I have been a fan of Project Runway since it debuted in 2004, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum. It has had a varied airing history; Bravo originating the first five seasons, followed by Lifetime for eleven more, before it was announced last spring that the series would be returning to Bravo for the 17th season in the wake of producer Harvey Weinstein‘s The Weinstein Company filing for bankruptcy. The show won a Peabody Award in 2008.
When it was announced that Klum and Tim Gunn would not be returning for Season 17, I wasn’t sure I was onboard. Gunn is almost synonymous with Project Runway. Prior to appearing on the hit competition show, Gunn spent many years working as an associate dean and then Fashion Department Chair at Parsons School of Design. He’s been credited with completely overhauling the curriculum there and making it the prestigious program it is today. But it wasn’t until he joined the cast of Project Runway that he became well known. Klum and Gunn have a new fashion television project: a new reality series on Amazon.
Project Runway has been a cultural phenomenon and an extraordinary show. Designers are challenged to create a garment or two on each episode, in one memorable case, creating clothes from food found at a Manhattan grocery store; and another with designers making costumes for queens Hedda Lettuce, Sharon Needles, and Annida Greenkard, with RuPaul as a guest judge.
Klum presided over it all like a Teutonic goddess. Gunn offered genuinely helpful guidance and gave the world a new catchphrase: ”Make It Work!”
Now, model Karlie Kloss takes over for Klum, with former winner Christian Siriano assuming Gunn’s mantle. This version of the show has models in all shapes, sizes, ages and gender identities. With 16 designer contestants, there wasn’t enough time to get to know each of them, but it is a diverse mix of all types of backgrounds and personalities: Sebastian Grey is an immigrant from Columbia working as a housekeeper; Renee Hill, a 51-year-old mother of nine; Kovid Kapoor, a big personality from the Himalayas literally fled his home country because he is gay and poor Frankie Lewis, who had just lost her home, dog and boyfriend. Regular judge Elaine Welteroth spoke about the first magazine cover she ever worked on, an issue of Ebony featuring Serena Williams.
The reinvented Project Runway has its flaws. Kloss is charming but not nearly as compelling as Klume. 6′ 2” Kloss towers over diminutive Siriano, who seemed a bit stilted in episode one. He does not yet have a catchphrase, although one contest cried: ”I’m so excited I could pee!”, which could become my new motto.
Kloss, a 26-year-old beautiful person with the smooth skin of an infant, converted to Judaism prior to marrying Joshua Kushner, yes, one of those Kushners. Appearing on Andy Cohen‘s Watch What Happens Live on Bravo, Kloss took a question about whether or not she converted to Judaism prior to her marriage to Kushner.
I joined the tribe, mazel.
Nice, you’re a nice Jewish girl!
Josh and Jared’s domineering father Charles Kushner, the son of Holocaust survivors, built a formidable real estate empire in New Jersey, and was convicted in 2004 of 18 counts of tax evasion, making illegal campaign contributions, and witness tampering. He served 14 months in Federal prison. The witness-tampering charge arose from Kushner’s act of retaliation against William Schulder, his sisters husband, who was cooperating with federal investigators; Kushner hired a hooker to seduce his brother-in-law, arranged to record an encounter between the two, and had the tape sent to his sister.
Vicky Ward‘s new book Kushner Inc. begins with the Kushner family’s celebration on the evening of Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. The family is in their suite in the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, where they have observed shabbat. Charles reportedly “turned nasty” toward Josh, venting about Kloss, saying:
Josh, we expect you to do the right thing. The person you are with is not the right person.
Ward writes that Josh took his father’s abuse in silence. According to multiple sources, Charles and his wife Seryl, disliked Kloss for many reasons, but especially because she was not Jewish. Ivanka Trump, Jared’s wife, was also a Gentile when they began dating, but had converted to Judaism before her marriage to Jared. But, the Kushners saw Ivanka differently. She was a Trump and real estate royalty. Plus she attended an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania. Kloss grew up in a suburb of St. Louis and has not attended college. Who needs a degree to be a supermodel?
Kloss and Kushner married in October 2018, after six years of Josh filling his Instagram feed with upsettingly beautiful pictures of Kloss. The couple is thought to represent the liberal branch of the Kushner-Trump family (the Kushners have always been big Democratic donors).
Anyway, mazels to Kloss, her husband, and the new Project Runway. May all their life-cycling classes bring them strength. Kloss has made no secret of her own political convictions, a Hillary Clinton supporter who speaks out regularly in favor of sensible gun control. While Ivanka lies on social media, Kloss seems authentic.
On the day before Purim, let us all pray to God that climate change gets us before white supremacy.