Saturday, February 15, 2014
Praying to the Couture Gods of Christian Dior, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Cristobal Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent that we can get through it: Mentor Nick Verreos, designer Oscar Garcia-Lopez and Isabelle Donola's model Ashleigh--Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

Mentor Nick and his designers--Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Opening Credits

This week's episode of Lifetime Network's Project Runway "Under The Gunn" was another DOOZY. It seems that the "Nick-is-a-Bad-Mentor Train" has seen no end--to my surprise(!) since I LIVED it. Anyhow--I'll get to that, my shock and disappointment at the "story arc" and the "Throwing Isabelle Under the Bus" stuff--later in this blog. After all, this is my "Nick's Take"/Inside Dish...
 Tim Gunn and Judges: stylist Jen Rade, Marie Claire editor Zanna Roberts Rassi, Zendaya--Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

This week's episode was to design a stage outfit for the one-and-only Zendaya, the beautiful 17 year-old sensation of music, dance and acting. Oh and yes, did I mention she has a 5' 10" model-like figure? First off: Zendaya is GORGEOUS and she was extremely sweet. On the show, while judging, she wore a red dress from Project Runway Season 4 Winner Christian Siriano. She looked fabulous. And I really LOVED her shoes: that girl's got STYLE! OK, so now, let's get to the "elephant in the room", Miss Isabelle:

Isabelle World: designer Isabelle Donola, Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

Last week I alluded to the fact that something would "go down" with one of my designers--Isabelle Donola. Since the previous challenge I felt uneasy about her; I got a strong sense that:
A) she didn't want to be mentored;
B) she didn't want to be mentored by ME; and
C) she was a bit, well, "kooky" and not in a good way. EVERYONE involved with filming--the mentors, the rest of the designers, the production team, even Tim, we all knew it--and frankly, they told me so. And of course, I had to deal with her since she was my designer. But I didn't want to be a bad mentor and therefore I kept to my job at hand and tried to mentor and help her.

Shut Up Nick: Nick Verreos and Isabelle Donola, Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

During the "Sketching Time", like the other two mentors, I was giving my "two cents" in terms of offering suggestions, ideas, etc. on how to design a stage outfit for the beautiful Zendaya. While I was doing that, Isabelle--one of my designers--turned to me and whispered for me to shut up. I was so taken aback, stunned and hurt--all at the same time, that I got up and moved away from ALL my designers. I felt a moment of sweetness when soon after that, Oscar (one of my other designers) then called on me to help him with ideas and style suggestions. Anyhow, this was the moment I felt that "I'm (almost) done" with Isabelle but for the sake of not looking like a fool mentor and not giving up, I (hesitantly) kept to my job at hand, to no avail, of course. I tried, and I still looked bad. During the model fitting--when every designer gets 30 minutes with their models--Isabelle fiddled and fuddled with trying to drape the top right on her model--but did nothing else; I knew it was going to be trouble the following day.

 Why Aren't You Almost Done: Nick Verreos with designer Isabelle Donola--Day of Runway Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

Day of Runway: I had received word from Tim that Isabelle was a mess. And this, naturally, worried me. I didn't want her to fail and I also didn't want the cameras/producers to make it look as if I failed as a mentor. So I continued on with Isabelle. After the makeup and hair time, the designers had thirty minutes to get it all done and Isabelle was still trying to put together her look--while most of the designers were done. Oscar, in fact, had finished his fabulous red sequined look THE NIGHT BEFORE.

Hurry Up Isabelle: Nick Verreos, model Ashleigh and designer Isabelle Donola on Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

I really think that Isabelle lives in "Isabelle World" and when we say that there's only fifteen minutes left, she thinks it's "TV Time" fifteen minutes; thinking it's all a "TV Lie" and they really give the designers TWO MORE DAYS; who knows, but this is the sense I got from her. Lots of designers who come to the "Project Runway" auditions say to us "Is it really six hours to make a dress?...that's 'TV Time' , you really give us THREE days...". Nope, not so mucheey. I think that Isabelle may have felt the same way. Tim had called "time is up" and Isabelle was still half-sewing her look while I stood there, with her model Ashleigh only wearing a white t-shirt and pink thong. She was stressed that she cut her finger. And naturally she blamed it on me for "stressing her out". She wouldn't be so stressed if she had utilized her time better.

Come On Ashleigh: Tim Gunn finally came in--as we quickly hurried to get Ashleigh dressed--even though the outfit was not even finished--but I did not want poor Ashleigh to actually walk down the runway naked. She almost did.

Tim Gunn and the Judges: (left to right) Jen Rade, Zanna Ronberts Rassi and Zendaya--Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

Nick's Group: Looks from my designers (left to right) Natalia Fedner, Oscar Garcia-Lopez, Stephanie Ohnmacht and Isabelle Donola--Lifetime's "Under The Gunn" Episode 5

My Designers' Looks:
Natalia Fedner: I really liked Natalia's "Football"-inspired look. It was very "J. Lo 'In Living Color' Fly Girl". I loved that she added the "Z" in the back. But stylist Jen Rade was correct when she said that she looked like one of Zendaya's backup dancers as opposed to this being a look for THE STAR--Zendaya.

Oscar Garcia-Lopez: Oscar went for it--with no abandon and I was all for it! I thought the look was a bit too "Liza Minnelli-Meets-Cheerleader" but heck, I love those two references. He finished EVERYTHING and then made the stiff tulle bootie "chaps" with perfectly finished red bias binding.

Stephanie Ohnmacht: I was really supportive of Stephanie stepping out of her "pretty dress" box and creating a modern pant ensemble. Her Achilles Heel was the fabric. She chose a waxed "denim" that acted like pleather and was not easily mold-able. This was the first time she's ever made pants and I wanted to help her with the pant pattern but I learned my lesson a couple of challenges before; I almost went there to help her but I could just hear the cameras running to catch me helping and Tim chastising me. So, alas, I didn't go there.

Isabelle Donola: Isabelle's white satin jumpsuit was obviously the worst of the bunch. I was so embarrassed for her and mad that she had let it get to this point because of her "Isabelle World" behavior, not realizing the time she had, wasting time when she could have been actually working, her excuse of cutting her finger, and then eventually trying to throw me under the bus saying that I was the reason her look wasn't good or finished...

BAD: Isabelle's look was a mess. She was lucky that somehow her model didn't slip out of it. In fact, Ashleigh (her model) was crying the entire time she modeled it.

In the end, I have to say that I realized that Isabelle did not respect me, so therefore, how can I respect her. So when Tim Gunn asked ALL of the mentors for our thoughts after the judges gave their critiques, I was honest when I said that I'd rather spend my mentor energy on my other designers than on a designer that did not want my mentoring and did not want to be civil and respectful.
I definitely felt respect from all 3 of my other designers and I showed them admiration and support in return. At the moment, I never really thought my other 3 designers would think I would react to them like I reacted to Isabelle (but there is more on that in the next episode).

In retrospect, I realize that I should have been the bigger person and I let my emotions and the emotional crescendo that had occurred with Isabelle boil over. I now regret adding insult to injury when asked if I had anything to add. Hopefully Isabelle learned something positive from this experience and as a mentor I did too.

Onward and upward! Looking forward to a fun Team Challenge next week!


Debby said...

So understand everything you just wrote about. I have had similar encounter a few years ago. I know I had a hard time trusting folks after that. Puts your emotions in a weird place. I find you to be a good mentor and directing your team well. Just go back to being Nick, cause there is nothing wrong with Nick.

RinkComms said...

I have to say it - even if Isabelle HAD finished that garment, it would have been on the bottom. It was just ugly and unflattering, and very Michelle Pfeiffer "Married to the Mob." I'm sorry that it played out that way, and on camera, but there is no way the two of you would have been able to work together for the long haul. It's better that she's gone now and you can concentrate on those who genuinely want and respect your guidance.

MoHub said...

It's a shame the editors made you look so bad. I totally understand how your issues with Isabelle snowballed throughout the challenge and impeded your ability to censor yourself in the final moments. Isabelle really didn't belong in this competition in the first place, and I firmly believe that had this been "regular" Project Runway, she would either not have made the cut or would have been first out.

Jynkies said...

You did what you could in stressful situation. There's not a lot you can do when someone refuses to listen. Take heart it wasn't only you she refused to listen to it was Tim as well.

Felicia said...

Telling you to shut up when you were desperately trying to help her would have been very upsetting to anybody -- yet we saw you still behave professionally and keep continuing with trying to help you. Thank you for giving us the backstory from your perspective, and please don't doubt that you're a great mentor, designer, and person! (Not to mention TV personality!) We love you, Nick! :)

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