Atlanta's Kenya Freeman heartened by fans irate over her 'Project Runway' ouster

Posted Saturday, November 10, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Atlanta's Kenya Freeman seemed to have paved a smooth path to the finals of Lifetime's "Project Runway" with well-tailored, ready-to-wear clothing week in and week out.

But the judges in the end teased her by allowing her to make a collection, then not allow her to show it during New York Fashion Week. (The finale airs next Thursday at 9 p.m. with the reunion show airing two weeks later, skipping Thanksgiving.)

Freeman, knowing what was coming, said in an interview Friday that she chose to not watch the episode. Instead, she tracked social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook et. al. And she was heartened by what she saw: near universal praise for her work and near universal outrage she was cut before Kentaro and Margarita.

"I thought my phone would have a nervous breakdown!" Kenya said. "I was up all night. I even have someone who helps with my social media and I'm overwhelmed here. It's crazy." At a certain point, she just cut her phone off.

Although the judges were underwhelmed by her potential Fashion Week pieces, she had no regrets. She was given a standard slim model and a plus-size model. Her plus-size dress may have been her undoing.

"I made a dress specifically for her," Kenya said. "If it didn't work, it didn't work. I didn't have a back-up plan specifically for her body." So when Tim Gunn questioned it, it was too late. She also had a tough time with the other model, who had a "cute tomboy vibe." "I was fought in my head a lot what I was going to put on that girl. It was a tug of war in my brain."

As she noted on the show, she had this conception of her collection was based on beach colors, a woman who was staying on vacation on a hot private island. The cool colors represented water, the warm colors represented sun and sand, Kenya said. But Gunn said she needed more saturated color. So she chose black.

"Black is risky," she said. "I know the judges generally hate black. Black simply doesn't read well on the runway unless it has a lot going on. I personally thought the dress was freaking phenomenal. I put a lot of work in that dress."

Kenya's two designs that got her eliminated from "Project Runway." CREDIT: Lifetime

Kenya has always been the type of designer who enjoys creating outfits that are retail friendly, not necessarily always runway friendly. "If it turns out to be something old fashioned or whatever they call it, I'll take that," she said. "So many people responded to what I do. These are real clothes once they come the runway. I make clothes people can wear."

Her take on Margarita's outfits: "I liked some pieces Margarita made. I like the bell bottoms. It ready very vacation to me. I didn't know how she could sell that. But I do like the fact she uses a lot of color, one of my favorite things about her."

Her take on Ayana's outfits: "I like Ayana's a lot, especially her finale dresses you haven't seen it. They're beautiful. I like her story behind the collection and the color palette. I appreciate the fact even though she is a modest designer, she gives you things that are very modern and trendy. Some people think can be hard to do when you're completely covered but I don't it is."

Her take on Kentaro's outfits: "I like certain parts of Kentaro's outfits. I kind of liked the peachy skin tones."

Her take on Brandon's outfits: "I liked the flamingo print that Brandon used."

On Brandon's favored status, she joked: "I swear. I'm like, 'Are Heidi and Brandon dating?' Something is not right there!"  She added: "Honestly speaking, Brandon is a nice guy, really cool and laid back. He doesn't talk a whole lot. I call him the silent killer."

Her scarf was like her security blanket: "People on social media wondered if my scarf was hygienic. I washed it every other day. I've had it for seven y ears. As careless as I am, I cannot lose it. It seems to find me. I get cold really easily. It's an easy thing to have. It gives me comfort. I know that's weird."

Wearing her emotions on her sleeve (or scarf): "People like my transparency. She said she had more than 1,000 comments about how she's inspired people to be more open, more honest... People would meet me and want to hug me without even asking. Someone once just kissed me on the face. It's strange!"

What she's doing now: She's the lead designer for Sylvia Mollie clothing And she is planning to put together a summer camp for inner-city kids who are interested in fashion and design called "I'm Sew Fantastic!"

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.