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Project Runway 5, Episode 6 – What a Drag!


Last week on Project Runway, the gang had to design an outfit for Brooke Shield’s character from Lipstick Jungle. Brooke herself specified a “day to night” look, that the character could wear both in the office and out on the town. She liked Keith’s efforts best, so he won, and Kelli was sent home.

Next morning, Joe is amazed that Keith had won, as he (rightly) considers Keith to be a one-trick pony who only knows how to make things with fringes and swatches of fabric. He wonders if the judges have noticed this. I wonder if this isn’t a case of foreshadowing…

At the runway Heidi greets the designers, but their attention is drawn by an extremely large, odd-looking shadow with horns. The shadow’s owner enters, and it’s Chris March from Season Four. He’s in drag and is wearing a silver gown with huge, obviously fake breasts, blonde braids, and a Viking helmet with oversized horns. He looks like a Warner Brothers cartoon come to life. Chris has come to issue this week’s challenge: Make a costume for a drag queen. Terri is delighted to hear this, as she enjoys working for drag queens.

The clients and models are actual drag queens and many of these guys are really tall. Most of them are very garishly dressed and look like they got their fashion sense from Divine, the 300-pound drag queen who’d starred in John Waters’ movies up until his death in 1988. Heidi describes their overall look as “theatrical and over-the-top,” which strikes me as an understatement.

The designers are then asked to choose a drag queen to work with. Keith, as last week’s winner, gets to pick first, and he chooses Sherry Vine, saying “she” has great legs. Blayne picks Miss Understood, who is all dolled up in pink and green. Kenley chooses Farrah Moans, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike. Joe takes Varla Jean Merman. Daniel chooses Annida Greenkard for her Latino look. Korto picks Sweetie, because she likes plus-size models. Suede chooses Hedda Lettuce, who is tricked out all in green and sports a green wig. Leanne chooses Sharon Needles. Terri picks Acid Betty, who is dressed like an 80′s punk rocker. Jerrell chooses LeMay and Stella takes Luisa Verde.

In the work room, Tim advises the designers to consider their clients’ personas. He says they have 30 minutes to consult with their drag queen, and they will have a budget of $200 to spend at Mood. They will also have two days to complete the outfits. Their costumes will be auctioned off and the proceeds will be given to Broadway Cares, an AIDS charity.

Joe tells us that he has never done anything like this before, but he will treat this project as being akin to making Halloween costumes for his daughters. Provided Joe remembers that his client is an adult, he may be on to something. Sweetie tells Korto that she likes “fiery” colors; reds, yellows, and oranges. Leanne views her client as having a “futuristic” look and decides to make her look like something from the Jetsons. Stella thinks her client would like a “slick look.” Kenley has noticed that Farrah Moans is dressed like Marilyn Monroe and decides to give her an “Old Hollywood” look. Joe happily tells us that Varla Jean Merman has thoughtfully left her bra and inserts behind to ensure a good fit. As the designers have masculine dressmakers’ dummies, but are making clothes for drag queens, they do need to take their clients’ breast sizes into account.

Jerrell tells us that he came from a lower-middle class family and had to work for everything. Suede tells us that he was very close to his grandfather, who had died while Suede was in college. He then tells us that his grandfather’s spirit advised him to put seeds on Hedda’s dress. Keith, of course, is using swatches and fringes on his dress, and the watching Kenley tells us that she doesn’t see anything drag or innovative about it. I generally take contestants’ comments about each other with at least five grains of salt, as it’s only natural that they would want to think a competitor is screwing up, but I think she’s right this time. Keith has used this particular technique several times before, and he doesn’t seem to be using sequins or anything else that’s sparkly. If I were a designer on this show, sparkly things would be the first thing I’d reach for in this particular challenge.

The drag queens come in for their fitting, but this time, they’re dressed normally. Blayne learns that Miss Understood is actually a Mexican guy named Alex. Varla asks Joe for a more feminine look, and Joe has made a spangly pink jumpsuit which already looks very feminine from over here. Joe and Varla decide that they can change the collar a bit, and then experiment with different positions for it. They settle on a “sailor girl” arrangement. Korto tells us again that she likes working with full-figured women. She and Sweetie are apparently getting along quite well. Suede, alas, is having problems with Hedda Lettuce, who wants a bunch of changes in her outfit. Specifically, she wants sleeves, rather than the long gloves Suede had made, and she calls him “lazy” and tells him “to get it right.” Suede is hurt and unhappy and doesn’t want to be sent home over this particular challenge.

Tim and Chris then make the rounds to see how everybody is doing. They stop by Korto who tells them that her theme is “woman in heat.” She has made the world’s reddest dress and attached plastic, red and yellow flames to one of the shoulders. Chris likes this, and he suggests that Korto make the skirt detachable. Blayne has made a dress with plastic pink wings attached to the shoulders. Tim says it looks like a “pterodactyl from a gay Jurassic Park,” which Blayne takes as a compliment. Blayne tells Tim that he didn’t want to make anything boring, and Tim assures him that his outfit is not boring. Tim and Chris also like Joe’s pink pantsuit and Chris comments that he can definitely see Varla wearing it. They also like Suede’s green outfit, and Chris urges him to stick with the gloves, as he likes those.

Chris and Tim are less impressed with Keith’s dress, as it looks too shapeless. They tell him to “sculpt” it. Finally, they stop by Daniel, who has made a flamenco-style dress. Tim likes the ruffled bottom half of the dress, but warns Daniel that the top part is much too plain and badly needs jazzing up. Daniel airly dismisses Tim’s critique and tells us that he thinks the dress looks fine. Idiot. If the first rule of Project Runway is “Be versatile,” the second surely is “Listen to Tim.” Given that the last two competitors, Jennifer and Kelli, were sent home for making inappropriate outfits, you’d think Daniel would get the message and concentrate on making something a drag queen would actually want to wear. But, no, he’d rather make dresses he thinks are tasteful and elegant. He does, however, ask Blayne to try it on, and Blayne happily obliges.

The following morning, the designers get to work on their creations. The drag queens arrive for their final fitting and to get gussied up. Some of them really go to town here and put on the biggest fake eyelashes known to man and slather on the makeup. Suede confronts Hedda Lettuce about her rude comments of the day before and she apologizes. Then it’s off to the runway to meet the judges, including today’s guest judge, RuPaul.

Kenley’s client, Farrah Moans, struts down the runway in a gleaming, snug sleeveless silver dress decorated with massive black and white plumes at the shoulders. It is definitely a campy take on Old Hollywood glamour. Blayne’s model, Miss Understood, is wearing a pink and aqua dress that boasts pink wings and streamers, Blayne tells us that he’s worried about the wings, which are sagging somewhat. Joe’s client, Varla Jean Merman, saunters down the runway in her spangly pink jumpsuit with its sailor’s collar and a big belt. She is also wearing a big pink wig to complete the ensemble.

Stella sends down Luisa Verde in a black dress with red plaid down the front and on the train in black. Suede’s client, Hedda Lettuce, sports a green outfit with a very short skirt. She’s also wearing a green wig. Daniel’s queen, Annida, is wearing a yellow and orange flamenco dress. It looks extremely plain compared to everything else. Terri’s outfit is anything but plain. She made a “samurai” outfit for Acid Betty that consists of a white kimono with blue panels on the huge sleeves. There’s also a red and black bodice. Jerrell made a sparkly blue, aqua, and green dress with a big collar for LeMay. Korto’s Sweetie is wearing a fire-engine red, sparkly outfit that has red and yellow flames attached to the shoulders and a voluminous skirt that Sweetie can take off in order to flaunt her legs. Keith made a black and white outfit with his trademark swatches and fringe for Sherry Vine. Leanne’s client, Sharon Needles, is indeed wearing an outfit reminiscent of Judy Jetson; it’s black, aqua, and silver and the skirt has rigid folds that flare outward.

Heidi calls Blayne, Kenley, Suede, Stella, and Leanne. She congratulates them and tells them they have qualified to move onto the next round. The other six designers have the highest and lowest scores between them. Terri describes her outfit as a “super samurai” look. RuPaul loves it. Nina calls it a cross beteen KISS and Mahogany. Michael wants the boots, and the judges call the outfit “powerful” and “dramatic.” Keith was shooting for a Tina Turner/sex kitten look for Sherry, but the judges think the result is “messy.” Michael thinks the outfit makes Sherry look like a “sad chicken.” Keith retorts that rock and roll is often messy, but the judges treat that excuse with contempt. RuPaul jeers, “Did a dingo eat your baby, too, mate?” and comments that Keith has a lot of excuses. He adds that Keith should have trimmed the fringe in back. Nina reminds Keith that messiness has been a problem for him before.

Joe talks about Varla’s idea to base her look on Ann-Margaret on Love Boat. The judges like the outfit and tell him that it flatters Varla’s body. Jerrell tried for Hollywood glamour, but the judges think his dress is too long, especially in the waist. It also looks too normal. Korto tells the judges she wanted a fiery look for her client, and also to show Sweetie’s legs. RuPaul loves it, and Nina comments that it looks like Korto had a lot of fun in this challenge. The judges agree that Korto’s outfit is dramatic and exuberant. Daniel had wanted to give Annida Greenkard a flamenco dancer look, and Heidi tells him that she wanted drama and innovation. Daniel again proves he’ s a moron by sniffily saying that he didn’t want to make a “Las Vegas showgirl” outfit – which happens to be a GOOD look for a drag queen. Drag queens like theatrical and exuberant clothing. They generally don’t do restraint.

The judges then dismiss the designers and their clients to discuss them. Michael likes Terri’s elaborate outfit for Acid Betty. RuPaul calls it the love child of Gene Simmons and Diana Ross. The judges also praise Joe’s work for Varla, Nina says it’s charming and works for Varla’s persona. They also like Korto, who was innovative and made her client very happy. The judges dislike Keith’s work, which is messy and unpolished. They agree that he manipulates fabric with no regard for the body underneath. The judges find Jerrell’s outfit to be both ill-fitting and boring. Daniel has simply missed the mark. The judges also note that he becomes defensive when criticized and thus doesn’t learn or progress. He just makes cocktail dresses, no matter what the challenge is.

The judges then call the designers back in and hand down their verdicts. Terri is in, but Joe is the winner. That’s right; the token straight guy wins the drag queen challenge. The judges tell Korto that she did a good job and that she’s in. Jerrell is in, leaving Keith and Daniel in the bottom two. Daniel has played it safe and offered nothing but excuses, while Keith’s outfit is random and messy. The judges have also seen his swatch technique before and wonder if there’s anything else he can do. In the end, Daniel is out. He leaves, assuring us that he has talent and a high taste level.

Daniel’s departure is hardly a surprise. Making a single kind of dress regardless of what the challenge requires is no way to last. Keith got a badly needed wake-up call, as the judges have called him on his repeating the same technique. He needs to know that last week’s victory wasn’t a validation, it was a fluke. He’d won simply because the guest judge – who hadn’t seen his previous work – had liked his work best. He had gotten lucky and he shouldn’t count on always getting lucky. Brooke Shields liked his style, but RuPaul didn’t. Moreover, the regular judges have now seen the swatch technique at least three times by now. Granted, Rami from Season Four had made it all the way to the finals despite an endless parade of draped dresses, but Rami’s technique was better than Keith’s. None of the judges ever described Rami’s work as messy or unpolished. If Keith hopes to stay, he needs to clean up his act and come up with some new tricks. If he doesn’t, he’ll be gone soon.

The previews for next week show the designers going on a field trip. Some of the designers have trouble with their materials and Tim tells Leanne that her look is not innovative enough.


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