Why Gay “Project Runway” Fave Kovid Kapoor Isn’t Upset About Elimination

“I just wanted to be me and express myself as much as I can.”

Thursday night was the end of the line for Project Runway Season 17 fan favorite Kovid Kapoor, who was eliminated following a high-end streetwear challenge.

The Brooklyn-based gay designer fled his home country of India with his boyfriend after neighbors called the police to report them (homosexuality in India was finally decriminalized in September 2018). Joining Project Runway—now back on Bravo with new host Karlie Kloss and new mentor Christian Siriano—Kapoor got paired with the show’s first transgender model and was a ray of warmth, gratitude, and optimism.

Preparing to launch his new collection later this month, Kapoor spilled the tea with NewNowNext about his short-lived Project Runway experience and which Drag Race queen he’d most love to dress.

I checked out a reality show prediction site before Thursday’s episode that said Sonia was the most likely contestant to get chopped. Should she have gone home instead of you?

No, no. Sonia is one of my best, best friends on the show. She’s been extremely supportive. At times when I needed some guidance, she would be there and really support me. I would never feel she should have gone home. No hard feelings at all.

How do you feel about being considered a fan favorite, and when did you become aware of it?

It’s incredible. I just wanted to be me and express myself as much as I can. I was on Instagram and people started sending me really kind direct messages, and I’m the type of person who replies to all. When I get comments like, “I was ill and seeing you on the show made me smile,” it gives me a lot of pleasure. Me being an artist is about making that connection, so it’s incredible.

You were paired with the show’s first trans model, Mimi Tao. What’s Mimi like off-camera?

Mimi is the most incredible human being, and for me that representation means so much. All representation is so important to the show, world, and humanity. She and I are like best friends! She’s in Thailand and I’m here, so we don’t get to meet much, but we are best pals on Instagram and always messaging and sharing stories.

Nitke/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The show has definitely upped its game in terms of diversity and progressiveness since returning to Bravo this year. Is there any specific type of representation you would like to see?

I think with this season we’ve seen so much diversity. It’s about inclusivity and bringing perspectives from every corner of the world together. They did an excellent job in getting that voice. Look at me, a gay man from India who went through so much, and providing me with that platform means a lot to me.

What advice do you have for aspiring Project Runway contestants? I’m assuming preparation involving sleep deprivation would be helpful?

I would tell them it’s crucial to be connected to who you are as a human and designer. The best designs are heartfelt and come from within. As far as sleep deprivation, anyone who likes to sleep a lot might have a slight issue! I’m used to rigorous sleep deprivation, but everybody around you on the show is so incredibly supportive and nice, you don’t feel tired. When I went on the show it changed my views about reality TV. The producers and crew are more invested in getting our stories, and trying to understand who we are is more important than creating drama on set. I was really taken good care of—even behind the scenes with what we were eating. They’re invested in you and want you to flourish and put the best designs forward.

You’re celebrating your ninth anniversary this year with your boyfriend, right?

Yes! This June. His name is Akshit Bhardwaj, he’s a fashion photographer, and we’re kind of a team. Ever since we started dating we’ve collaborated on projects together, and a lot of our aesthetics are merged. He’s my guiding light, my soulmate, to be honest. We’ve been through so much in our lives, but the fact we had each other made things so much easier.

The Sultan of Brunei recently instituted death by stoning for homosexuals in the country. Having lived with fear of persecution yourself, how do you feel about that?

It’s really tough. I feel they cannot just dictate what they want, they cannot have control over us. We love, we cry, we’re just like them. I think the key at this point is to get together and think about LGBTQ rights on a global level and do something about it. At the end of the day, you have to make that strong decision to be yourself.

What would you do if approached with a design gig by the Sultan or Melania Trump?

Probably deny it. I’m invested in a particular kind of social change, which promotes inclusivity and diverse cultures, and I would like to design for people like that.

Would you like to dress any of the RuPaul’s Drag Race girls?

Katya! I love her sense of humor and how intelligent it is—so out there and so funny. I am the biggest fan!

Would you return for a Project Runway All Stars if asked?

Oh, my god, in a heartbeat! Yes! This is my favorite show, period. I would go there in the blink of an eye! Give me the call and I’m there!

Project Runway airs Thursdays on Bravo.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.