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'Project Runway' exit Q&A: Kelli Martin

Season 5’s fifth auf’ed designer defends her design for Brooke Shields, regrets picking Daniel as a partner, and plans to take over the world

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Project Runway
Barbara Nitke

Sometimes Project Runway contestants are so glib after being auf’ed, but not Kelli Martin. She went home on Wednesday night’s show for creating a three-piece, partially leopard-print outfit that Michael Kors called ”slutty, slutty, slutty,” but she’s still got a lot of fire in her and was more than happy to trash what she calls Blayne and Leanne’s ”17-year-old juniors outfit.” Ouch. She phoned EW and told us she wishes she would have picked Stella instead of Daniel, who should have won the challenge, and lots more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling about how everything transpired? You said last night at the end of the episode that you were angry. Are you still feeling that way?

KELLI MARTIN: I’m slightly angry because I feel like I was shortchanged, but to be honest, I was over it, for the most part, the next day. I tried out for the show on a whim, so anything was great publicity. I’m definitely glad I did it, and, you know, I have no regrets at all.

The outfit went, when you pitched it, from being a one-piece to a two-piece. What happened there?

On the show, I did mention that if the whole full-length dress was too much, I could always cut it in half and then just have a little top and a pencil skirt — same idea but not as much leopard print. The jacket was pitched, as well. The jacket was going to go over the dress initially. She could take it off to transition into night. So when I did pitch cutting the dress into two pieces, she seemed to like that idea, so that’s what I went with.

Do you think having Brooke Shields tell you what she liked in that meeting made you too stuck on it and not be flexible when you realized it wasn’t working?

Right, but I pitched her the dress, and I went in with the option of making it two pieces, so I just kind of wanted to see which one she was more, you know, attracted to. Once that was kind of set in stone, I knew I could not stray from that because the judges would kill me. ”That’s not what you pitched!” So once I got the idea she wanted — and I was chosen as the leader — I knew I had to run with that because she chose me obviously for a reason.

NEXT PAGE: ”I think [Daniel] knew that my ass would be on the line and not his and kind of just didn’t care.”

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you wish you could have chosen Stella instead of Daniel?

KELLI MARTIN: Yeaaaaaaah, I do. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20.

Exactly. It’s so clear when you look back. What was the dynamic between you and Daniel? It seemed like he checked out from the beginning.

I chose him over Stella because he talks about his high-end taste and everything. I thought maybe he had something he could bring to the table that’s different than what I do. If I would have chosen Stella, we would have, you know, probably worked very well together, but it probably would have been a leather dominatrix suit. You know? I tried to do the right thing and choose Daniel. I really think as soon as he was close to the end of people not picking him, he was already pissed. You know what I mean? And he was paired with me. He wouldn’t even look at me. I was like, ”Come on! We can do it!” You know, just trying to encourage him. He wasn’t playing along. He just didn’t want to have it, but I mean, I tried to snap him out of it. But I think he knew that my ass would be on the line and not his and kind of just didn’t care.

Why do you think Daniel was picked nearly last for the challenge? He did very well in the first challenge, but he seems like maybe he’s lost steam.

I feel that’s pretty true. To me, at least, he has a vision of what he’s supposed to be or what he’s supposed to be designing or how he’s supposed to be looking or whatever the case may be. And he’s just not quite hitting that mark. I feel like he’s a little delusional. I really wanted to make it work. We’re complete opposites. That’s obvious. But you know, sometimes opposites can work really well together. That’s what I was hoping for. When you’re partnered with someone, you get a sense of their work ethic and how they actually do what they do. After that first attempt at a pencil skirt, I just knew that I made the wrong decision.

What’d you think of Blayne and Leanne’s outfit? Do you think that should have been the losing outfit?

Well, obviously! But I mean, it wasn’t a hideous outfit or anything, but it definitely, definitely, definitely, definitely, definitely did not meet the challenge. It was a 17-year-old juniors [department] outfit. No way would a fortysomething woman — or even a thirtysomething woman — wear that to the office. I don’t care where she works — even at Teen Vogue she wouldn’t wear that! Especially to transition to a nightclub. So considering it didn’t meet the guidelines of the episode and the challenge, I think it’s quite clear who should have gone home.

This season just seems crazy in general. You won the first challenge, and a few weeks later you’re going home. Is it anyone’s game?

I definitely think it’s anyone’s game. After every elimination, we were all completely shocked at the winners and the losers. Literally, jaw-dropping shock. So it really is anyone’s game. I’m interested to see what happens myself, to be honest.

The winning dress last night — were you shocked about that?

I’m not dissing it in anyway, but I don’t think it quite transitioned well. Just because you dropped the shoulders doesn’t mean you go from the workplace to a nightclub. And considering that it’d be on Brooke Shields — and she’s a tall, athletically-built woman — I think the skirt might be a little ill-fit or not flattering. I definitely think Jerell and Stella should have won.

Yeah, that outfit was stunning.

Yeah, I think it was really good. The fact that they used, I believe it was a silk charmeuse tank, that is really what classed it up for me.

Kelli, what are you up to now? Where can we find you?

Well, I have my clothing store, Black Market, in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Basically, it’s out of control, so I’m trying to get that managed, where I have people running the store who are trustworthy. I also just launched my website, www.anit-label.com, and I don’t quite have a collection up yet, but in the next couple of weeks, I should have everything up. I’m trying to tackle everything at once.

You’re busy!

I’m just going to continue to build my empire and take over the world, like I planned from birth!

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