- Making it work at the Project Runway finale.
- The Tony Awards!!!
- You should be obsessed with Maya Erskine.
- Deep feelings about Toy Story 4.
- The greatest reality TV episode...ever?
I Got to Go to the Project Runway Finale
I have two distinct memories of going to college in New York City [redacted] years ago: Poverty! And watching Project Runway.
They are actually two very interlinked memories. I could not afford to be a person “out and about” in New York City, so I stayed inside and watched a lot of TV, like Project Runway. My friend Casey dated a guy who went to Parsons School of Design and we would watch at his dorm room, as if I wasn’t a third wheel and as if we were somehow absorbing more of the spirit of the show because we were in the Haus of Tim Gunn. Neither thing was true! They happened anyway!
In any case, Project Runway has been a staple of my life for the last 15 years. Probably more significantly for those who make the show, it’s been a staple of reality television. It was a revolutionary series when it premiered on Bravo in 2004—Making the art of fashion design entertaining television! Unapologetically queer contestants! The discovery that Heidi Klum is a delight!—and, all these years and countless attempts at replicating its success later, it remains one of the most captivating and even important reality television shows.
This is all a preamble to the dramatic cardiac episode I suffered last month upon receiving an invitation to the taping of the Season 17 finale runway show, which aired Thursday night. First, there was the shock of learning that this show has been on for 17 seasons, my lord. Then there was sheer excitement that I would get to be in the room for the fashion showcase I’ve watched for more than a decade. I have to say that it was as fun as I imagined.
This past season has been a reboot of sorts for the show, with a new host—Karlie Kloss, who makes up for what she lacks in Klum’s charismatic weirdness with sheer enthusiasm—a new mentor in Christain Siriano, and designer Brandon Maxwell and journalist Elaine Welteroth joining the iconic Nee-NAH Gar-see-YAH as judges. The series had also returned to Bravo after several seasons of airing on Lifetime.
To be honest, I was dubious of the changes, but in a way the fresh start brought the show back to what made it so special in the first place. Maxwell and Welteroth were phenomenal additions, with the latter especially bringing a grace and keen understanding of the cultural impact of fashion to the show that is necessary in 2019. And the contestants were all thrilling and endearing in ways that I’ve missed in past years.
As for what it was like to be at the runway show? Hilarious and thrilling. It started laughably late. There was a tickling self-seriousness in the room. Diane von Furstenberg was there.
Fun tidbit: My seat was moved three different times because I was “too tall” and blocking camera shots of Karlie Kloss. (I am not that tall.) So if you watch the finale episode, you’ll see me either in three different places in the audience, or maybe not at all, depending on which shots they use. (This newsletter was written before the finale aired.)
As for the clothes, I was surprised by how stark the difference was between a look that was shoddily constructed and cheap, and something that was worthy of a win. My favorite collection by far was from Sebastian. It should also be said that I know nothing about fashion, as you can tell by that photo of me in a black shirt I bought for $11 at H&M.
But that’s why this show has always been so great. You don’t need to be enveloped in the pretension of the fashion world to be enamored by it. It’s about bringing the beauty, the wonder, and the impact of fashion to people who would never have a front row seat to the runway. I can’t believe that I actually had one. (And then was moved. And then moved again. But at one point, I was there!)
I Loved the Tony Awards
It should come to the surprise of no one that I burst into tears while watching the Tony Awards.
The Tonys have always been the best awards show on TV, in that there is an undercurrent of kindness and inclusive, familial love that is palpable to anyone who watches, plus the people who are winning awards also perform for you the very work they are winning for.
Elaine May, who gave one of the most heartbreaking performances I’ve seen on stage, gave an all-time great speech when she won Best Actress for The Waverly Gallery. So, too, did Andre de Shields, who, after winning for Hadestown, gave his advice for longevity, starting with this incredibly moving bit that I haven’t stopped thinking about since he said it: “Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming.”
Then, Hadestown director Rachel Chavkin, powerfully articulated why the fact that she was the only woman directing a musical on Broadway this season was total bullshit: “This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job it is to imagine the way the world can be.”
Ali Stroker became the first performer who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony Award for her work in Horny Oklahoma! Broadway veterans and venerated owners of keys to my heart Stephanie J. Block and Celia Keenan-Bolger finally became Tony winners, Block for playing Cher and Keenan-Bolger for playing Scout Finch, the high-low epitome of my taste. And if all that wasn’t enough, Audra MacDonald and Laura Linney, as they are wont to do, gifted us with the TV moment of the year.
I Am Maya Erskine’s Biggest Fan
I can not oversell how excited I am for the career of Maya Erskine. She co-created and co-starred in what remains my favorite television show of the year so far, PEN15. (If it doesn’t get nominated for Emmys, we march.) She was responsible for perhaps the funniest scene in Wine Country—no small feat when your co-stars are Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and a murderer’s row of SNL greats—in which, be still my heart, she creates an art exhibit devoted to Fran Drescher’s character on The Nanny. But it’s her turn in Plus One, which comes out this weekend, that solidifies her arrival as Hollywood’s next great comedy star.
Plus One joins the recent spate of great romantic comedies (Always Be My Maybe, Long Shot). In it, Erskine’s Alice and Jack Quaid’s Ben agree to be each other’s dates to weddings for an entire summer, falling in love in the process. Erskine is wildly good in a role that the half-Japanese actress never thought she’d be able to play.
“This was something that I couldn’t have dreamed possible as a kid,” she told me after Plus One’s premiere earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival, which she burst into tears in the car back to her hotel after attending. “As a kid, I didn’t see myself reflected back to me, so I didn’t see this as a possibility. So if this movie makes it out there and other people see it, I do hope that a young girl who is like me can look at it and be like, ‘Oh, I can be that woman.’”
I Deeply Felt Toy Story 4
I always forget how much I relate to the characters in the Toy Story franchise, whose survival instinct is to play dead whenever humans enter the room. So it was like a warm hug to attend a press screening this week of Toy Story 4, in which our beloved characters reckon with their sentience and the first half of the film is spent with everyone trying to convince a character that he is not trash. (Again, relatable!) It is nowhere near the masterpiece the third movie in the Toy Story franchise was, but it is goofy and strange and heartfelt, and I look forward to watching it with the royal babies—I have newborn nephews!—45 times in one weekend.
I Can’t Stop Thinking About The Real Housewives of New York City
I have not fully recovered or gathered all my thoughts from Wednesday night’s episode of The Real Housewives of New York City—and, frankly, may never—but let it be known that is without a doubt the best episode of reality television I have ever seen.
What to watch this week:
American Woman: When is everyone going to realize that Sienna Miller is one of her generation’s best actresses?
City on a Hill: Kevin Bacon in a ’90s-set gritty crime drama. Yes, please!
Euphoria: “In one episode alone, close to 30 penises flash on screen.”
What to skip this week:
Men in Black: International: Just...why?
Shaft: See above.