Project Runway is embracing inclusivity in its revamped run.
The fashion design competition series, which returns to its original network, Bravo, with a new lineup of judges and mentors, features its very first transgender model on tonight’s premiere.
Mimi Tao made her debut on the small screen during a fitting with contestant Kovid Kapoor. The gorgeous Thai model revealed the exciting news in a heartfelt moment.
“I have been working so hard to get here, especially for the transgender people. They need to work harder than other people. I’m so glad I’m here. I’m the first transgender model in Project Runway,” Tao told Kapoor.
Kapoor’s reaction channeled everything we were feeling as he bowed, hugged Tao and praised her: “You’re the real goddess!”
“I want to change the industry. I wanna inspire all the transgender, young generation who have a dream,” the Thai model continued.
Tao was exactly that in Kapoor’s creation — a flowy, light blue-and-gray draped gown that billowed as she floated down the runway.
The designer felt a deep connection to the model, as they both “come from these stories of oppression,” he reflected during the interview portion.
“Me and my boyfriend have been together for eight years. We are from the Himalayan highlands of India and homosexuality was a crime in my country. One day our neighbors called the cops on us and we actually had to leave our home the very next day. And that’s why I feel like there’s so much connection between her and I.”
The show’s lineup of models are tackling the notion that models are only tall and skinny. In addition to Tao, the roster is noticeably more diverse with curvier shapes.
And the stakes are higher in the new season as well. The winner of Project Runway will receive $250,000 (upped from $100k), a feature in ELLE, a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a role in a Bluprint digital series and $50,000 to use towards a design studio.
It’s a new cast of experts, too! First-time judges supermodel Karlie Kloss — who replaces Heidi Klum as host — designer Brandon Maxwell and journalist Elaine Welteroth join veteran judge ELLE editor-in-chief Nina Garcia. Designer Christian Siriano takes on the role of mentor from Tim Gunn.
“It was such a fun experience to get to help this young, new generation, and I think fashion is so, so different fro when I was on the show,” Siriano told ET on his new gig. “I think about that a lot, because I’m like, oh my gosh there was no Instagram when I was on the show. It’s wild! So many things are so different. I’m glad I’m able to be there and hopefully guide them, ’cause it is a new world.”