Archive for category Visual/ Performance Art

STEELE INTERVIEWS: Nikki Glaser

“I think the most aggravating part is people who write off women immediately for being not funny or that all they talk about is their vaginas. We have vaginas so we’re going to talk about them. I don’t want those people to enjoy me anyway because they’re just dumb.” –Nikki Glaser

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I first noticed comedian Nikki Glaser when I saw the documentary I Am Road Comic in 2014. I then started following her on twitter and quickly became a fan. Last year’s show Not Safe with Nikki Glaser turned into must-see television as she explored sex and dating in a fascinating and fun manner while also powerfully elucidating rape culture.

Glaser approaches comedy in a fresh, engaging manner. She’s genuine, passionate and if I had a girl squad I’d want her in it. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and earned a degree in English literature from University of Kansas. I spoke with Nikki over the weekend about feminism, dating and the presidential election.

Amy Steele: You got into comedy at 18?

Nikki Glaser: That’s the first time I did it. It was my freshman year of college and my friends really pushed me to do it because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and they kept saying, ‘you should be a comedian.’ I gave it a shot at a talent showcase on my campus and it went really well and I thought this is what I’ll do forever. So it is.

Amy Steele: What do you like about it?

Nikki Glaser: I always stick with things I’m good at naturally and I had a knack for it. I was good at writing jokes from the beginning. not great but I had potential. so that was a good reason to keep doing it.

One of my favorite things about doing stand-up is the people you get to know and meet and be in the same industry as. It’s a relatively small industry and I’ve met great friends and  the funniest, smartest people through it. I’m in the company of all these people that I think are so great.

The stage is a nice place to let out your anger and it’s my only creative space to do that. I can’t paint about a break-up or write a song so it’s nice. You get to say whatever you want and no one stops you. I love the honesty of it.

Amy Steele: What are the greatest challenges with being a woman in comedy? You’re also really active on twitter about politics and feminism.

Nikki Glaser: I think the most aggravating part is people who write off women immediately for being not funny or that all they talk about is their vaginas. We have vaginas so we’re going to talk about them. I don’t want those people to enjoy me anyway because they’re just dumb.

I don’t see any hard parts about being a woman. I know that there’s discrimination and we don’t get enough opportunities but I love being a woman in stand-up being able to speak for a group of people who don’t often get to speak up about stuff. This new wave of feminism is really exciting and I like riding that wave.

Amy Steele: I list that I’m a feminist on my website and social media profiles and get ‘what type of feminist are you?’ when I’m trying to date.

Nikki Glaser: I read Jessica Valenti’s Sex Object and I love what she said in it about angry feminists: Wouldn’t you be angry?

Why shouldn’t we be angry? If you’re going to write a woman off because of that you’re a fucking idiot. I don’t shy away from being any kind of adjective feminist. Of course I’m angry. If you look at the injustice and how this election went you have to be angry. I’m a furious feminist. That sounds better because of the alliteration.

Amy Steele: Furious feminist. I like that. If you’re not angry and upset and affected by things then nothing’s going to change.

Nikki Glaser: It’s just a way for them to diminish us. When I’m in a relationship, I’m so afraid of being called a nag. We’re so scared of being stereotyped that way and being labeled those things when women misbehave.

Amy Steele: There are guys who might question it but then they agree with the basic definition of feminism. Then he’s an ally or a feminist. I wouldn’t date someone who was not. He might not walk around saying he’s a feminist.

Nikki Glaser: My ex-boyfriend– when we got into arguments with his family about women’s reproductive rights I remember him saying to his brother: ‘you don’t have any right to speak on this because you’re not a woman.’ I told him it was the hottest thing he’s ever said. I love feminist men. I think a lot of us should put our foot down about that.

Amy Steele: That’s why someone like Cory Booker is amazing. Right now with the Planned Parenthood de-funding …

Nikki Glaser: It’s just ignorance and religion. A mixture of those things. I love Cecile Richards. I’m so inspired by her. It just seems so daunting. All these fucking men are so angry. It all comes down to them not wanting women in charge of anything: not their bodies; not the government; nothing. It’s so maddening. I’ve been reading celebrity news right now because I can’t take the news. I’m back to being the way I was at 17. I can’t walk around in a perpetual state of anger.

Amy Steele: NPR is okay and I feel somewhat soothed by the things I hear on NPR. I usually watch Maddow or listen to the podcast and I can’t right now.

Nikki Glaser: It’s a bad time right now. My boyfriend and I broke up the night before the election. I thought ‘Hillary is going to win and this is a seminal election and I’m becoming an independent woman tomorrow. This’ll be the first day I’m single and I’m taking back my life.’ Then that night I thought everybody was going through a break-up with me. It was like September 12.

Amy Steele: I volunteered at Hillary’s campaign in New Hampshire and then in Massachusetts, not as interesting as a swing state. It was devastating to sit in the campaign office with everyone that night crying. I was dating a guy at the time and he didn’t even call me. My therapist couldn’t believe it. From then on I thought ‘red flag. This is not cool.’

Nikki Glaser: What the fuck. That’s unacceptable. He should have a stamp on him. Scarlet letter. He’s an asshole. It was devastating for so many of us and I can only imagine being at the campaign.

Amy Steele: You have a new album?

Nikki Glaser: My album came out in April but I have a whole new hour of material. I’m going to tape something for Netflix coming up in February. I don’t really do anything from the album so people won’t hear a repeat.

Amy Steele: So, a mix of sex and politics…

Nikki Glaser: and my dog. Sex, relationships, pretty much what’s going on in my life. I feel like every time I talk about my material I feel that it’s about being at an age and feeling I’m younger than that age, the responsibilities of my age. I always feel stunted. This special I have is dogs that I’m going to talk about. But in a fresh way. Yeah, I’m going to talk about dogs in a fresh way. I’m excited about it.

If you’re in the Boston area– Nikki Glaser performs Saturday, January 14, 2017, The Wilbur. 246 Tremont Street, Boston, Mass., thewilbur.com.

 

 

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TV preview: Project Runway Junior

model/ host Hannah Davis and mentor Tim Gunn

model/ host Hannah Davis and mentor Tim Gunn

I suppose we shouldn’t mention Project Runway: Threads. I liked it because I like seeing young creative people. Guess it was a dry run for this new show. Project Runway: Threads was quite disjointed. The surprise challenge didn’t make much sense and Vanessa Simmons too low-key as host. So now there’s Project Runway Junior (#ProjectRunwayJunior) which features aspiring designers ages 13 to 17. Emmy® Award winner Tim Gunn will mentor the designers as well as co-host alongside supermodel Hannah Davis. Judges are: Kelly Osbourne, designer Christian Siriano and executive fashion editor at Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine Aya Kanai.

Christian Siriano, Tim Gunn, Hannah Davis, Aya Kanai and Kelly Osbourne

Christian Siriano, Tim Gunn, Hannah Davis, Aya Kanai and Kelly Osbourne

The December 10th episode will feature a special video appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama to announce a challenge with Lands’ End that will support Let Girls Learn, a Presidential Initiative which includes a collaboration with the Peace Corps that helps adolescent girls around the world go to school and stay in school. The Project Runway Junior designers will create a design that will be used and sold on LandsEnd.com.

The winner of Project Runway Junior will receive a full scholarship to the prestigious FIDM in California, a complete home sewing and crafting studio provided by Brother, a feature in Seventeen Magazine and a $25,000 cash prize to help launch their line.

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In the first episode of Project Runway Junior the challenge is a “First Impressions” challenge where the designers sketch and take photos from a roof deck with New York as inspiration. The show now reminds me of Master Chef Jr. with similar challenges to adult versions of the show. These competitors all excel at what they do for their ages. it’s toned down a bit but it’s still as entertaining. Kelly Osbourne and Aya Kanai contribute quite a bit as judges. Christian Siriano doesn’t appeal to me but apparently the Project Runway family loves him because he keeps getting brought on to judge shows. I just don’t find he has all that much personality. I can think of many other previous Project Runway designers I’d like to see as judges. Tim Gunn comes in to provide constructive feedback. He’s a positive influence. Project Runway: Threads tried to be its own show and didn’t model itself too much on Project Runway and that didn’t work. Here the show sticks to what works. All these kids are in the know about the show, the designers and current celebrities.

Project Runway Junior designers are:

Bridget

Bridget

Bridget
Age: 16
Hometown: Brockton, MA
Favorite Designers: The Blonds, Preen Fall
Design Aesthetic: Outrageous Glam

Jaxson

Jaxson

Jaxson
Age: 15
Hometown: Minneapolis, KS
Favorite Designers: Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Siriano, Louis Vuitton
Design Aesthetic: Vibrant and Playful

Jesse

Jesse

Jesse
Age: 16
Hometown: Swampscott, MA
Favorite Designers: Alexander McQueen, Tome, Christopher Kane, Proenza Schouler, Vivienne Westwood, Valentino, Emilio Pucci
Design Aesthetic: Polished and Modern

Matt

Matt

Matt
Age: 17
Hometown: Manhattan Beach, CA
Favorite Designers: Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace
Design Aesthetic: Upscale and Sassy

Maya

Maya

Maya
Age: 13
Hometown: Toledo, OH
Favorite Designers: Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors
Design Aesthetic: Edgy & Eccentric

Peytie

Peytie

Peytie
Age: 15
Hometown: Carlsbad, CA
Favorite Designers: Anna Sui
Design Aesthetic: California Lifestyle

Samantha

Samantha

Samantha
Age: 16
Hometown: Queens, NY
Favorite Designers: Paula Gerbase, Stella Ishii, Jonathan Simkhai
Design Aesthetic: Sleek Streetwear

Sami

Sami

Sami
Age: 16
Hometown: Westlake Village, CA
Favorite Designers: Zac Posen, Elie Saab, Paolo Sebastian, Ralph & Russo
Design Aesthetic: Feminine and Elegant

Victoria

Victoria

Victoria
Age: 17
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Favorite Designers: Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen
Design Aesthetic: British-Inspired Punk

Ysabel

Ysabel

Ysabel
Age: 17
Hometown: Cerritos, CA
Favorite Designers: Alexander Wang, Jeremy Scott, Samantha Plasencia
Design Aesthetic: Street Chic

Zachary

Zachary

Zachary
Age: 16
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Favorite Designers: Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Valentino, Iris Van Herpen, On Aura Tout Vu
Design Aesthetic: The Darker Side of Elegance
–previously appeared on Project Runway: Threads

Zach

Zach

Zach
Age: 15
Hometown: Louisville, KY
Favorite Designers: Zuhair Murad, Elie Saab, Vera Wang
Design Aesthetic: Feminine Hollywood Glam

Project Runway Junior premieres Thursday, November 12, at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime.

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: fashion designer Kelly Dempsey [Project Runway]

Project Runway contestant Kelly Dempsey

Project Runway contestant Kelly Dempsey

Fresh, honest, vivacious Boston fashion designer Kelly Dempsey is in the final four of Project Runway S14. The pretty and talented 31-year-old Bostonian has two consecutive wins including the Avant Garde Challenge [Kelly says: “that was my favorite dress so far I couldn’t wait for it to go down the runway
”]. She also won the Unconventional Challenge which puts her at three wins overall and in a solid spot at this point in the competition.

Kelly's winning Avant Garde design inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge

Kelly’s winning Avant Garde design inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge

Her style is edgy
blending street chic and vintage. I’ve been rooting for her from the first episode and not just because she’s from Boston like me. Her infectious positive attitude makes her such a delightful person. Like many cool Bostonians,  Kelly balances her independence and outspokenness with a sweet caring spirit.

another winning design by Kelly

another winning design by Kelly

I recently interviewed Kelly by phone where we bonded over our love of thrifting and The Middle East Club in Cambridge, Mass.

Amy Steele: How did you get into fashion designing?

Kelly Dempsey: Growing up my mom had a craft store in our house she was a very crafty woman and she made a lot of stuff and I kind of grew up watching her design I feel like a lot of clothes we had were second hand clothes like I kind of wanted to be different it was a small town and I didn’t want people to know I was wearing old clothes so I began designing my own things at 8 or 9 (years old)

Amy Steele: You haven’t had training or gone to school for fashion design?

Kelly Dempsey: I went to Mass College of Art for one year. I wanted to try all the avenues. I ended up not finishing because I had already gone so far and I continued on my own to get things moving.

Amy Steele: Where did you learn how to sew and develop techniques?

Kelly Dempsey: A lot of trial and error. I am always learning and you kind of teach yourself whatever you want to learn to mold yourself as a designer. Whatever I am curious about learning I do research on the internet and practice.

Amy Steele: Do you have your own company or line?

Kelly Dempsey:  I do. It was Kelly Couture for a while and I was making a lot of one of a kind designs. I wanted to do my new brand which is Rack Addik — a ready-to-wear urban street glam line . . . and fanny packs.

Amy Steele: Why do you like fashion and fashion designing?

Kelly Dempsey:  I feel like I’m a super creative individual. My mind is always going a million miles a second I do like all different kinds of art. I think fashion is the one I get the most excited about. A painting you just hang it on your wall and look at it and no one sees it. When you see people it’s your first impression of someone. I’m just very outgoing and like to embrace that and add it into my clothes

Kelly Dempsey sketching by the Brooklyn Bridge for the Avant Garde challenge

Kelly Dempsey sketching by the Brooklyn Bridge for the Avant Garde challenge

Amy Steele: What inspires your designs?

Kelly Dempsey: It’s the hardest question people ask and I don’t really have an answer.   Anything and everything inspires me. I just feel it comes from within and I’m super motivated with fashion design and I love it. Seeing different perspectives from different designers I just love the whole process of it.

Amy Steele: Who are some designers you admire?

Kelly Dempsey:  Alexander McQueen. Jeremy Scott. Betsey Johnson.

Amy Steele: Who are you designing for?

Kelly Dempsey: I feel like my market is not 90% of the people…it’s very youthful…the girl is young and she wants to stand out and look amazing all at the same time …demographically I’d say 15 to 35.

Amy Steele: How would you describe yourself as a designer?

Kelly Dempsey: I think as a designer I definitely have that craft store/thrift store embedded in me. I design very eclectic/ in your face but sexy and fun all at the same time.

Amy Steele: What’s it like being a designer in Boston? How does it affect you being a designer in Boston versus New York or LA?

Kelly Dempsey: If I was in Kansas it would suck because you have to go so far to get to any fashion capital…being in Boston it’s so easy to get to New York I could drive there right now…Boston is great because Boston needs me to launch my brand here. It needs more edgy designs. That’s my goal.

When you’re sifting through dollar bins you see things to put together that don’t necessarily belong together. I think it is part of my brain to see things differently. I’d rather be myself and have some people not like me than to be someone I’m not happy with.

Amy Steele: You’re tough.

Kelly discusses her design with PR mentor Tim Gunn

Kelly discusses her design with PR mentor Tim Gunn

Amy Steele: What have you learned being on Project Runway?

Kelly Dempsey: I have learned so much being on Project Runway. I think the experience of working with people who have been in the industry and talking with the other designers I have learned so much. I got more information here in one second than I did in my entire life. You talk to people who live it. Being on the show I had no idea of how I would do. That was like the most crazy thing where I am at this point– I feel being myself is what got me through. I didn’t conform. I took what the judges said and I added it to me. When I get out of here I’m going to need a market.

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Amy Steele: What’s the best part of being on the show?

Kelly Dempsey:  I feel like I’ve been struggling and trying to make this work for so long that I needed this in my life to take it to the next level. This is the best opportunity I could have gotten. Being here and making it to the final four is a dream to me. I feel like I have a lot of confidence but this has pushed me to a whole other level.

Kelly's winning design for the Unconventional Challenge

Kelly’s winning design for the Unconventional Challenge

Amy Steele: What are your favorite places in Boston?

Kelly Dempsey: I’m a huge baseball fan– I love Fenway Park. I really like the Charles River on Storrow Drive. There’s a path there by the water…it’s somewhere I can go and center myself. For the last thing I have to say the Middle East in Cambridge Downstairs because I’m a huge hip-hop fan.

Amy Steele: Thank you Kelly and best of luck! We’ll have to go thrifting. I’ll see you on twitter and Instagram.

Kelly Dempsey: Thank you.

**If you like my interviews and coverage of Lifetime TV programs (as well as books and music) please donate so I can keep going. Donation button to right. Thank you.**

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: comedian [and founder of stand-up showcase Broad Appeal] Christa Weiss

  

I met the very funny, smart and lovely Christa Weiss when she was performing at V to Shining V. Graphic designer by day and stand-up comic at night, Christa Weiss started Broad Appeal– a comedy showcase that consists primarily of female comics–a year ago. Broad Appeal celebrates its first anniversary at The Armory in Somerville, Mass. on Thursday, October 8, 2015.

Amy Steele: How did you get into stand-up? 

Christa Weiss: I’ve watched standup since I was a little kid and I’ve always loved writing & performing. Standup always seemed kind of inaccessible to me when I was younger because I grew up in a smaller city and had only seen it on tv. The first comedian I saw live was John Stewart in a giant ampitheater. It was amazing but actually pursing standup seemed impossible. When I moved to Boston I started going to live shows regularly at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. Seeing comedy in intimate setting made me realize it was something I could realistically pursue. I started going to open mics and got addicted immediately.

Amy Steele: What do you like about being a comedian?

  

 

Christa Weiss: I love writing and performing and being able to say exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. I work in a creative field during the day, but my work is largely dictated by what my clients want, so it’s really nice to have full creative control. I love silliness but I also want that silliness to mean something. I love being able to combine the two. 

Also, many of my closest friends are comics and it’s nice to be surrounded by a community of like-minded weirdos. Comedy is kind of the Island of Misfit Toys or the new punk rock, depending on how optimistic you’re being. 

Amy Steele: It’s been discussed often that women aren’t funny although Tina Fey, Margaret Cho, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Nikki Glaser, Mindy Kaling and tons of others make it clear women are definitely funny. Still late night talk shows, stand-up and the comedy world remain dominated by men. Why? (As an entertainment/music critic I think women aren’t appreciated in many areas of entertainment though stand-up seems particularly harsh.)



Christa Weiss: Haha. People are defiantly a lot more vocal about their opinions of female comedians. (Fuck you, the Internet. Go call your Mom.) I think there are a lot of reasons. In general, if a woman wants to go into the performing arts they generally lean more towards theater or music. I think that’s mostly personal preference. On top of that there’s a lot of logistical things. Being in a male dominated environment can be very intimidating to some people. The college I went to was 75% male so that was never really an issue for me. 

I think the gap is starting to close, which is great. There are more women doing comedy than ever. However, that’s not always represented on stage or TV. I think a lot more people realize that women can be funny to more than just other women, but the entertainment industry is a business, and not one that particularly wants to take risks. If a straight white guy always brings in money, I don’t think think they see the need to change the formula. 

Amy Steele: Why did you start Broad Appeal? What has the reception been like?


Christa Weiss:
A few reasons. There are a lot of really strong female comics out there and I really want to showcase their talent. A lot of places are afraid to put more than one or two women on a show, for fear that it’ll be too….womany? Unfortunately, this means there’s less work to go around. It seems crazy to me, but you’ll almost never see a show with the acts 50% male and 50% female without someone making a big deal about it.

I thought it would be fun to do a reverse of that- book mostly women and one or two ‘token males.’ I wanted to create a female-focused show that guys would also want to go to. Sometimes all female shows have a ‘girls only vibe’ which is fine, but if you want to prove that women are funny its not a great idea to not bother inviting the part of the audience you’re trying to prove something to. 
I’m happy to say that the show has been really well received by both men and women, comics and audience members alike. I make it a point to showcase strong acts with unique points of view and none of that ‘fighting with my husband about leaving the toilet seat down’ type of thing. I get a broad (HA!) audience of cool open-minded people from many different walks of life, which is exactly what I was going for. 

Amy Steele: What can people expect at the Broad Appeal anniversary show on Thursday?

Christa Weiss: I run a showcase style show, with a female headliner. We’ve got an amazing lineup for Thursday with Bethany Van Delft, of Comedy Central and NickMom. We’ve also got Dan Crohn from Last Comic Standing as well as several fantastic comics who’ve been in some amazing festivals like the Boston Comedy Festival, WICF, The Seattle International Comedy Festival and Bridgetown. 

The Women in Comedy Festival (WICF) will be there recording the show and doing interviews with the comedians after the show. We also lightly sexually harass the male comics but they all know what they’re getting into and it’s all in good fun. Also there will be candy. The candy bowl is very important.
Amy Steele: What challenges do women in comedy face?



Christa Weiss: Comedy is hard for everyone, male and female. I think the challenges you run into as a female comic are a little different. You have to work a lot harder to get people to take you seriously. If you’re the ‘token female’ on the show you kind of represent all women, which means there’s a lot a pressure to do well. If a guy bombs, he sucked, if a woman bombs all women suck. 

Amy Steele: Which comics do admire?
Christa Weiss: Maria Bamford, Chelsea Peretti, Patton Oswalt, Mike Birbiglia, John Stewart, Sarah Silverman 

Amy Steele: What comedy specials and sitcoms would you recommend?
Christa Weiss: Maria Bamford’s Special Special Special is amazing. Instead of being filmed at a club, it’s filmed at her house and the only audience members are her parents. [AS note: directed and produced by Jordan Brady who also directed I Am Road Comic. Read my interview with Jordan Brady.] Feelin Kinda Patton by Patton Oswalt is one of the first comedy albums I got really really really into. The movie Sleepwalk With Me, directed/written/starring Mike Birgbilia is based on his storytelling and gives you some great insight on what it’s like to be a comedian. [AS: agreed. Very good.] The Sarah Sliverman Program is ridiculous and amazing and if you’re into history, Drunk History is hilarious. I’m also a big fan of animated stuff, so I love Home Movies, Bob’s Burgers and Rick and Morty. 

Broad Appeal Comedy Night One-Year Anniversary takes place Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 8pm at Arts at the Armory, Somerville.

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TV RECAP: Project Runway All-Stars S4.Ep12

FOUR designers remain this week: Helen Castillo; Michelle Lesniak; Dmitry Sholokhov; Sonjia Williams

This week’s challenge: create dazzling red carpet gowns to be remembered forever

Of course this is tied-in to an upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic and the actress playing Marilyn introduces the challenge via video.

“It’s red carpet. It’s what I do,” says Helen.She’s designing something with a cap sleeve again. Helen purchases a beaded fabric in a mint julep color. Sonjia wants to design a dress with “bow that’s in your face.” She chooses several gold fabrics. “I want a moody romance,” Michelle explains. She spends her entire budget on one fabric, a silk burnout velvet. Dmitry buys off-white lace and white fringe which he plans to tea dye to match the fabric.

Helen in the workroom

Helen in the workroom

In the workroom, Michelle and Dmitry tell Helen that her fabric doesn’t have enough sparkle. She flips out a bit. She says: “I bought Chantilly beaded lace. You’re going to tell me, the girl that has made a Grammy performance gown [for a performer I’ve never heard of] that my fabric is not sparkly.”

Isaac Mizrahi arrives to interrupt the designers with a mini-challenge. He says he wants to introduce a legend. “She’s been saving the day in Hollywood for 75 years.” In trots Lassie. [Lifetime is paying the bills yet again.] The winner will be designing for Lassie. Well-trained Lassie delivers the gift bags to each designer which include fabric and their themes and rescue dog assignments. Helen gets sci-fi; Michelle has Western; Dmitry gets gangster and Sonjia receives musical comedy.

Lassie!

Lassie!

Mini-challenge: design a piece of movie-themed canine couture

Michelle who has yet to win a challenge wins.

Michelle with the rescue dog

Michelle with the rescue dog

Back to work on the main challenge, Zanna arrives for critiques in a fabulous outfit but with terrible hair. Why doesn’t she do something about her hair? Her clothes always look spectacular. Her hair looks overworked and dry. Dmitry’s never been in the bottom but Helen thinks his fringe dress looks like a “dirty mop.” Although Zanna thinks Helen’s dress is Victorian looking and too old-fashioned, Helen comments: “I’m feeling confident because I see black, I see dirty mop and I see cheap gold.”

eye candy: Dmitry in the workroom

eye candy: Dmitry in the workroom

Runway critiques

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Sonjia

design by Sonjia

design by Sonjia

“It feels dramatic and memorable.” –Isaac Mizrahi
“It’s impactful.” –Georgina Chapman

Michelle

design by Michelle

design by Michelle

“I think the textile is the star of this dress. I didn’t love the chain.” –Alyssa Milano
“This is the best you’ve done. It’s mysterious, where it’s lined. I can’t tell where you’ve lined and where you’ve left sheer. The back is enchanting.” –Isaac Mizrahi
“It’s very pretty. It’s a simple shape. The patterning doesn’f feel expensive.” –Georgina Chapman

Helen

design by Helen

design by Helen

“It’s a classic silhouette.” –Alyssa Milano
“Very safe but perhaps too safe.” –Georgina Chapman
“I love this dress. It didn’t move beautifully.” –Isaac Mizrahi

Dmitry

design by Dmitry

design by Dmitry

“This dress blew me away. Might be my favorite thing ever.” –Alyssa Milano
“It really looks like this is thousands of dollars. Your length is great.” –Georgina Chapman
“Beautiful dress but fringe is maybe not Oscar.” –Isaac Mizrahi

Dmitry is the WINNER

Sonjia is IN

Michelle and Helen must compete in a last minute challenge. They have to reinvent a look using at least three losing designs in an hour. Helen freaks out as she doesn’t like destroying other people’s designs.
Helen: “I can’t cut up somebody else’s work.” [but she can critique them.]
Michelle: “Well just cut up the really ugly stuff.”

Sadly Michelle is OUT. Helen is IN.

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TV: Project Runway S4.Ep11 RECAP

FIVE designers left this week: Helen Castillo; Fabio Costa; Michelle Lesniak; Dmitry Sholokhov; Sonjia Williams

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Designers head out over to the Marchesa showroom and Georgina Chapman and co-founder of Marchesa Keren Craig greet them to introduce the challenge. They meet a bride-to-be and will be assigned a bridesmaid for whom to design a dress. Alyssa Milano will officiate the wedding on the runway. Why? Because she can. And so the bride gets a free Marchesa wedding gown.

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This week’s challenge: design bridesmaid dresses suitable for multiple events

The winner will be a VIP at Marchesa during New York Fashion Week, receives beautiful china set as well as a Marchesa diamond ring.

The bride said her color choices are navy, plums, taupe and gray.

“I love love. I’m so excited for you,” Michelle gushes.

Helen says: “I love bridal so I’m so excited.”

They sketch at Marchesa until heading to Mood with a $150 budget. “I never know what my things will look like until I start working,” Sonjia admits.

During dinner Sonjia starts crying. “It’s hard to challenge yourself every single week to come up with a great design,” she explains. “I’m exhausted. It seems whatever I’m doing isn’t working.”

“Why did I pick this bitch organza?” Fabio laments

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“Looking around the room, I think mine is the most romantic here,” Michelle opines.

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“Everybody is more developed and everybody is more experienced. It’s the best of the best. So it’s harder to compete,” says Dmitry in maybe his most humble comment yet.

Michelle: “Helen’s three words are wool crepe, cap sleeve and lace. Every design that’s what she does.”

the judges with guest judge Cat Deeley

the judges with guest judge Cat Deeley

The critiques

HIGH SCORES

Helen
—says she designed a fit and flare

helen

“It’s really flattering.” –guest judge Cat Deeley
“It is a very nice dress. I just wanted a bit more.” –Georgina Chapman
“It’s really flattering but it a little heavy. It skews a bit older.” –Alyssa Milano
“Tasteful is good but I’m looking for a bit more here.” –Isaac Mizrahi

Sonjia
—wanted the bridesmaid to be comfortable and have fun in it

sonjia

“I’m conflicted. You got me thinking. It’s one of the more exciting dresses on the runway.” –Georgina
“I’m baffled. Too much drapery.” –Isaac
“I love that Studio 54 feel.” –Cat
“This was my favorite dress. I love this dress. I gave it the highest score of the day.” –Alyssa

LOW SCORES

Fabio
—said he wanted to design classic and modern simultaneously

fabio

“It’s a little bit of a departure for you. Hemline kinda a mess.” –Alyssa
“I love the shoulders but would like the sleeve to come down more.” –Cat

Michelle

michelle

“I’m getting a little phallic from this center applique piece and the bottom to me looks a little circus.” –Alyssa
There’s something unresolved about the sleeve and it’s a pretty ide what you’ve done. I appreciate that you pushed it a little bit. –Georgina
Later Georgina adds: “Michelle is onto something more interesting than Fabio.”

Dmitry
—aimed for elegant but modern

dmitry

“It’s so unattractive. I don’t know where to start. The Cleopatra neckline, the draping at the bottom.” –Isaac
“Not your best week All-Stars!” –Isaac
“There’s nothing new about this dress. –Georgina
Later Georgina calls it “offensively dull.”
“I kinda like this dress. But it’s safe.” –Cat

HELEN WINS

FABIO is ELIMINATED (after weeks in the bottom)

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: fashion designer Samantha Black [Project Runway All-Stars]

Samantha Black on Project Runway: All-Stars S4

Samantha Black on Project Runway: All-Stars S4

Samantha Black is cool. She stood out for me from the first episode of Project Runway S11 and I was rooting for her. I like her personal style and the clothes she designs. She’s laid back yet edgy. Plus she’s smart and genuine. The 28-year-old Brooklyn resident and Pratt Institute graduate runs two clothing companies Sammy B Designs and Samantha Black. In 2011, Black presented her first show at New York Fashion Week [NYFW]. Solange did the music for the show, attended and sat in the front row. “I’m really excited when people want to wear my clothes and people see it,” Black told me. She’s shown at NYFW nearly every season since. Named “designer to watch” by both Essence and Ebony magazine, Black created garments for celebrities such as Kerri Hilson, Brandi, LaLa Anthony and Angela Simmons. She’s back on Project Runway: All Stars which airs Thursdays at 9 pm on Lifetime.

I spoke to Sam by phone last week.

Amy Steele: I was a really big fan of yours during your season (11) so I’m so happy to speak with you. And I just really like your style and everything.

Samantha Black: Thank you!

fashion designer Samantha Black

fashion designer Samantha Black

Amy Steele: When did you get interested in fashion design?

Samantha Black: I always liked clothes and when I was 16 someone said I should take classes in fashion design. ‘You know you like to doodle.’ So I took a pre-college fashion design course and I loved it. And ever since I thought ‘I want to be a fashion designer.’

Amy Steele: Did you go to fashion school?

Samantha Black: I went to Pratt. I got a bachelors in fine arts but my major was fashion design.

Amy Steele: What did you take away from going to a design school?

Samantha Black: It’s actually really intense. At least Pratt’s program is really intense because you still have your liberal arts program and you have your major classes. [AS note: this sounds like Berklee College of Music] So fashion classes are six hours long. Serious projects. It’s a serious, intense program. You lose half the class. Pratt puts out more entrepreneurs. That’s the path I want to take eventually.

Amy Steele: What inspires your designs?

Samantha Black: I get inspired by art, architecture. I live in New York so you see such crazy style every day. Even my personal style. I dress funky one day and preppy another day. I wanted to create a line that embodies all those things because you can dress that one girl who likes a lot of things.

Amy Steele: I was going to say who are you designing for? So she sounds eclectic.

Samantha Black: She’s definitely an eclectic woman. She’s into all different kinds of music and culture and things like that. Some people say the IT Girl’s closet has to have something from each genre and that’s kind of my line all-in-one.

Amy Steele: So Sammy B is your line?

Samantha Black: I started off with Sammy B and I also have Samantha Black. Sammy B is a little more funky and easy to wear pieces. I’ve really been pushing my Samantha Black line for the last couple of years. In 2011 I started working on the Samantha Black line.

Amy Steele: And this is all on your own.

Samantha Black: I originally started in the industry working [corporate] and I did that for about four years. When they closed my division I started working on my own line. I started working freelance too. I don’t have any investors. All the money I make I literally put into my line. It’s a hard struggle to balance the two. Sometimes I freelance and have to go to an office depending on who the client is.

Amy Steele: What is your greatest challenge as a designer?

Samantha Black: It’s the business side. I definitely don’t think from that side of my brain. I’m an artist. Over the past few years I’ve taken business classes [Macy’s Business Program] so I can really up that side of my business for it to really be something. I’m getting into programs and learning how to be a fully functioning business. To really prosper I have to do it the right way. Budgets. From the ground up. It’s more important than designing because even if you have a good design, if you can’t get it sold . . .

Amy Steele: What is a little bit of your process? Are you setting aside specific time to design? Do you carry around a sketchbook?

Samantha Black: I have three sketchbooks in my purse right now. While I’m riding the subway I use it as my sketch time to try to get some ideas. I might have swatches in my bag. I like to get a few ideas and then I like to search the market. I get inspired by my fabrics. Then I start working on patterns and things like that.

Amy Steele: Who are some designers you admire?

Samantha Black: McQueen, LAMB, Alexander Wang. I think they’re young and hip and edgy at the same time.

design by Samantha for first challenge

design by Samantha for first challenge

Amy Steele: How would you describe yourself as a designer?

Samantha Black: I think I design feminine with an eclectic edge. I try to make the designs flatter a woman’s body and be sexy and be comfortable at the same time. Easy to wear. Details. I like prints. I like patterns. My clothes are a direct representation of my personality. The way I dress, the way I design. My personality comes out in my clothes. I’m usually the loud fun one.  I have a big personality. Sometimes I wonder if people can really see it on the show.

Amy Steele: It’s the editing but you can see it in your clothes. You said you’re loud but you seem very laid back. How are you under pressure?

Samantha Black: I’m very chill. I grew up with a lot of boys. I kinda grew up as a tomboy as well. I’m not really into drama at all. I could care less about it. I tell people how I feel right away so I never really talk behind someone’s back. People always know how I feel.

Amy Steele: What was your takeaway from season 11? [Season 11 was the Project Runway: Teams season]

Samantha Black: That season was a little different. A little interesting. Because things are happening so fast and you’re always so stressed out it’s hard to stay true to yourself as a designer all the time. It’s important to make something but always stay true to your vision at all times.

Amy Steele: What interested you in coming back for Project Runway All-Stars?

Samantha Black: Season 11 got a bad rap for being teams and the way it was set up. I wanted the experience of working by myself. I wanted the experience that every other season had. I didn’t make it where I wanted to in my season so it was another opportunity. This is people from seasons 10, 11 and 12 and Chris and Jay from the Bravo seasons. I kind of knew everyone’s skills and visions. It’s good knowing that.

design by Samantha for second challenge (unconventional)

design by Samantha for second challenge (unconventional)

Amy Steele: What is the best part of being on Project Runway?

Samantha Black: I love seeing people actually work. It’s a special thing to see other creatives in the same field and see how they work. In corporate fashion you’re on a computer. I’m the only one of my friends who has my own line so I don’t get to see others work. There aren’t that many of us that have our own lines. I don’t get the same out of it as everyone else does.

Past seasons were surprised by how close season 11 was. It ended up being the closest season. I think because of working in teams we had to get along. Other seasons you start off everyone to themselves. We’re a lot closer than other seasons. This season of all-stars we’re close. We are younger and newer seasons so we have a bond.

Amy Steele: Good luck with everything. It was really nice talking to you and I’ll talk to you on Twitter.

Samantha Black: Thank you. Have a great weekend.

You can follow Samantha on Twitter

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