By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Ken Laurence was a bit of a trainwreck during his first appearance on “Project Runway” in 2013. He seethed, he argued, he threw fits, he lacked focus. He finished eighth.
But the producers felt he was compelling enough to bring himi back for the fifth season of “Project Runway All Stars,” which airs its season finale Thursday night on Lifetime.
Given a second shot, Laurence – who moved to Atlanta last year from Birmingham – showed more maturity. His point of view was better defined and more focused. He funneled his intensity into the work, embracing leather and wool crepe, as well as heavy use of black and jewel tones.
During the first half of the season, he was a front runner who impressed the judges with fierce outfits and impeccable tailoring. But as the pressure ramped up, he began questioning his own decision making, landing in the bottom three three times.
In one episode, Laurence simply walked out of the work room without saying a word to anyone before returning the next day as if nothing had happened.
“I’m a realist,” he said. “If something isn’t working for myself, I’m going to verbalize it. If I make something ugly, I will verbalize it. I needed to pull myself away. I was just very frustrated. Although it didn’t help me in the design competition because I lost a few hours in the work room, it worked out for the best.”
In the next episode, he blew up at Sam Donovan, who he called a “snake” and a “liar” because he didn’t appear to take the competition as seriously as Laurence did and lacked the technical chops of many of his peers. Later, Laurence apologized and they hugged it out.
“I like to keep it 100,” Laurence said. “With Sam, there were just things that needed to be said. It worked out perfectly fine. He took it exactly the way I meant it to be. I verbalize myself a little different than others. Being around each other for so many weeks, Sam was able to grasp and see the sincerity in the moment. It actually stepped up his perspective of the competition and the message got through.”
While Dom Streater (winner, season 12) and Kini Zamora (third place, season 13) cruised into the finals, Laurence struggled with the challenge focused on prints, which he usually avoids. Ultimately, he had to face off against Donovan in a one-hour challenge for a spot in the finals, taking two previous dresses and merging them into one.
“It was pure torture but great entertainment,” he said. “It pushed me. I wasn’t sure what I was creating but I just went with the flow.” Ultimately, he created an impressively constructed dress, especially considering the limited time given. The judges granted him a ticket to the finals.
But he knows his path to victory is narrow. He’s going to need to put out a super collection to defeat his two opponents and pocket $100,000. “Dom is a force to be reckoned with,” Laurence said. “Kini is faster than anybody. It was very intimidating.” (Kini was never in the bottom three in the first 12 challenges and Dom landed there just once.)
Win or lose, he said the competition has made him a better designer: “It taught me to stop being so uptight when it comes to designing. I can be a little controlled. When I’m faced with obstacles and challenges, I can get a little frantic.”
“Project Runway All Stars” season five finale, 9 p.m. Thursday, Lifetime