The folks at "Project Runway" are keeping us guessing as to who's a cut above the rest. At a taping of the finale at New York Fashion Week on Friday, eight of the nine finalists showed collections, but there's a clear front-runner.
If you don't want to see any spoilers, close this story now. The rest of you, let's jump in…
All eyes were on Heidi Klum as the show kicked off in the Lincoln Center Theater. Glittering in a gold, one-shouldered gown, she charmed the packed crowd, coming out waving and casually calling, "Hey!" The German beauty made the impromptu decision to bring out Tim Gunn, who "always hides backstage," she said, getting the audience to chant his name until he appeared. Klum then congratulated him on his Emmy nomination and told him that she loved him, giving him a kiss.
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"They are wrecks, everyone, so be kind to them," the seasoned mentor said of the finalists before he scurried backstage again. "I'm there as a cheerleader."
Before the models hit the catwalk, Klum — who added Kerry Washington to the judges panel for the episode — said that there was a twist on the challenge: One of the looks in each collection had to be created with an unconventional material.
All but one of the finalists went on to present. So who wasn't there? Ken Laurence — and you probably aren't surprised. His spats with other contestants have been a big plot point this season, and Thursday's episode was no different as he hurled f-bombs at Helen Castillo.
Alexander Pope, Alexandria von Bromssen, Bradon McDonald, Dom Streater, Helen, Jeremy Brandrick, Justin LeBlanc, Kate Pankoke, and Castillo did present their collections. As far as highlights, there were many. Pope opened the show and had a real showstopper of a dress at the finale. The model walked with a piece of sheer fabric around her head. At the end of the runway, she pulled on a string of beads and the fabric dropped, making a fluffy skirt. The fashionistas in the audience gasped with delight.
Other special moments included Pankoke talking about her second chance on the show (eliminated from Season 11, she was invited back as part of the "Runway Redemption"), LeBlanc revealing how his collection was inspired by learning to hear for the first time at the age of 18, and Castillo — who said nothing about the f-bombs — just being so excited to debut her "first runway collection ever, ever."
As for that front-runner, all the alums we spoke to kept saying one name: Dom Streater. Her collection, which she called "Retro Redux," was her "view of the future, borrowing from the past," she said, adding, "with a little bit of my Dom touch." And she looked confident at the end of her presentation, blowing a kiss to photographers at the end of the runway.
Jay McCarroll, who won the competition in the show's first season, was one of the people on Team Dom. He told Yahoo TV that he had actually met her prior to her appearance on the show when she was working as a hostess in Philadelphia, where they both live. She asked him for tips about the competition, and he was happy to give them.
"She's so sweet and was like, 'What should I do?' I said just be yourself," he recalled. "And be nice to the producers because they are the ones that edit the show and they can make you look like an idiot."
"Like Ken. Poor Ken," said McCarroll, who has a clothing line and is a professor at Philadelphia University. "He's going to have a little problem with his business after this. People don't want to support and buy things from people who are like that. I've gone through that, so…"
Karen Batts, who was voted off on Thursday's episode, was in the audience, too, and not at all sour over being ousted for her failed fitness outfit.
"Oh, Dom," the Go. See. Do. designer said when asked who she was rooting for. "Dom and Helen were my two favorites. They were my roommates, so they are my girls."
One former "Runway" contestant was not at all as gracious about getting cut. Sandro Masmanidi, who was eliminated in an episode that aired in August, was still smarting over it.
Asked how he enjoyed working with Klum, the Russian-born, New York-bred aspiring designer told us, "Well, I never worked with her. I only had arguments with her."
Masmanidi, who showed off his bare chest in a camouflage suit with purple butterflies down one side, took Klum to task for criticizing his creations and then wearing similar looks on the red carpet. The eccentric reality TV star even pulled out his phone to show photo comparisons.
"This is how I can tell that it is bulls---," he said of the show. "This look Heidi told me looked like a stripper and stuff like that. Now I want to show you this dress," he said, pulling up a picture. "She's wearing the same dress! I look at the pictures and think: Why did they bulls--- me? She's wearing the same style!
"Another time they tell me [my look had] too much jewelry. You see too much jewelry? Now look [at the cover of this] Marie Claire," where judge Nina Garcia works. "[Cover girl Nicki Minaj] is wearing all the jewelry in the store! And they tell me too much jewelry?!"
So why does he they think the judges were picking on him? "I don't know. They say one thing and they do something different," he said, shaking his head. "To me it's just bulls---."
Well, as Klum says each week, "One day you're in, and the next, you're out." Masmanidi is long gone, but tune in to see who makes it all the way.
"Project Runway" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.