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Project Runway recap: Stage Presence

The designers try to wow guest judge Bob Mackie with a showstopper number worthy of Christina Aguilera, and modest mouse Carol wins the big cheese

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Irina Shabayeva
Mike Yarish/Lifetime Networks

Project Runway

TV Show
Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen
Current Status:
In Season



If last week I was jumping off the high-dive into my beer stein to forget the injustice of Epperson’s elimination, this week I’m bustin’ out the bubbly to celebrate the return of my favorite judge. Waaaaahoooo! Nina, you weresorely missed. It is positively splendid to have you back. What’s more, in returning to your rightful seat, you did not disappoint. You threw icy glares, you worked in a killer remark (”That was taste…less”), and you summed up this week’s batch of designs with biting accuracy: ”I am worried that everything I have seen here is something that has been done and seen before.” Brava, Señora!

Now, I haven’t been over the moon about most of this season’s challenges (Macy’s — cough, cough) but this one was pretty cool. Finally, a task meant to create some put-on-a-show drama, with costumes so BIG and DRAMATIC and (Heidi’s favorite) SHINY that the folks in the cheap seats — nay, the little green residents of outer space — could appreciate every last little glimmer of glitz. The Sultan of Sequins Bob Mackie could not have been clearer: This is not precious fashion, kids. No need to bother with that tedious wearability bunk. Instead, he said, imagine you’re designing for a ”goddess from some mythological kingdom.” In other words, rock this f—er out, bitches!

The sight of Mackie in the flesh, combined with the idea of ”international pop star and fashion icon” Christina Aguilera as client, put everyone in a jolly ole mood. Then there was Nicolas, whose excitement was on another plane altogether. Guy needed Betty Draper’s fainting couch. The hands! Fluttering over his face! The eyes! Nearly popping out of his head! Once he’d pulled himself together, Nicky launched predictably into self-congrats: ”This challenge, I am going to blast the industry with my knowledge.” (BLAST! WITH HIS KNOWLEDGE!) ”You give me some sequins, some lace and some feathers and I will create you a couture garment.”

Irina, of course, needed little prodding to offer up assessments of her competitors. She dissed those with a ”deer-in-the-headlights look,” which included Shirin. ”I just don’t know why Shirin is still here,” she sneered. ”Way better designers than her are out and Shirin is still here. Her design sensibility is very sort of bargain basement. I just don’t even see her as a designer, even.” Nice. Later, Irina sank her fangs into Carol Hannah, dismissing her material as ”some cheap, crappy-looking Halloween costume fabric” and venting to her model: ”Carol Hannah, the little one, the blonde, annoys the f— out of me. She’s so mediocre. If you’re mediocre, at least have a great personality.” Hilarious that Irina is evaluating other people’s likability, no? Props to Nicolas for this observation: ”Irina’s actually a very good designer. The only problem with her is that she’s a bitch.”

I don’t agree with Irina’s outright dismissal of Shirin — she did win the second challenge and has made some lovely designs this season — but I can’t deny that the perky brunette was visibly overwhelmed by the Mackie-Aguilera extravaganza. Perhaps the Sultan of Sequins was giving her unpleasant flashbacks to last week’s Cher moment (”HALF-BREED!”). It is, after all, impossible not to hear Bob Mackie’s name and not think of that belly-baring porcupine get-up that the woman once married to Sony Bono wore to the 1986 Oscars. In any case, Shirin was in trouble. And she knew it. Tim thought her so-called ”Hollywood, 1940s glamour look” was ”Guinevere meets Vampira.” Then, after admitting he liked exactly zilch about her dress, he uttered the dreaded p word:”It looks like it’s for a 16-year-old’s really bad prom.” Oh, how it burns!

NEXT: Gordana has a meltdown