By MIKE CHAIKEN
The state of Connecticut has had its flirtation with “Project Runway” a number of times over the years.
Numerous contestants on the fashion competition show, such as Althea Harper, Layana Aguilar, Nora Caliguri, and Emmett McCarthy, had ties to the Nutmeg State.
For cycle 13, however, the runway in the studio of the series is what carries a touch of Connecticut to Lifetime TV each week.
Local model Ashley Rossi is one of the runway models who is poked, prodded, and manipulated by the designers during rushed and harried fittings. Then she has her designer’s garments examined closely by judges Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum, Zac Posen, and the guest judge of the week to see if this is the week her designer receives her “auf Wiedersehen” from Heidi.
The Wallingford resident, who once modeled for John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center in Rocky Hill (and the Observer, as well), is no newcomer to the world of reality television. She was a contestant for “America’s Next Top Model” in 2013.
As she dashed from fashion photo shoots and casting calls for fashion week in her current home of New York City, Ashley answered questions via email about her “Project Runway” experience.
Observer: First of all, why did the opportunity to be part of “Project Runway” appeal to you as a model?
Ashley: It appealed to me as a model because it is great runway experience and exposure. It’s also a great opportunity to work with established individuals in the fashion industry such as Zac Posen and Nina Garcia.
O: What was the general casting process to get picked for the show?
A: There were hundreds of girls auditioning, and we had to walk the runway three times as well as [provide] Polaroids. (Reporter’s note: Polaroids are a process at fashion show castings where a photograph is taken with either a Polaroid instant camera or a point and shoot camera. The purpose is to see how well the model’s appearance holds up in what is typically unflattering lighting and without the benefit of computer programs such as Photoshop.)
O: From the episodes I’ve seen so far — up to the challenge where the garments were made out of old men’s suits— you’re paired with one particular designer, Samantha Plasencia. Were you assigned to her or did she get to choose you? And in general, this cycle, what happens to a model when her designer is “auffed?”
A: I was assigned to Samantha. There wasn’t a choice in designers/models. When your designer gets eliminated, so does the model.
O: What did you like about Samantha as a designer, and as a person?
A: I liked Samantha’s designs because she didn’t use bright colors, which I rarely wear. She has a bubbly personality and was very nice to me during the fittings and shows.
O: What was your personal dynamic with Samantha? Did you become friends and did she ask for feedback from you? Or was it more professional in that you had a job to do, and she had a job to do?
A: She definitely liked when I gave my opinion and what I liked and didn’t like. We became friends and even follow each other on Instagram.
O: What was the atmosphere like for the models during the fittings and make up/ hair sessions?
A: The atmosphere was always fun and exciting. All the models became friends and we even went out to the clubs after filming together. So it wasn’t even like work for us because we were all together as new friends.
O: What was it like doing the actual runway for the judges? How much interaction did you get with the judges?
A: There was more interaction with Heidi Klum backstage then I expected. She would talk to us and ask how we were doing. She was so sweet and I was surprised. The runway for the judges was the best part of the show for me.
O: You obviously can’t tell me too much without giving away who reaches the finals… but what do you think it will be like for you to be under the tents at Fashion Week, whether it’s as a spectator or as a participant on the runway?
A: The runway under the tent should be very exciting. I can’t wait to see everyone and the designs and especially to see who wins.
O: What other gigs are on the horizon?
A: For me, I have swimwear showroom coming up, as well as castings for other fashion week shows.
“Project Runway” airs on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.
For more information about cycle 13 of “Project Runway,” go to http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway