with the endlessly quotable Tim Gunn, and did my best to avoid asking, “Where’s Andrae?”

The first question came up when I ventured into the ballroom staging area and starting chatting up the folks in line. Does winning the University of Kansas’ own Project Runway — judged by Season 2’s Nick Verreos — mean you’re a sure thing for the Bravo series’ upcoming fourth season? Julee Kessinger sure hopes so. The 22-year-old student traveled all night with her two models (and biggest fans) to be in line at Chicago’s Westin Michigan Avenue at 6am. Going on two hours of sleep, Julee and co. didn’t make their self-imposed deadline, but were in line — in the rain — by 8am. And she wasn’t alone. By the time I got to Runway’s second audition stop (after LA, and to be followed by Miami and New York in the coming weeks) at noon — after a leisurely breakfast and a couple cups of hot coffee — 50 hopefuls had already paid their dues in the rain-soaked line (to be fair, the GenArt production team did a great job of opening up rooms in which the masses could gather) and made it through the pre-screening process in the hopes of some one-on-judges time.

Watching the parade of “fashion” was interesting, to say the least. From wedding and period-inspired gowns to a fur ensemble reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle guard, the offerings ran the gamut. And that’s just in addition to the top-notch stuff I saw, too. As is always the case in the course of reality TV auditions, there were also some crestfallen faces passing by, looking for the elevator. The best thing about my waiting time? A man I like to call “Mr. 10-4,” the hallway security guy. Rowdy bunch, those fashion designers.

Then finally, it was lunchtime, and I got to “lurk around” until Tim Gunn finished speaking with a local Chicago television station. To my giddy delight, Runway’s sage mentor was just charming in person as he is helping designers “make it work” on the show. In the elusive judging room, dimly lit and toasty warm (nothing like a little in-the-hot-seat intimidation for the contestants!), we sat down for a chat about his disinterest in being a fashion Svengali, his new Bravo makeover series Tim Gunn’s Guide To Style, and other tidbits I’m guarding until the Season 4 premiere (so stay tuned!).

Do people approach you wanting fashion advice?
Fortunately, they don’t! The furthest it’s gone for me, when it comes to fashion, was having to say, “If that’s the kind of look you wanted, you have a good one!” I’m not a fashion Svengali. I [don’t say], “If you wear these five pieces, your life will be better and you’ll be transformed and it’ll be fabulous.”

So what is the makeover strategy of “Tim Gunn’s Guide To Style?”
It is a kind of makeover show, but it’s really about, “Who are you? With whom do you interact? How do you want to be perceived? What kind of silhouettes and types of clothing do you resonate to now? Let’s talk about how you can look as fabulous as possible – without trying to change you.” We’re not trying to change size and shape. We may work on hair and makeup, but the individual must be not just comfortable with their new look, but have a kind of epiphany about it, where it’s transformative and it stays behind after I go away.

With your new show and “Project Runway,” when do you sleep?
This whole thing is taking its toll! I used to say, “I’m fine! I’m rising to the occasion, this is my moment, I am thrilled and exhilarated by it” – and I am all those things, but it’s taking its toll!

Leaving Tim to his lunch and a rare few moments of down time, I packed up my things and filed out past the line of hopefuls that still trailed down the block. I’ll admit it — I couldn’t contain a little smirk and silent boasting of, “Suckas! I already talked to Tim! He loves me!” But don’t feel too bad, line people; I’m just jealous that I don’t have the creative gene that would land me a spot next to Tim in the Parson’s workroom. You get in there and carry on.

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