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'Project Runway' exit interview: 'I don't share the same aesthetic as Heidi Klum, nor do I aspire to.'

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SPOILER ALERT! If you have not watched last night’s episode of Project Runway and do not want to know who was auf’d, avert your eyes and click elsewhere. Reading further here will just cause you to go ballistic in the comments section below. And no, the picture accompanying the interview after the jump is not a spoiler because it appears after the jump.

He did a killer Michael Kors impression, won the elements challenge, and produced some gorgeous filigree work. But last night, Jonathan Peters got the ax after his draped mini-dress failed to make the cut. We spoke to the Rhode Island-based designer about the judges’ nasty behavior towards him, a “distracted” Heidi Klum, and the perils of kimono sleeves. Enjoy.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling after last night’s episode?

JONATHAN PETERS: Oh, I’m fine. I’m glad that I got some funny things in, got a Heidi impression. I started referring to it as a game show when I was getting kicked off, and they were really pissed. They were like, “It’s a competition.” I was like, “Well, I’m on TV, I’m vying for a prize, I’m playing a game — isn’t this a game show?”

There’s a pretty blond woman…

Yeah, exactly — presenting things in sparkly outfits.

Who was miffed when you said game show? Producers?

It was in my exit interview. It’s the day after you get kicked off and they’re asking all these in-depth questions and trying to probe your soul, and I’m just tired and bitter and like, “I just want to sleep.” I have a tendency to be a little salty when I’m tired. It’s probably not the best time to interview me.

You came off as very gracious. You said you weren’t surprised that you were eliminated.

I wasn’t surprised. I will never say that my elimination was unjust. I won’t say it was unfounded. It completely made sense. I was a little bummed out that I couldn’t pull one last trick out of my sleeve. But it is what it is. I also think that the judges had about enough of me. And I think that was more personal than it was about my work.

Are you referring to the beat-down they gave you last week? I found that appalling.

Thank you. From the very beginning, I think the judges tend to pigeonhole the designers as one thing or another. Like, you’re the guy with the taste issue, or you’re the guy with poor construction, or you’re the guy with the this or the that. I think they had a feeling that I was arrogant from the very beginning. Their behavior on episode 10, the “Hey, That’s My Fabric,” was appalling, completely unprofessional, and basically juvenile. But I think that was just a manifestation of what they probably had been feeling about me for a while.

I’ve loved the show from day one and I’ve never seen them behave like that. It was just mean.

Yeah. The response on a lot of blogs that I’ve seen has been really supportive and wonderful. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they may not watch the show again because they found it… I guess disgusting is the word. And I definitely felt it standing up there. It seemed to just anger them that I was trying to defend my design, which I thought the Q&A was about. Why are there Q’s if there are no A’s?

Well anyway, screw them!

[Laughs] You said it! I didn’t!

Back to last night. Do you regret changing your original design after Heidi and Tim dropped by?

The one thing that I regret is that I didn’t stay true to myself as a designer. I wish that I had gone down in a blaze of glory with a design that was my own. I don’t share the same aesthetic as Heidi Klum, nor do I aspire to. She had mentioned what Roland Mouret had said to me during the challenge that I won. He said I have a very natural talent for draping. That’s why she asked for her dress to be all completely draped, which obviously takes hours and hours and hours.

Did Tim say anything during those workroom visits or just Heidi?

Tim actually came around before Heidi, but he kept his critique that time very concise. So he wanted to see if we were in a good enough direction to have consults with Heidi. She’s not any easy person to present something to.


I think she’s a little distracted. While you’re trying to tell her about something, she’s like, [in a high-pitched Heidi voice] “What’s this? What’s this for? Where does this go? Why do the boobs look like that?” Emilio’s dress, he was sewing a chain into the hem because you have to weight a bias-cut dress. And so she’s like, “What’s this chain? Where’s this going?” He’s like, “You’re not going to see that.” She’s like, “Where? Why? Where is it?” It was all over the place. It was funny because even when they walked in to do the interviews with Heidi, Tim said, “We’re going to see Jonathan first.” She goes, “Hi, Seth Aaron!” and literally walks over to Seth Aaron. The camera guys were ballistic.

How do you feel about you were portrayed? When I interviewed Amy, she suggested your sense of humor had been given short shrift.

I say this all the time. It’s not Project Personality. I’m the buh-dum-dun kind of guy because I want to alleviate the stress and the pressure. I don’t want everybody to feel like they’re in Project Sweatshop. They showed me doing the Michael Kors voice, but we all [did that]. Actually Janeane was probably the best at it. When we did the Marie Claire challenge, we were standing just backstage and we heard the judges ask Heidi which outfits she liked. And she said, [in Heidi voice], “Well, I like this one, I like this one, I like this one.” Apparently, one of them was mine, which was a shorts romper with a kimono sleeve. I hear Nina go, “A kimono sleeve?” and Michael Kors go, “Oh, god, no!” So we used to joke and Seth Aaron actually would say a lot of time, “A kimono sleeve? Oh, god!” When I was doing my Michael Kors impression, that’s why I made a joke that I was going to make my seven-year old a shorts romper with a kimono sleeve.

Right, it was Memoirs of a Geisha meets…

Barney. And “She looks like a seven-year-old waitress at Benihana.” Everybody was funny. I just think maybe they had to choose a personality star and everyone decided that would be Anthony — deservedly so. He makes me laugh until my gut hurts. But sometimes some of the best stuff was left out. We used to zing each other in our interviews on purpose and come back and tell each other. I think it was the red dress challenge, Jesse said in his interview, “I hope Amy washed that dress before she put it on the runway because she pulled it out of her ass.” We’re like, “Oh my god, that’s hysterical! We hope they put that it!” It wasn’t put in.

I’ll put it in this interview. How about that?

Okay, perfect.

Who are you rooting for now?

Oh god… Can I say no one? No, I’m just kidding. Emilio was my roommate, and I understood Emilio even though he was kind of painted as a villain. He’s really not, he’s just really introverted. So I do like Emilio. But I have to say, Seth Aaron is a great guy. The fact that he supports his family with this, winning could really give him money that he would need to do this with a family.

What’s next for you? Maya said you both were doing StyleWeek Providence.

Yes, StyleWeek Providence is my next large happening. I’m also working on a charity project in May with Housing Works. And I’m working with my clients. Really, I’m using the visibility [from the show] and working with my publicist to grow my career to the next level. Some people define themselves by this competition. I’m not one of those people.