Five Favourite “Fat Girl” Project Runway Moments By Kelly deVos

Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.

About Kelly deVos

A third-generation native Arizonan, Kelly deVos can tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cactus, cattle and climate. She holds a BA in creative writing from Arizona State University and her work has been featured in Normal Noise and 202 Magazine. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Author links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramTumblrGoodreads

My book, Fat Girl On A Plane (HarlequinTeen 6/5/18), follows a plus-size teen fashion student as she tries to become the next great designer, so as you might have guessed, I’m something of a Project Runway superfan. And my book was indirectly inspired by the show.

For my day job, I work as a graphic designer for a company that sells beauty products to salons. This is lucky because, with the exception of book people, there’s no better crowd than hairdressers. They’re so fun, and yes, they will braid your hair! A few years ago, as I was contemplating giving my dream of becoming a published author another shot, I also happened to be working on setting up a photoshoot with Project Runway Season Four contestant, Keith Bryce.

After leaving the show, Keith went on to set up a successful photography and wardrobe studio in Salt Lake City. I’d done a lot of work to pitch a high concept hair styling shoot with Keith and celebrity hairdresser, Amy Freudenberg, to my company. While the cost of the shoot was reasonable, it represented a big chunk of our small company’s marketing budget. I planned to go to make sure all went well.

Photo Credits: Photography and wardrobe by Keith Bryce. Hair by Amy Freudenberg. Makeup by Sherri Curtis.
Author’s Note: No real fur was used at the Keith Bryce photoshoot.

I arrived at the Phoenix airport for my flight to Utah. The opening scene in my book was inspired pretty directly by what actually happened to me. I was told that I’d need to purchase a second seat in order to continue on to Salt Lake City. A lot of panicked questions raced through my mind. Could I afford the second seat? What would I tell my company? But most of all:

Should I even go?

For a moment, I couldn’t help but think that it would be less trouble and less humiliating to just stay home. I reminded myself that I had done a ton of work behind the scenes to make this shoot happen and I had as much right as anyone to be there. So, I got on the plane. But that experience was the genesis of my book. I kept wondering. Does fat phobia make us feel like we’re unworthy of pursuing our own dreams? I wanted to write not only about the way plus-size people are treated but also about how those negative experiences impact the choices that we make.

I think Project Runway, particularly in its current season, is starting to tackle some of these issues as well. While the show has not always been kind to fat people and in fact has often handled average-sized people with a certain degree of contempt as well (Who can forget Season 10’s Ven Budhu and his treatment of his size 10 model during the “real” woman challenge?). But there have been some high points over the years. These are my five favorite “Fat Girl” moments.

1 – Season 14: Ashley Nell Tipton wins Project Runway
Those flower crowns! That gorgeous color palette of bold aquas, feminine pastel pinks and delicious raspberries! The semi translucent fabrics! Seeing the plus-size models rock the runway in a variety of silhouettes, including a mermaid dress, flowy skirts and fitted pants was so totally cool. When Heidi announced the winner, there was some ugly crying in our house.

2 – Season 16: Models of various sizes get off the bus
The current season of Project Runway features models from size 2 to 22 which lets us watch contestants design for women who represent a larger swath of the clothes-buying public. Seeing the models get off the bus on the first episode, for me, signaled that the show planned to address some of its issues from the past. I also give them props for randomly assigning the models each episode, because we do not need to watch designers picking the thinnest models first week after week.

3 – Season 3: Uli Herzner designs for Kayne Gillaspie’s Mom
Episode 7 of Season 3 is the best of times and the worst of times. It’s been a while, so if you don’t remember, this is the episode where the designers had to create looks for each others’ moms. There’s actually quite a bit of fat phobia going on, from the hurtful way the larger women had to watch the slimmer people be picked first, to Jeffrey Sebelia’s fat shaming of Angela’s mom, to the judges’ decision to name Vincent Libretti the winner for dressing Uli’s super-slim mother. And despite the fact that the judges continually referred to Mrs. Gillaspie as plus-sized, I’m not totally sure I would agree with that assessment (to me she looks like a size 12 or so). Still, Uli’s approach to dressing Mrs. Gillaspie represented the first time Project Runway made a serious attempt at designing for non-models and treating them with respect and courtesy.

4 – Season 10: Gunnar Deatherage creates a gorgeous LBD
Episode 6 of Season 10 was the Fix My Friend episode (Note: If any of my friends are reading this, DO NOT “fix me” on TV!). Gunnar Deatherage was something of a hate figure on season 10 until this episode, which showed him being kind to all the “real women” models and designing a perfect Little Black Dress for his own client. This is another instance where I’m not sure if I’d agree with the depiction of Gunnar’s model as plus-size (she looked average to me), but it did showcase the way that a designer ought to approach designing for a plus-size woman, delivering something sexy, well-fitted and tailored to her personal style. Gunnar’s model clearly loved that dress and I loved her big moment on the show.

5 – Season 16: The judges call out Shawn Buitendorp on her “Curvy Lady” comments
Okay, first of all, is anyone else completely baffled as to how one or both of the twins haven’t yet been eliminated? In episode two, twin Shawn defends her awful design, pointing to size 8 model, Kylie Lauren, and saying, “I have never made a dress for a curvy lady.” I had conflicted feelings about watching Designated Survivor’s Maggie Q snap, “She’s totally normal,” in response. On one hand, Kylie is a very thin person and recognizing that fat shaming even thin people is ridiculous represents a certain amount of progress for Project Runway. But the bigger issues are that Shawn should refrain from body shaming anybody – plus-size or otherwise – and that professional fashion designers should be capable of dressing people of all sizes. So, the better moment is later when Maggie Q says, “Grow up and make clothes for real people.”

That’s a wrap of my five favorite moments! What are some of your faves? What moments have you loved so far in Season 16?

Title Fat Girl On A Plane
Author Kelly deVos
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary
To Be Published June 5th, 2018 by Harlequin Teen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

From debut author Kelly deVos comes an unforgettable novel, told in dual Fat and Skinny perspectives, about smart fashion, pursuing your dreams and loving yourself.

High school senior Cookie Vonn’s postgraduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother — and named after a dessert.

Thanks to her job at a fashion blog, Cookie scores a trip to New York to pitch her portfolio and appeal for a scholarship, but her plans are put on standby when she’s declared too fat to fly. Forced to turn to her BFF for cash, Cookie buys a second seat on the plane. She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not — ultrathin and superrich. Bowing to society’s pressure, she vows to lose weight, get out of the friend zone with her crush and put her life on track.

Cookie expected sunshine and rainbows, but nothing about her new life is turning out like she planned. When the fashion designer of the moment offers her what she’s always wanted — an opportunity to live and study in New York — she finds herself in a world full of people more interested in putting women down than dressing them up. Her designs make waves, but her real dream of creating great clothes for people of all sizes seems to grow more distant by the day.

Will she realize that she’s always had the power to make her own dreams come true?

One response to “Five Favourite “Fat Girl” Project Runway Moments By Kelly deVos”

  1. This season of Project Runway has impressed me so much. Tim Gunn has always said that the fashion industry needs to change their ways and learn to dress every woman, and now the show is using models of all different sizes to back up that statement. I had added this book to my TBR a while back, because it sounds so fabulous and I am beyond excited to read it.
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