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‘Project Runway’ Puts the Reality in Reality TV

For as long as I can remember, I have been guilty of loving, and maybe even obsessing over, reality TV. I genuinely cannot think of a time where part of my television habit didn’t include some sort of reality based show. In fact, one of the shows my mom and I almost consistently watched together was Project Runway, and I’ve been quoting Tim Gunn’s legendary phrase “Make it work” since I was in middle school.

I’ve always been the one in my school friend group, and even family, to know everything that is happening on all the shows I watch. And because I had been sucked into “reality” television so long ago, I no longer expected them to reflect my reality. Projected everywhere I looked were the perfectly cultivated ideal girls, with their straight shiny teeth, sculpted body and a seemingly endless amount of money to do with whatever they wanted. Growing up around that, it never truly affected me — I love breadsticks way too much to ever truly consider trying to look like that. However, I knew that it gave a false truth and needed to change.

Just two seasons ago, Project Runway gave me (and probably everyone else) hope. The winning designer, Ashley Nell Tipton, won with a collection made for and modeled by plus-sized models.

The clothes were like any other collection; in other words, fashionable. For too long, it seemed like women who wear “plus-sized” labeled clothing have had to sacrifice their individuality for items that fit their bodies. Not too long ago when comedian and SNL cast member Leslie Jones was promoting Ghostbusters, no designer would dress her for the red carpet because *gasp* they didn’t want to dress someone who did not resemble a mannequin.

All these events lead us to present day. It was just a typical Thursday when the new season of Project Runway aired. And it was clear that they weren’t there to mess around. On the first episode, designers were hit with the curveball that they no longer had typical models to work with throughout the season. For this season the models would consist of women of different sizes, shapes and heights, and they would have to work with a different model each challenge. What a beautiful representation of actual reality!

When I walk through campus, when I’m crowded in Turlington or sitting in the Hub, I see diversity at its finest; women of different color and nationality and shapes and sizes. It’s not the first time someone has said it; in fact, Project Runway judge Zac Posen just commented on it in a recent interview, saying that diversity is beauty. And if fashion is an outlet of expressing creativity and originality like it says it it, then it needs to celebrate the individuality of all those who wear it.

It is honestly refreshing to see a show of their caliber finally take on changing the narrative of television to be more inclusive of its viewers. Women will no longer have to watch Project Runway and wonder if those gowns would ever fit them; now, as they watch a model with a similar body type to their own strut down the catwalk, women at home will know they would look just as killer in that outfit.

Changing beauty standards is not only a great step in the right direction for reality TV but a necessary one. More shows like Project Runway, that reach millions of viewers, have the obligation to begin and continue to present us with relatable content. So I applaud you, Project Runway. You are promoting a revolution in the fashion industry that will encourage women of all ages, shapes and sizes to be proud of what they look like in their clothes.

On behalf of all of us,

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