Project Runway is a long-time guilty pleasure of mine. But I was pretty shocked and upset by their recent episode airing the L’Oreal Paris Makeover My Friend Challenge.
In this episode, “real life” non-models were nominated by their friends for makeovers on the show. The Project Runway contestants were each assigned a woman to create an original outfit for.
Fun, right? Not so much for Terri Herlihy, hardworking working mom with three children who had the misfortune to be assigned to Ven Budhu.
Ven Budhu insulted and bullied Terri from the outset. Why? Because she is around a size fourteen. He complained about being arbitrarily assigned to her, actually suggesting that he was being deliberately sabotaged because it was harder to design for a “larger” woman. He made rude and disparaging remarks about her body and “problem areas.” He said her before photo was a “nightmare.” Notably, Ven is not a small man himself. Which is not to put him down, one would think that maybe he would be able to identify with her.
At one point Ven had Terri in tears. I pictured myself as her. It could have been me. I’m around her size. I was really touched by her friend’s loyal support of her, as she described how selfless Terri was, how little time she takes for herself because she is so busy with work and her family. This was a rare opportunity to get something done for her. Instead, she got abused by an insensitive jerk on national television.
The purpose of this challenge was for designers to show they could work with real-life women of different shapes and sizes, as well as to listen to their clients and meet their wardrobe needs while incorporating their own fashion designer aesthetic. Clearly, Ven wasn’t up to the task. He tried to shift blame her for his failings, saying Terri had no style and a bad attitude. Terri requested pants, which were most conducive to her lifestyle and personal needs. Ven couldn’t manage that, saying his specialty was dresses. Project Runway contestants are supposed to accessorize their models and put together a complete look. Ven Budhu couldn’t be bothered doing that, instead leaving Terri without accessories or even shoes.
The outfit Ven created for Terri was ugly and uninspired. Despite that and his bad behavior, while Ven was in the bottom two, he wasn’t sent home. Viewers are furious.
Terri was interviewed by The Clicker on Today, who she told that the experience was even worse than what we saw on TV. According to her, much of Ven’s bullying was edited out (along with her friend telling Ven off). She has three daughters and she told The Clicker if she had seen how mean Ven was behind her back, she never would have let them watch the show.
While the show was airing, Ven unleashed a series of snarky tweets about Terri and the show showing while he’d had the time to reflect, clearly he’d learned nothing. Twitter lit up with feedback from viewers letting Ven know just how unacceptable his words and behavior was. He tried to back-pedal and delete the tweets, but you can see the screen captures here. Trying to rehabilitate his bad image, he’s issued half-hearted apologies on Facebook and Twitter, his words belied truly taking responsibility. Instead, Ven blamed how things looked on Project Runway’s editing, and said his actions and words were “unintentional.”
Since the airing of the show, Terri Herlihy has received an outpouring of support. Former Project Runway contestants Michael Costello and Peach Carr offered to design outfits for Terri, since Ven couldn’t hack it. A few days ago, Plus Model Magazine did a makeover for Terri and their sponsors are giving Terri over $1300 in clothing gift cards. I saw a couple of preview pictures of the shoot on Terri’s personal Facebook page and she looks awesome! Not surprising, as she is gorgeous. She just needed to be in hands of people who knew what they were doing.
Speaking of Facebook, Terri and her friend had set up a Facebook page called “Terri’s Redemption” for all the fans who contacted her after the show to express their outrage and support. But just a couple of days that page mysteriously was taken down from Facebook, against Terri and her friend’s authorization and wishes. They have reached out to Facebook, but have yet to receive a response. This leads many of us to wonder at whose behest this was done.
Incidentally, Project Runway re-aired the episode, shortened, and with some of Ven’s comments and actions deleted out. Their producer did reach out to Terri and invited her to the season finale. She has accepted. I say good for her. She should go on that show, head held high, and rocking her terrific new look.
UPDATE: Terri’s Facebook Page called “Terri’s Redemption” is back! No word from Facebook on where it went. In any event, you can join it and show your support here.
UPDATE NO. 2: Now that Terri’s page is back up, I see that another former Project Runway contestant, Suede has also offered to make an outfit for Terri. So I’m giving him a shout-out. Sorry Suede, for not mentioning you earlier, you’re awesome!