“Bottom line, I have a lot of respect for Karlie.”
“Is this the most startling runway moment ever? Maaaaaaybe,” NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote on Twitter in response to a now-viral moment from Thursday night’s “Project Runway,” which saw one contestant take a jab at host Karlie Kloss.
The incident happened late in the episode, when contestants were tasked with creating a garment for Kloss to wear to a CFDA event in Paris.
“I cannot see Karlie wearing it anywhere, honestly,” judge Brandon Maxwell said of contestant Tyler Neasloney’s design. Not missing a beat, Neasloney shot back.
“Not even to dinner with the Kushners?” he asked slyly, making reference to Kloss’s husband Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior advisor to impeached President Donald Trump. Kloss’s face cracked; The Cut referred to the seven-word retort as “deadpan bitchiness.”
“That’s your husband,” Neasloney offered after a long silence.
“Uh… I was going to Paris. That was your challenge here,” Kloss responded, visibly flummoxed. “Keep it to the challenge.”
Neasloney, who received the harshest criticism from the judges, was eliminated soon after and took a moment to apologize to Kloss in front of her and the other judges, which include Nina Garcia and Elaine Welteroth.
“Can I say something?” he asked.
“You can say anything you like,” Kloss offered.
“Karlie, I want you to know that I’m not a jerk. I’m professional, so what I said earlier had no hidden agenda, no meaning, no nothing like that. Thank you.”
A video on BravoTV.com titled “Christian Siriano Addresses That Major Shade Thrown by the Eliminated Designer” delivers nothing of the sort. Before a sit-down with Neasloney, Siriano is heard in a voiceover saying, “Shade, honey, I’m going to be careful with this one,” referencing the moment — but no further mention of the moment is made during his conversation with the eliminated contestant.
Neasloney explained his comments further to The Daily Dish, Bravo’s in-house blog, saying that he had developed “a really cool rapport” with the judges which led to him feeling “friendly” with the judges.
“We’ve spoken, we’ve kikied, we’ve laughed,” he said. “I can be my normal self.”
The eliminated designer claims that his comment was intended to be about the look. The Daily Dish says, “Tyler clarified that his comment was meant as a way to describe the kind of woman he could see wearing his garment.” (Neasloney was not available for interviews.)
“So that’s what is bothersome about some of the coverage, both press and Twitter, is a lot of people are treating it as this non sequitur,” he added. “It was not a non sequitur; it was entirely related to the aesthetic of the look.”
“Bottom line, I have a lot of respect for Karlie,” Neasloney told Bravo. “I’m not a nasty person. I thought we were on a friendly enough playing field. So Karlie, at the end of the day, she’s a human, so I don’t want her to just hate me or feel awful about what I said.”
Kloss has remained tight-lipped since, tweeting only: “Thank you Tyler for your contributions to the runway! Wishing you all the best as you continue your fashion journey.”
Despite her family ties and her noted reluctance to speak on record about her relationship, Kloss has publicly leaned more liberal than her infamous in-laws, voting for Clinton in the 2016 election and attending the March for Our Lives rally in March 2018 with her husband.
“Josh and I share a lot of the same liberal values that guide our lives and the things we stand for,” she told Vogue back in September 2018, adding, “It’s frustrating, to be honest, that the spotlight is always shifted away from my career toward my relationship.”
“It’s been hard,” she noted of being tied to the Trumps in another interview with British Vogue in August 2019. Still, Ivanka Trump calls Karlie her “sister,” and has tweeted her support for Kloss on “Project Runway” in the past, keeping the supermodel in the political fray.
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Whatever Neasloney intended, and probably to Kloss’s chagrin, the reaction online has been explosive.
“That’s MacArthur grant level shade,” Los Angeles Time reporter Anousha Sakoui wrote on Twitter. “Cancel your plans, everyone. We’re staying in and binging this season of ‘Project Runway’,” wrote Netflix’s Fran Tirado. “Amazing that we got the read of the year just three days in,” wrote host and producer Rachel Sam Evans.