Friday, October 17, 2008

A Half-Hearted Defense of Kenley

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I’m going to (kinda, tepidly) defend Kenley Collins, the FSU alum and villainess of “Project Runway’s” just-wrapped season. If you watched the show, you know that retro-loving Kenley often came off as a defensive, self-absorbed brat — this, on a show full of them. She also committed the sin of being snippy and rude to adorable mentor Tim Gunn.

The judges got it absolutely right by naming mild-mannered Leanne Marshall the winner. Even though I was pulling for Korto Momolu (and would wear her clothes), Leanne’s petal-inspired collection was simply sublime. It’s nice to see a wallflower win!

Back to Kenley. Was she immature and a little too impressed with herself? Yes. But she wasn’t nearly as off-putting as Hall of Fame asshats Santino Rice (Season 2) and Jeffrey Sebelia (Season 3). Jeffrey made someone’s mother cry, and unlike Santino, he was humor-impaired. Kenley is Miss Congeniality by comparison.

What little sympathy I have for Kenley stems from her apparent social cluelessness. She often seemed genuinely perplexed by the criticism she received from the judges and her fellow designers. It was obvious to everyone that she was disrespectful to Tim, but she really didn’t get what all the fuss was about. She made this comment to Entertainment Weekly: “I stood up to the judges and Tim, but that wasn't against them. I was shocked by the way they treated me, because I was nothing but nice to them.”

That attitude made me think of my son. Granted, he’s 8 years old and (generally) polite to people he doesn’t know well. But when he becomes annoyed, he has a habit of blurting out things that, while perhaps true, are inappropriate and combative. And then when he’s reprimanded, he’s like, “What’d I do?” It’s gotten better in the last two years, but his understanding of the nuances of social interaction is a work in progress. This is one reason we’ve long thought he might be at the mild end of the autism spectrum, but that’s a whole other issue.

Kenley attributes her issues to “aggressive, New York kind of upfront, forward behavior.” She was raised in Pompano Beach. Still, I think of her not as the popular mean girl but the intense attention hog other kids whisper about in the hallway.

Or maybe she really is just a pouty jerk (albeit a talented one). I guess motherhood has made me soft.


downtown guy said...

Pft. She worked in food service at Andrew's while she was at FSU, she knows when she's rude to people. Also, she ripped off other designers in her work.

quick example:

(I do want to say that I hated Santino at first, but his impressions were too funny not to enjoy.)

Christina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina said...

I wish I could agree with you -- well, in a way I do agree with you. I don't think the girl is the Antichrist or anything. But you can't compare the blurting of an 8-year-old with the comments of a grown woman, unless you are really intending to give the grown woman a backhanded insult.

The problem with Kenley, as Tim put it in his blog, is that she took any criticism of her work as a criticism of her character. She would dial up the defensiveness at the slightest hint that someone was saying something against her. Tim said that she would have been better served going to a design school, where she would have learned to refine and hone her own vision and accept critiquing with some measure of grace and maturity. I tend to agree with him.

And in a statement of pure pettiness: good Lord, I cannot stand the sound of her voice. And as for the Jeffrey and Santino comparisons...well, I was no fan of Jeffrey either.(Santino at least made me laugh.)

EDP said...

Ooooh, good points. I was shocked by how similar that one dress was to a Balenciaga. You'd have to be blind not to see it, or stupid to deny it, as she did. And the voice! It's so nasal and grating. It does say something about her that she immediately reminded me of a petulant 8-year-old boy. I also agree about Santino having his moments of comic gold!

Christina said...

On reality shows like PR and Top Chef and the like, I can forgive most people their personality "quirks" if they produce a good product. Kenley's stuff largely didn't work for me. But I will say that the white dress she had in her runway show, with the hand-painted flowers and mandarin collar, was very, very cute.

EDP said...

I like her use of color ... sometimes. When she gets too over-the-top frothy, that's when she starts to lose me. Her Alexander McQueen ripoff was gorgeous, though!

Zil said...

Yeah, she lost me with the whole rude to Tim business. Mostly because she was completely dismissive of his suggestions (quite rudely, I might add, right up until she found out he was the guest judge for the finals, then she was like "maybe I should have adjusted my attitude" Tim's only role is to mentor and help the designers and I get the sense that, like all good teachers, he truly wants all his charges to succeed. Kenley seemed to only care about the opinions of the judges who could further her career (and she barely tolerated those).

I can understand her getting defensive on the runway with Nina and Micheal Kors taking shots at her (although she seemed to really hate Heidi the most, for some reason). I don’t take criticism well myself, but I like to think I've learned to handle myself better than Kenley. If she pulled that scoffing, eye-rolling nonsense in a real job, in fashion or anywhere else, her ass would be out on the street. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and keep your mouth shut.

I agree with your assessment of the results, Leanne deserved to win and
Korto was also deserving of her 10K win for fan favorite.

And Jeffery was the worst. 100 times worst than Kenley ever was.