Monday, July 14, 2008

'Project Runway' addicts rejoice!

The fifth season debuts Wednesday night in its new time slot (9 p.m.) and mighty Heidi (as in Klum) and company (as in mentor Tim Gunn and judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia) will all be there.

The season is bittersweet for Bravo -- it's auf wiedersehen at the end, as next time around it moves to Lifetime. But the powers behind the show assure that they are pulling out all the stops. Fashion fabulous guest judges range from Diane von Furstenberg to Brooke Shields, and even a few notable LIers will weigh in, including LL Cool J of Manhasset for a music-centric challenge and Natalie Portman, a Syosset high school grad, who will render judgement during a "green" episode.

Challenges, as always, will be (to steal a phrase from last season's winner, Christian Siriano) fierce -- and fun -- including the reliably wacky "think outside the box" type when contestants have to construct a garment out of unconventional materials to an Olympic uniform design smackdown judged by gold medal winning speed skater and "Dancing With The Stars" champ Apolo Ohno.

So whose scissors will be sharpest this season? Contestants converge from all over -- Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Utah, even Italy. There are surfer dudes, stylists and even a rocker chick, Stella Zotis, 42, who, (yay!) hails from Astoria. When she found out she made the cut, she says, "You know when you go to the dentist and you get Novocain, you don't really know what's happening? That's how I felt when Tim Gunn said welcome to the show."

We're thinking she'll provide some spark this season -- she started as a punk rock makeup artist and now produces one-of-a-kind leather and denim designs for hipsters including Debbie Harry and Paula Abdul. She says her best fashion advice is "not to blend in." Hmmm.

- Anne Bratskeir

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