When Project Runway revamped and returned to Bravo for Season 17, an openly gay man, Sebastian Grey, was the show’s winner. And given the number of queer contestants in its forthcoming 18th season, premiering December 5, it’s quite likely that another gay man (or two, or three) will be unveiling their designs at the next New York Fashion Week.
Fans can also expect an impressive mix of guest judges in the latest season, including Cyndi Lauper, Laverne Cox, Leslie Jones, Rachel Brosnahan, ski racer Lindsey Vonn, fashion designer Thom Browne, artist Ashley Longshore, and fashion stylist Marni Senofonte. In the premiere, the 16 contestants meet host Karlie Kloss and mentor Christian Siriano at the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport before they are paired off for a challenge in which they’ll create futuristic jumpsuits and cocktail outfits. In a later episode, those vying for the prize must design animal prints inspired by Universal Pictures’ new movie musical Cats (a blatant act of corporate cross-promotion since NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Pictures and Bravo—but hey, that film needs all the help it can get).
Speaking of Cats, with so many queens and divas in this cast, you can be certain the claws will be out on and off the runway. Before you tune in to the premiere tonight, here are some juicy, spoiler-free highlights to hold you over.
Six of the seven contestants are openly gay or queer. One sweats a lot.
Of the gay contestants, Houston’s Alan Gonzalez is definitely this season’s biggest drama queen. And he’s working on Siriano’s last nerve, based on all the eye rolls and “so not amused” stares the mentor gives Gonzalez, who likes to don wide-brimmed hats and drape himself in shawls and ponchos. When a panicky Gonzalez runs off to get some fabric in one challenge, he squeals, “Christian, what do we do?” Without missing a beat, Siriano retorts, “Honey, throw that poncho away!”
Originally from Austin and currently based in New York City, Sergio Guadarrama is the most experienced of the contestants. He already has a successful fashion company, Celestino, which was responsible for Billy Porter’s core-shaking red-and-pink extravaganza at the 2019 Tony Awards. Guadarrama has loads of confidence (read: cockiness), announcing that he’s on the same level as Siriano and Project Runway judge Brandon Maxwell. (Then why are you a contestant, darling?)
Geoffrey Mac, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a self-described military brat and former club kid who says he’s mostly known for dressing drag queens. He also gets really red and sweaty when he’s excited.
Marquise Foster is also from Brooklyn, but he doesn’t sweat as much as Mac.
And representing New Jersey are ShaVi Lewis from Newark and Tyler Neasloney from Jersey City.
Originally from Wyoming, Neasloney is also a drag queen named Kim Ono—short for Kimberly Onassis.
The show will feature its first nonbinary model.
DD (PR doesn’t reveal the last names of the show’s models) is originally from Miami, and they have been living in New York for the past five years doing “androgynous modeling.” Fans of the show’s first transgender model, Mimi, who appeared in Season 17, will be happy to know she’s here too, based on a clip montage previewing upcoming episodes.
Christian Siriano is hands down the biggest star of the show.
The Project Runway Season 4 winner has not only made a triumphant return to his alma mater, but totally taken it over with his unstoppable personality. He completely outshines Kloss (who only appears in the beginning and end of the Season 18 premiere), and he has more screen time than anyone else, including judges Nina Garcia and Elaine Welteroth.
Season 18 also introduces the Siriano Save, in which he can prevent a contestant on the chopping block from being eliminated. It’s only a matter of time before Siriano gets his own spinoff show à la his predecessor Tim Gunn. But in the meantime, he’s making Project Runway the sassiest it’s ever been.
Project Runway Season 18 airs Thursdays at 9:30pm ET on Bravo.