Well the world is buzzing with the recent antics of new Project Runway “super villain” Ven Budhu. Apparently the past week’s challenge was to create looks for average people rather than models. Ven’s model Terri was, horror of horrors, a plus-sized girl. Now at about a size 14, Terri is actually pretty close to the US national average for women of about a size 12 on the top and a 14 on the bottom. She definitely met the “Project Runway” criteria for an average person. Yet Ven could not keep his yap shut from the beginning of the show to the end about how unfair it was that he was asked to work with this model who “has no shape” and “no personality”. He said these things to Tim Gunn in the workroom. He said these things in front of Terri. He made her cry. He did not put a particularly attractive look on the runway and he wasn’t the one sent home this week.
For the record, Terri is a beautiful woman with a modified hourglass shape. And she didn’t deserve to take the blame for Ven’s basic incompetence as a designer. And she didn’t deserve to be exploited at the hands of “Project Runway” in order to boost ratings either. But that’s exactly what happened.
Let me let you in on the world’s worst kept secret. Reality shows are not real. They are heavily edited and produced to one end–bump up the ratings. And the producers of the show saw an opportunity to stir up drama and controversy. Ven played his part. The super baddy is often one of the last to go home on these shows because people love to hate them. And viewers tune in so they can boo and hiss at the bad guy. The villain creates drama and drama drives ratings.
So don’t just be mad at Ven. He did his part. He chose to be the bad guy character and had to use whatever was at his disposal to stay on the show. Be mad at the producers of “Project Runway” too. Because they exploited Terri every bit as much as Ven did. And worse, they did it because they felt pretty certain they would get away with it. Because as a nation, we seem to think it is still okay to pick on people who have the audacity to be anything larger than a size 2.
Let’s look at that for a second. Do you think Ven would have had this tantrum with a model who had dark skin or naturally curly hair? What if his model had a physical challenge and was in a wheel chair or had artificial limbs? Do you think Ven would have pulled this garbage and “Project Runway” would have aired it in those situations? In a word, no. Because “Project Runway” and Ven would have known that picking on people in those situations would have caused a backlash with negative consequences for both the designer and the show. But they pulled that garbage with Terri because they knew they could spark controversy, but not too much controversy.
The whole thing makes me sad. Because as I said yesterday, a few kind words can have incredible power to make the world a better place. Conversely, a few unkind words can tear someone down forever. Fellow contestant Fabio Costa said of Ven, “It’s really sad that you have the power to make someone feel bad about themselves and you use that deliberately.” To which I say, I agree Fabio. But don’t let the show’s producers off the hook. They are at least as guilty as Ven.
So my little Chicklettes. I won’t be watching any more “Project Runway” this season. I would rather place my eyeballs and my energy on something that makes the world in some small way a better place.
The Fat Chick