On Project Runway Thursday night, the designers took on their first individual challenge with the theme of streetwear, which immediately sparked a conversation regarding racism and cultural appropriation between contestants Meg Ferguson and Prajjé Oscar Jean-Baptiste. Or, more accurately, between Meg and herself.
“We can’t be afraid to say the ‘racism’ word, and we can’t be afraid to say, like, ‘whitewashing’ and ‘appropriation.’ Like, you design because you grew up not seeing people like you on the runway,” Meg told Prajjé, who was trying his best to do his work and not continue the conversation.
“Oftentimes when you find people in support of our issues, as Black folks, it kind of comes off as if they know what our troubles are and they’re our saving grace. And that’s usually a big misunderstanding in the community and how support comes,” shared Prajjé.
Meg continued, saying, “This should be a Black magic moment and, like, I feel like we missed the mark.” Prajjé said that he began to feel a little “uncomfortable” with Meg’s comments, but it wasn’t until later when the real drama happened between Meg and another designer, Kenneth Barlis, that Prajjé’s real feelings about her came out.
Prajjé, who is from Haiti, planned on creating a look that referenced his culture, so it only made sense to designer and mentor Cristian Siriano that he have a Black model. However, this made Kenneth realize that he wanted an Asian model for his Asian-inspired design, and the only Asian model just so happened to be assigned to Meg.
Meg didn’t love the idea of trading models 16 hours into the design process, as she had already spent hours patterning, cutting, draping, and designing her model. However, Meg stated, “It’s so important to me to respect and acknowledge the fact that he wanted to design for his own culture. I wouldn’t look like a woman of my word, and I would kind of look like an asshole, or, like, that bitchy woman if I said, ‘No, I don’t want to switch.'”
While Meg’s intentions were good, as she stated that she respects why Kenneth wanted a model that can truly represent the design’s inspiration, it was the way she went about it – semi-throwing a fit and making a huge deal about it in front of the models and the entire room – that didn’t sit right with her fellow Project Runway competitors.
“Girl, that was fake as f**k. I lost so much respect for you for that,” Prajjé told Meg. “You got involved in my business this morning. You made it extremely comfortable. You talk, talk, talk, yap, yap, yap, for the same sh**, and then you just went and did it to him. And I lost respect for you for that.” Meg was genuinely confused why she was being accused as being “fake” by Prajjé, which, in turn, created a contentious confrontation between her and Kenneth.
In the end, Kenneth ran off crying, while Meg stormed off set demanding producers take her mic off and, ultimately, Meg decided it was better for her mental health that she leave the competition entirely.
“At that moment, I didn’t have anybody on my side,” shared Meg. “I was all alone. It really blindsided me, and my brain just quit. I had the onset of a panic attack. My gut instinct was, you know, fight or flight mode, and I just left.”
Meg also stated, “I believe I did the right thing by sticking up for myself. Was I bitchy about it? Probably. But, ultimately, the intensity of the competition is not a good place for me, and it’s okay to turn away something that you think is going to be your big break if it’s not good for your mental health or your mental peace.”
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