Following the ninth episode of Project Runway: Under The Gunn, I have received a dizzying amount of messages through social media about my reaction to the judges’ decisions — namely, my opinions about Natalia Fedner.
It didn’t surprise me that viewers would have strong feelings about my exchanges with Nick and the judges. But I did not expect the level of hostility to be so profound.
I have been largely silent about the episode since its airing — partly because I’ve been focused on the recent NYC launch of the Mondo Guerra for Crocs collaboration, but mostly because I needed time to process. Now, I’m ready to respond.
The majority of negative comments I’ve received fall into three categories: 1.) accusations of bullying; 2.) disappointment in my behavior; 3.) the belief that mentors should not question the judges. These are my thoughts on those issues.
Accusations of Bullying
Never in my comments did I disparage Natalia’s character, appearance or personhood. I simply stated my opinion about her position in the competition (a full transcript of the controversial segments are available here). Still, many feel I was being a bully. What’s more, these people have expressed their disagreement in hurtful and bullying behavior toward me.
I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow accounts, but most of the comments have been personal attacks on my character, style and appearance. I’m baffled at how people can condemn me for perceptions about my actions and behavior that they in turn perpetuate themselves.
Needless to say, I’m hurt and confused. I admit that I was indignant and emotionally charged. But I never “went there” in my own words about Natalia. And it should be noted that I shared my comments only with the other mentors and the judges — I never revealed my opinions to Natalia or the other designers. The statements and behavior of the competitors were their responsibility alone.
So I find the accusations of bullying to be a little unfair. Because I have an opinion and share it, doesn’t make me a bad person. And I don’t discredit other people for sharing their own opinions. But when someone says I’m a “horrible person” or a “whiny little bitch,” productive dialogue about the issue at hand becomes nearly impossible.
Disappointment in My Behavior
I described my reaction to the judges’ criticism of Michelle Uberreste as unleashing my “inner mama bear,” hoping that people would understand that sometimes our behavior in defense of those we care about can be intense.
I imagine that many of us have been in similar situations where we’ve shown our ferocious sides in weak moments. The difference here is that my low points were captured on camera, edited by producers, scored with dramatic music and then broadcast for the world’s entertainment. But that is the risk you take when you put yourself in the public spotlight. I have to own that.
What you didn’t see in the mentors’ lounge was that both Anya and I apologized to Nick for venting our frustrations. And Nick, in turn, thanked us for being honest with our feelings. So we had already kissed and made up before heading back to the runway for the judges’ decisions.
It was difficult to watch myself react in such a negative, emotional way. But I hope people can understand that I felt compelled to speak up and defend Michelle — I believed so strongly in her potential.
Tim Gunn has considerably big shoes to fill. He’s had years of experience guiding designers from concept to the catwalk. For me, the role of mentor is a new one and I learned on the job. And I still have a lot to learn.
Mentors Shouldn’t Question the Judges
When I said I was disappointed, it was in response to the judges’ questions. Anya and I weren’t standing there in defiance — we were asked to comment on how we felt about their decision and I answered honestly. I don’t feel like I should have to apologize for sharing my opinion when I was asked for it.
I don’t envy the judges’ positions. As a former guest judge on several seasons of Project Runway and All Stars, I can vouch that scoring can be very unpredictable. But I think that the mentors can share important context for the judges to consider.
For example, Tim Gunn came to my defense during the finale of Project Runway season eight, even going so far as to call Michael Kors and Nina Garcia “crack smoking judges” after the season wrapped. Those moments were never shown on TV, but eventually Project Runway acknowledged the value of Tim’s insight and his mentor role was expanded in season 12 to include a seat with the judges during the runway shows and even a Tim Gunn “save.”
I’m not Tim Gunn, so I’m not going to pretend that I’ve earned the right to question the judges’ decisions. But Under The Gunn set new precedents in placing some of the final decisions in the mentors’ hands. So some lines have been blurred.
I’m sorry I let you down. I wish that things would have worked out differently. I meant no disrespect toward Natalia, Nick or the judges.
I know that I have disappointed many of you and that it will take time to earn your respect again. But I hope that you will give me that chance and find a way to forgive me. I’m still the Mondo you know and love — but now you’ve seen part of my “dark side,” as well.
I wish I could say that the worst is over, but knowing what’s coming in the next episode, I’m bracing myself for a fresh slice of humble pie. Keep in mind that while the show airs weekly, the challenges come the very next day during production. So the emotions were still very raw going into this next episode.
I love you, Team Mondo, and I hope that we can steer past these bumps in the road together. Your support means the world to me and is what motivates me to keep going. Deep breaths, chin up — I’m ready to begin rebuilding your trust, if you give me the chance.
Live & Love,