Will the Real Tim Gunn Please Stand Up?


We thought we knew Tim Gunn, we really did. He was the kind, gently critical, unfailingly intelligent mentor to the mixed bag of crazies and talented designers on Project Runway. We wished he was our teacher. If you asked us which celebrity we’d most want to have dinner with, he’d be near the top of the list. After hard days at work, we daydreamed about him calling with a pep talk, closing the conversation with his signature derective: “Make it work.”

But these days, Gunn isn’t quite so cute and cuddly anymore. In the past few months, he’s outed Anna Wintour for having bodyguards carry her. He’s called Taylor Momsen “repugnant” and the Salahis “sociopaths.” He flipped out at everyone for not protecting Gretchen after her team showed an awful collection. And now he’s had to remove from Facebook a 12-minute video rant about a challenge he didn’t like. In the words of Sassy Gay Friend, Tim Gunn, what, what, what are you doing?

First things first: Anyone who hasn’t seen the aforementioned Facebook video will want to watch this, in full, and maybe with some popcorn. For those who can’t spend the 12 minutes now, here are some highlights: Tim Gunn totally takes apart last week’s Katie Holmes/Jackie Kennedy challenge, which changed so many times before and during the episode’s filming that he felt the need to interject during judging to explain what contestants were told. He points out that new designers can’t create “classic American sportswear” and that Mrs. Kennedy was actually famous for her support of European fashion. He warms our heart by referring to the episode in Yiddish, as “mishigas.” He smacks down Nina Garcia. He calls the judges nuts.

So, here’s the question: Who is the real Tim Gunn? Is he the guy we met six years ago, full of soothing mottos and smart advice? Or is he this sharp-tongued gossip with a chip on his shoulder? Was he faking it back then, when he was but an anonymous Parsons professor instead of the highly paid star of a reality TV franchise? Or is he putting us on now, because he’s trying to keep his name in the news while promoting his book?

We’ve spent more time thinking about this than we’d care to admit, and here’s the conclusion we’ve come to: It probably isn’t one or the other. To us, it looks like the change has more to do with the switch from Bravo to Lifetime than anything else. Despite what’s been said, in his videos and on the show, Gunn hasn’t actually seemed deranged. He just sounds understandably frustrated by the incompetence of the team he’s working with and the effect it’s had on the designers and Project Runway as a whole. We’re actually glad to hear someone on reality TV tell us what really happened. We’re right there with him on the Salahis and Anna Wintour, and we love him more than ever.