Runway's Gunnar: 'I'd Rather Eat Dirt ...'
September 14, 2012
TheInsider.com caught up with Project Runway's most recent contestant to leave, Gunnar Deatherage. The southern designer opened up about his time on the Bravo show, being bullied, his distaste for NYC, Ven Budhu's incessant flower design and his very unusual name!
TheInsider.com: How are you feeling?
Gunnar Deatherage: I feel awesome.
TheInsider.com: You were on the first episode last season and were one of the four designers who didn’t make it to the actual show. How does it feel to come back and prove yourself a second time around?
Gunnar: I originally came on wanting to win. I realized halfway through that wasn't at all why I was there. I was there to prove to myself -- that I could compete and I could find myself as a designer - that's exactly what happened while I was there. It's not often you hit a second chance at something like Project Runway. So to be able to have that, it's frickin' awesome.
TheInsider.com: What do you feel so far was the best experience being on the show?
Gunnar: I think the best experience was coming home from the show honestly. It’s not because I was leaving…it's not from seeing family. It was just everyday I learned something new about myself. Because so far all I knew was the production of Project Runway - and leaving, I was trying to gain my way in my world again because life didn't stop while I was gone. It’s beautiful to see the things that I'm doing now that I never thought I would have done -- different directions I'm choosing to go and things I’m taking chances on. That's definitely my favorite part.
TheInsider.com: You are based in Louisville. How is it being a designer in a Southern town? Any plans to move to New York?
Gunnar: I love it! I would rather eat dirt than move to New York to be very honest. It is not my gig. I like Louisville because it's very accepting of new and different things surprisingly enough. They really respond well to my designs and … my clientele in Louisville is marvelous. I love them so much and you have to be kind of daring to wear one of my pieces. Louisville just embraces it. I can't be more thankful for a community that supports me as much as they do.
TheInsider.com: I know this episode you talked a lot about being bullied when you were in high school. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Gunnar: I grew up in a town about an hour-and-a-half from Louisville. I graduated with a little over 85 people. I never hid myself or my mannerisms or the way I talked … I always did what I wanted and this is something my beautiful family raised me to do. I was ridiculed constantly. … [What was on the show] was a glimpse because I was severely bullied. The minute I left the town and started designing is kind of when I started to find myself. I get so many letters, e-mails and Facebook messages from young kids or parents of young kids that are being bullied. … I like that I’m being able to give advice as small as being able to help them in some way, shape or form. It took a lot of me to be able to tell a little bit of my story on national television -- if that’s something that can help other people and help these young kids that are being bullied, then I’ll tell the story until the end. This was an opportunity for me to really let everyone know you can surpass what’s in front of you right now. The crap that you’re swimming through is definitely going to dissipate away from you.
TheInsider.com: How has the response been since last night's episode?
Gunnar: I think it's been really good. I released a letter last night after the elimination. … I told everyone what I kind of learned from the experience and then I dedicated the experience to all the small town kids that ever dream of making it big and been told 'no,' because I want them to know that they at least have one fan and me. And that was something that people responded so well with. …It's beautiful and I have not had a chance to really sit down and go through everything. I do know that a lot of people sent me messages and were like, 'Oh my God you made me cry tonight; I know how that was.' I think it’s awesome that people have something to relate to right now. I think that this is a big issue and it doesn’t really have anything to do with fashion or the show but I kind of made it have to do with fashion and the show.
TheInsider.com: I think Mondo [Guerra] did that as well in season eight, when he revealed his HIV-positive status.
Gunnar: People that do this definitely put a lot of themselves into this. I think whether the judges like it or not doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day it’s what your fans see in your art.
TheInsider.com: This season a lot of the male designers seem to keep sending very similar designs down the runway. You seemed to change it up from week to week. What do you think is going on this season?
Gunnar: It felt really different to be in that. I felt that I kind of had to express myself…I think that the biggest thing for me was: 'why would I show the same thing every time?' It doesn't do anything for me.
Theinsider.com: Ven Budhu keeps making the same flower design every week!
Gunnar: It's not even good. How many times are you going to make something with a flower?
TheInsider.com: What do you think went wrong with your look last night?
Gunnar: First of all, I hate the fabric it was printed on. I can't stand cotton satine. Some people are really good in working with it and it is not my forte. I was like, 'What the hell do I even make with this?’ But I don’t think anything went wrong with it. At a certain point…you start realizing you don’t give a shit what they think about it because I like what I do and thousands of other women will like what I do as well. … Fate’s allowed the cards to fall in the way they did for a reason….. I’m proud of the jacket I did. I try to make things I would wear – 'If I were a woman, what would I wear?' That was a really weird jacket and I would probably wear that. I don’t think anything went wrong. I just don’t think they are creative enough to understand it.
TheInsider.com: This season has had a lot of big personalities, who was the most difficult person in the workroom?
Gunnar: It changes from week to week surprisingly enough. I'm not the easiest person to get along with when I am sewing, so I’m sure quantity of the people would say me. Honestly, first it was Christopher [Palu] because I felt he was pushing my buttons - that faded away. I think Ven is slightly hard to work with in the workroom because he doesn't say a lot. His presence is kind of pushy; it's strong and it’s not something you want to be around.
TheInsider.com: You and Chris were at odds at the beginning; you seemed to leave on better terms. How are you guys now?
Gunnar: We don’t talk. The only person I keep in contact with is Elena [Slivnyak] from the show. [Chris and I] made amends because I don't like to leave any situation on bad circumstances. So...we kind of made up. We both understood [being on the show] was a challenge and we both understood that we were both playing kind of the same role. … We kind of got a thrill out of the fight.
TheInsider.com: Who are you rooting for now?
Gunnar: I promised my two roommates that I would root for them and I roomed with Dmitry [Sholokhov] and Fabio [Costa]. … I think they are both very talented and I love them and I wouldn’t mind seeing Elena win either.
TheInsider.com: So what is next for you?
Gunnar: I kind of just want to be 22 for a while. I have worked my butt off forever. In high school, I worked two to three jobs and I never sat down to just enjoy my youth. I want to travel the world. I want to do all these ‘off-the-wall’ things and in order to do that I need to take a little bit of time for myself. I think that I might even give fashion a break until I feel really inspired again. I’m going to be starting my interior design and visual merchandising; I love both of them so much. I think a lot of cool doors are going to open for me and I plan on walking through every one.
TheInsider.com: And finally, I have to ask: Is your real name Gunnar Deatherage?
Gunnar: That is my given birth certificate name and my brother is Gauge, like on a gun. We are a military family.