Supermodel, super businesswoman: That’s Heidi Klum, the "Project Runway" host, former Victoria’s Secret “angel,” actress, spokesperson, videogame star, clothing designer, fragrance entrepreneur, singer and famous Halloween enthusiast. As Klum and her "Runway" co-stars prepare to premiere their 10th season in July, she talks to TheWrap about her early fear that the show would tank her fashion career, why the show’s contestants need to do a better job of using their reality-TV fame and how one of her favorite outfits of all time involved a guy in a mattress.
Are you doing anything differently for the 10th season?
We have already been discussing our challenges and what kind of guest judges we are going to have. We always want to improve. When we started, we never thought that we would make it this far. [Laughs] It was something that we started filming in the dark, not really knowing how it would be perceived by the public or the people in the fashion industry. Especially the fashion industry, which can sometimes be a little bit snobby. We were a little worried that we would still have a job. But they were on our side.
What did you hope viewers would like about it? Was there something
specific that you wanted them to see about how the fashion industry works?
I tried to explain to people, before it came on the air, that it was more
documentary style than reality TV. At that time, when we premiered, this word, reality, gave people a bit of a bad taste. We were watching people eating maggots mixed with eyeballs made into a drink. I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Why are people doing this? Why are we watching this?’ That was part of what made it hard when we tried to sell the show. Also, we were going to all these different networks and they were saying, ‘Why would we want to watch people make clothes? What is so interesting about this?’ They didn’t understand why that would be interesting. But you can see that people love talent. If it is singing, like on "America’s Got Talent" or those shows, people just love watching other people’s talent.
What’s your favorite part of doing the show?
Thinking about challenges. My favorite challenges are the unconventional ones, when they have to make something out of unconventional materials and make it look wearable. We had a challenge one year where the designers had to make something out of car parts. Some of the most amazing things
happened. They used the belt or some glass from the mirror and sewed it into a dress. When people are forced to work with this kind of stuff, they get really creative and come up with some amazing designs.
Are you ever nervous that some of the challenges are just too outrageous?
On the very first episode, I was worried. We decided to do the challenge where they got $50 and they could go into a supermarket for 30 minutes and then make an outfit. I was really worried about that because I thought, ‘This is going to set the tone of our show, and if they don’t come up with something that is up to standard, then we’re going to tank.’ Then when we were sitting there at the runway, the music started and the first few models came out, I was like, ‘Yes!’ That was a make-or-break time, and we took a chance on such a strange challenge. I’m not worried anymore, though, because the designers have shown, year after year, that they can actually make real fashion out of nothing or out of weird things.
With "Runway," obviously, the contestants need to have a certain skill level
to compete. How tough is it to come up with the right mix every season?
Well, in our show we can’t cast for personality because it’s based on talent. If we have someone who is really fun and flamboyant, but they can’t sew, they’re off the air. They won’t make it far, so what’s the point? You can’t fake that. They have to make fashion in front of people who are really in the fashion industry.
Do you have a wish list of people that you would like to be judges?
Yes, of course. I would love to have the First Lady, Michelle Obama. I’ve been saying it over and over. You guys just have to write more about it so it will get to her. [Laughing] And there are always great actresses that we love and that are very fashionable. We want to have people that are not just famous — we want people that really have something to do with fashion and walk on the red carpet a lot, or that write about fashion.
Who have been some of your favorite guest judges?
I think people enjoy watching designers they’ve heard of but have never seen talk. Bob Mackie, for example. I’m a huge fan of Bob Mackie. I have a huge Barbie collection of all of Bob Mackie’s designs. Also, Roberto Cavalli. He’s so funny. His phone was ringing all the time.. He was smoking during the whole taping, but there is never smoking anywhere. But Roberto had to smoke, and the phone was ringing. We’re like, ‘Roberto, we’re in the middle of a take, can you turn your phone off?’ He’s like [adopts an Italian accent], ‘But amore, I don’t know who’s going to call.’
Are the show’s famous fans — Meryl Streep has said she loves the show, for
instance — approaching you to be guest judges?
Yeah, all the time. Just recently, Julia Roberts’ niece, Emma Roberts. She’s a really cute young actress. She was like, ‘I would love to be a guest judge on "Project Runway.”" She’s cute and she dresses really nice, so we’ll see.
Did you coin your catchphrase, “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out”?
That didn’t come from me. What came from me was ‘Auf Wiedersehen,’ which I’m proud of. We couldn’t come up with anything. It was like, ‘Should it be, "You’re cut, loser, get off my runway?”’ [Laughing] We had all these different things that were flying around the room. I was like, ‘Well, what we say at home is "Auf Wiedersehen."’ People were all laughing. They
thought it sounded funny.
Do you keep in touch with the designers from the show? Have you worn some
of their designs after the show?
I always try. It would be easier if the designers had a little bit more of a push themselves. If I were a designer, and I heard someone say, ‘I would love to wear that,’ I would be on their case. I would make it. I would be like, ‘What are your measurements?’ I would hustle to make sure that person gets what they wanted. The truth is that not everyone does that. I think a lot of them miss the boat, unfortunately. You have this notoriety all of a sudden. People are like, ‘Oh, my God. There is the person from "Project Runway." We just watched you on TV for the last few weeks.’ You have to ride that wave a little bit and hustle a little bit. Not everyone does.
You’re known for your annual Halloween party. What inspires you to plan
this elaborate bash every year?
When I first came to America, I was always missing a good Halloween party. I thought nobody takes Halloween seriously here. People put on a red nose or a little cone on their head and they’re like, ‘Wow, that’s an outfit.’ [Laughing] Or they go, ‘I’ll go really sexy.’ So I just said, ‘I’m just going to have to do my own party.’ I have to be so over-the-top in my
outfit that people will not be afraid to also push themselves a little bit to come up with something fun. I feel like I achieved that. I feel that people’s costumes have been more
outrageous and over-the-top. I love that. I have seen amazing costumes. I remember one guy came as a mattress. Literally, he took the inside out of the mattress and stuck his whole body in there and walked around the entire party as a mattress.