Project Runway left out Zulema’s lesbianism even though, she says, “Everyone here’s fucking gay!”

This season especially, Project Runway‘s use of recorded voice-overs and editing tricks were especially apparent. Despite that, I still clung to the idea that the show was above the fray, better than the rest.

Zulema Griffin challenges that idea in a candid and wide-ranging interview with Bay Windows. Besides Santino, Zulema was the show’s biggest villain, and the show focused on her villainy–leaving out, she says, a lot more of her personality. That’s not unlike arguments we’ve heard before, but Zulema comes across as more credible, and also doesn’t exactly blame the editing.

For starters, the series never disclosed the fact that she is a lesbian who’s been together with her wife, Sherie, for more than three years. At first, she said she was hesitant about revealing her lesbianism, but once she arrived, she realized, “Everyone here’s fucking gay! Why do I care anymore?” Zulema hoped her presence on the show would help “to inspire other people to not be afraid to come out. Unfortunately with African Americans, no one comes out.”

Alas, editors never revealed that she was gay or that she was married, although she says she understands this. “It’s probably because they were trying to limit my demographic. In order to make someone a villain, you can’t give them any endearing traits,” she said. More surprising, she says, is that producers asked her, “Do you want us to promote you in the gay market?” She said yes, but she soon discovered that, in December, “Everyone was in the article in The Advocate about being gay but me.”

As it turns out, Zulema’s wife is a television editor. She says that, in her application, “I just wrote down that she was in post production services because I had a feeling if I told them she was an editor, I wasn’t going to get on the show.” But when Bravo found out that Sherie was an editor, “the reaction wasn’t good. It was pure fear. They started reading legal jargon to me, yelling to me on the phone, ‘We have the right to manipulate your character any way we want to!’ They went from just talking to me like a regular person to reading legal jargon.” She declines, however, to discuss any specifics about her portrayal, saying, “I can’t really talk about some things, because legally they would just sue the living shit out of me.”

Project Runway’s secret lesbian [Bay Windows]

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.