24 August 2012

Project Runway made me want to run away

*Warning* Project Runway spoilers.

You'll have to bear with me as today's post doesn't really have much to do directly with PostPartum Depression, although the themes could tie in somewhat.

I'm a huge fan of Lifetime's television show Project Runway. I love to watch it every week and have it set up to record on DVR since it's pretty rare that I get to watch it when it's actually airing. I love seeing the challenges, the outfits the designers come up with, critiquing the designs, and trying to predict who will win and who will be "Auf'ed". Project Runway is one of the shows that I look forwards to watching each week, it's one of the totally unnecessary fluffy things that provides an entertaining and fascinating distraction each week from the stresses and exhaustion that come with pregnancy and taking care of two small children.

As much as I love my shows, it's extremely rare that one makes me truly and deeply angry but that is exactly what happened when I watched Project Runway last night. Last night's challenge was for the designers to give a regular (aka non-celebrity) client a makeover, complete with a trip to the hair and makeup teams and designing a new outfit for them. The clients were brought by a friend or family member. Great premise, right? Sounds like a fun and special experience, right?

For most of the clients and designers, it seemed to be. The designers had fun getting to design for an everyday woman and the women enjoyed getting a totally new look and getting to have a say in their own ensemble being designed, to say nothing of getting to model on the runway. Unfortunately, one designer blew his opportunity. Ven Budhu spent the entire episode "dogging" on his client (Terri), both to her face and behind her back, in fittings/consultations and in the workroom footage and the interview segments. He constantly made comments about what a "nightmare" her before picture was, how it wasn't fair that he had to design for a "plus sized woman" while other designers had clients who were closer to the models he's used to designing for, comments to her and her friend about how "Well this will be nice and slimming" and "All these belts are too small, I'll have to get a bigger one and hope it's big enough". CONSTANT remarks the ENTIRE show. Oh, and his idea of "Plus sized"? He estimated that she was a "size 14". Yeah, Size 14 is absolutely "Plus sized"...

He spent the entire episode being a 100% jerk and making his client feel like crap. She was literally in tears. Her friend was in tears when she described to the judges that Terri is a hardworking mother who drives 2 hours each way to her job, then putting in a full day's hard work, and taking care of her family at the end of the day. They wanted Terri to have a special experience and instead they got a designer who didn't ask questions, totally ignored what both of them were saying, designed an outfit that wasn't exactly the most flattering (and wasn't close to his normal standard of excellence, he didn't appear to want to put in the work to make his usual caliber of item), and spent the whole show demeaning and insulting her with snide comments. Even when he was talking to the judges, defending his design (when he was kept out in the bottom 3), he was still being a jerk. I wish I could say he was sent home but he got to stay.

His twitter feed has been full of tweets that show that he is thoroughly unrepentant and sees no issue with his attitude and remarks. The biggest irony of all: his client isn't as big as he makes her out to be AND he is definitely bigger than she is. What's that saying about pots and kettles? Ven made a beautiful woman feel like crap. He was insensitive and rude, to say the least.

I went to bed last night fuming but hoping that the posts I had put on Lifetime, Project Runway, and L'Oreal's Facebook walls would help me wake up a little calmer in the morning. They didn't. I woke up today and I'm still beyond furious.

At first I was asking myself "Why are you so upset about this?". I know some people think it's ridiculous to be this upset over a tv show, and I've asked myself if that's the case. What I'm realizing, though, is that this is about more than just a tv show. This is about a real woman who was, unfairly, demeaned and insulted on national tv. This is about anger over an injustice that actually occurred. Even more than that, it's about how this affects women around the world, including me.

I've come to realize that part of why this resonates so deeply with me is because I'm one of those "Plus sized" women Ven seems to have such disdain for. When Ven made his comments on the show, they didn't just hurt Terri, they hurt the rest of us around the world who are watching and going "But she's me.". Yes, I'm pregnant, and naturally I'm going to be larger than when I'm not pregnant, but through my 3 pregnancies I've gained weight that I've had trouble shaking.

Before my first pregnancy, I wore a size 4-6, sometimes an 8, depending on what the clothing item was and the brand (thanks to the fact that clothing manufacturers all seem to have their own method of determining sizes). I was pretty stinking slender. During my first pregnancy, I gained 75 lbs. and couldn't explain why. I ate pretty well, exercised as much as I could, etc. But still, I gained a lot of weight. I had no idea why. Later on, when we realized that the pregnancy had caused me to develop hypothyroidism, I learned that the PostPartum Depression wasn't the only side effect of the thyroid problems, the weight was part of it too. Since then, I've worked between pregnancies on losing weight and getting back in shape and then, naturally, I gain the weight back again while pregnant.

Before I ever even got pregnant, there was someone close to me who made a lot of nasty remarks to me about my weight and looks, calling me fat and ugly. This person occasionally makes snide remarks about my pregnancy weight too. Other people feel that it is their right to tell a pregnant woman when she's "gaining too much weight" or say things like "Should you be eating that?" and "Don't you think you should have a salad instead"? There was a McDonald's employee at the drive thru who was an insulting jerk when I bought a couple of S'Mores pies.

The old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is way off the mark. Words have the power to affect us in lasting ways. The incidents with the person who was so nasty to me growing up were YEARS ago but the words still sometimes hurt and cause me to doubt my looks and my self-worth (I'm working on not finding so much importance and self-worth in my physical appearance but it's still hard and still stings). When people say things like Ven said, IT HURTS.

The truth of the matter is, Ven didn't just hurt Terri with his actions, words, and attitude. Ven hurt so many of us who already struggle with our weight. Ven sent a message to the world that it's okay to treat people like crap because of their physical appearance. It's already hard enough to go shopping for clothes and depressing to have trouble finding things that fit well and look good. To now have this floating in the back of the brain? Ouch.

When you look at someone and think "They don't fit my definition of what a person should look like" or "Wow, why aren't they smaller", first stop and think about your own flaws and how you would feel if someone made a big deal about them. Then stop and think that what's on the outside isn't as important as what's on the inside. Then realize that you don't know why that person looks the way they do. Maybe they have a health condition. Maybe it just doesn't matter.

Project Runway, Lifetime, and L'Oreal need to do something to make this right. Partly for Terri, a beautiful, inspiring, and strong woman who was treated in a manner no person should ever be treated, and partly for all the women out there who are hurting right now, saying "Am I fat? Do I not deserve to look good? Why am I somehow less important because of my size?".

We are all beautiful. Whether you're a size 0 or a size 26, you have your own unique beauty. You matter. Your story matters. You are important. There is no other you, you are the only one. You are a gorgeous creation who deserves to know that you are beautiful and unique. Don't doubt your worth. Don't doubt your beauty. Regardless of what the Ven's of the world say and think, you matter. YOU MATTER. We matter.



  1. Thank you for writing this. You explained what I couldn't last night. And thank you for saying what we all need to hear: " Don't doubt your worth. Don't doubt your beauty. Regardless of what the Ven's of the world say and think, you matter. YOU MATTER. We matter."

  2. This is a beautiful, thoughtful and well written piece. Thank you. Ven was indeed describing how the world of fashion, celebrity and Hollywood see us 'real women'. We're not twigs who go for weeks on determination, caffeine, fruit juice and cigarettes. We don't - because we have lives, work, children, families - spend five hours a day in the gym or with the personal trainer. Our size is not the highest thing in our minds - it's nice to look good but that's got to fit in round the taxi service for the kids, the commute to work, the office, the cooking, the cleaning - well, you know the routine. Most of us do the best we can without a team of personal assistants, hair stylists and make up artists that descend on us before we set foot out the door! Fine. It's up to us to make Ven's ideal world as inconsequential as it actually is. Let's NOT follow 'fashion tips'; let's ignore red carpets; let's stop giving these people who live in a completely different world from us, all this power they have to influence how we, the majority, feel about ourselves. Loved your piece. Best wishes too for your pregnancy.

  3. It's unbelievable how people bully overweight pregnant and recently pregnant women about their weight! If you have never given birth, you don't get to criticize women who have. It's nearly impossible not to gain weight during pregnancy, and there are few people who have enough free time as new mothers to lose the weight. Models can worry all they want about looking 100% perfect all the time, but a new mother has the much more IMPORTANT job of raising human beings! Vanity should be left aside for what really matters in life!