Every week there's been an invitation for a Project Runway viewing party. As it typically takes place in Hell's Kitchen (a neighborhood unvisited in over a year), it always stays in the "maybe" status in Facebook. (You would think it would be easier to just say no.) What's different about this viewing is that the viewing is with one of the contestants, Suede. This week, with friends (V and R and A) prodding me (and promising protection from "Hell's Kitchen gays"), I finally went.
Getting out of the cab, the conversion of Hell's Kitchen into Chelsea circa 1999 is obviously complete. Skinny gays, old gays, eye-brow threaded gays and more travel in their gay gaggles from Thai-fusion place to Thai-fusion place. Arriving at Posh, a quick look around reveals pink and yellow and lime green drinks in hands accompanying faces that must shave right after work because there is no facial hair, not even a trace of stubble.
Soon after arriving, the guest of honor shows. And he has a guest of his own. Instantly, gaylebrities Suede and Stella are surrounded. The first thing in mind is how they stack up in real life, compared to "reality" life. Suede? Not so technicolor and sort of solid looking. Stella? Head to toe
leather leathuh and much prettier when her makeup is for life and not the camera.
After they make their way back to the viewing area, we're introduced by mutual friends. Stella and I compare notes about Astoria (although she's a Chelsea girl now). Suede gives good handshakes and better hugs. From the brief introduction, it strikes me: Where are the people to whom the Bravo teevee had introduced me? She's gracious and he's not a flaming queen.
Finally the big moment arrives and the big screen television is now showing Project Runway. Suede appears on the screen and the crowd claps and cheers. Next Stella is on screen. And the crowd roars. As the opening continues a trend is evident.
As each of the gay
characters contestants appears on screen, the gays go into cat mode. They hiss about Blaine. Daniel receives a group "ugh". Even hunky Keith sets the nabobs to nattering. All of Suedes' lines receive laughs and applause, but there is a more obvious favorite contestant named Stella.
The crowd tizzies for Stella almost as much as they do for the drag queens, including many from the local talent stable. Local royalty, some of whom I've sort of known for years are a welcome surprise. Miss Understood has me most worried as I know she sources out her fabrics in Thailand and designs and makes her own clothing. Sweetie hams it up and has the crowd woot-wooting. And Hedda Lettuce has everyone nervous for Suede as she, well, is known to not spare her words. Of all the queens (in drag, not the Bravo creations), Varla Jean is this crowd's favorite.
The show goes on and as Suede and Stella are deemed safe, the crowd explodes, but it sounds like auditions for Streetcar as the crowd cheers out "Stelllllaaaaah".
After the show, I touch base with Suede again. No bitchy. No catty. Granted, had I been with him for the full hour, there probably would have been the occasional comment that I could edit and make him out to be so. After all, Bravo does it. Also? Not once did he refer to himself in third person. All "I", no "Suede".
Having seen the show and enjoyed my Jack and Gingers (which is as "gay drink" as I go), I head out with my friends and a thought sticks with me. The editing of Project Runway (as is expected of a reality show) creates characters of the contestants, but seems to harsh on the gays a bit more. Is the payoff for representation self-loathing?