She didn’t win a single challenge.
She was close to being eliminated more than once. She fought with her team members several times and shed tears at the mean comments made about her designs. But, in the end, Patricia Michaels did it all with style, dignity and, even though she came in second place, she stands poised to take the fashion world by storm.
The Taos Pueblo Native wound up among the final three contestants in Lifetime Television’s popular reality TV series, “Project Runway” season 11 “teams edition.” In the show’s suspenseful finale that was broadcast Thursday (April 25), her last fashion collection was judged alongside those of fellow contestants Michelle Franklin and Stanley Hudson. Ultimately, it was Franklin who was named winner.
As part of the winner’s prize package, Franklin received $100,000 from L’Oréal Paris to start her own line, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, a 2013 Lexus GS 350, a $50,000 technology suite by HP and Intel to create her own vision and run her business and the opportunity to design and sell an exclusive collection at Lord & Taylor.
Michaels got nothing.
However, what she has received in media exposure, name recognition, sales and celebrity status is probably worth millions. Just last weekend, she took 2011 Best Actress Oscar winner Natalie Portman to the annual Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque. Portman is in the state filming “Jane Got a Gun.” Michaels has been interviewed countless times for media stories and has brought a level of attention to Taos you cannot put a price tag on. The Smithsonian Institute wants to do a retrospective of her work in October.
Through it all she maintains a level of humility common to Native people of her tribe. “I feel really honored,” she said. “I want to support other Native American designers, give them encouragement and I can help push their aspirations in a positive direction.”
The “Project Runway” competition actually concluded Feb. 8, 2013, but Michaels and all her fellow contestants have been contractually obligated to keep the results secret. Keeping a lid on it has not been easy, she said. “I mean, my sister Esther (Winters) was so convinced that I knew and I had to lie to her,” she said.
As the series wore on, she kept thinking about how she was going to use the media attention to further her career, something she said she talked about with other contestants. “You have to know: What are you going to do with it?” she said. “How are you going to embrace that?”
Michaels attributes her tenacity in the show to “great aesthetics and great design capabilities.” She said a critique she received from designer Michael Kors was especially encouraging. According to Michaels, Kors reportedly said, “I’m so glad Patricia Michaels made it to the final three. She was the only one with a fashion-worthy runway collection for New York that could speak to New York or Paris Fashion Week.”
Now, what is Nina Garcia’s problem?
The fashion director at Marie Claire magazine and one of the show’s perpetual judges seemed visibly opposed to anything presented by Michaels, leading fans to wonder what her agenda might really be. “She missed a great opportunity,” Michaels said. “I think she’s afraid of what it would have meant. Some people are just so comfortable with where they’re at, they don’t even know how to encompass innovation. My grandpa used to say, ‘Sometimes beauty is hard to take.’ So maybe that’s what it was. I don’t know.”
If anything, Michaels said she was determined not to be boring. “If I gave them boring then I would be ashamed of myself.”
Michaels said Garcia’s quote from the show, “fashion isn’t art,” may have ultimately come back to bite her. “I think when somebody puts their foot in their mouth and they have to spend time retracting or trying to justify it, that’s why it’s better not to be the mean person.”
For the time being, Michaels is planning to be present for the last viewing party tonight (May 2) at the KTAOS Solar Center. The screening at 7 p.m. will be for the “Project Runway” reunion show. Admission is free.