Keith Michael became the first designer kicked off Project Runway for a violation of the show’s rules.
Bravo has been teasing the elimination for weeks, showing us Tim Gunn talking gravely to a faceless designer, so Keith’s exit wasn’t a surprise. In fact, it wasn’t even really dramatic since we’ve basically seen all the footage except for Keith himself and his reaction. In addition, an earlier rumor suggested that Keith was the one who’d be eliminated, although because he had ripped off other designers in his portfolio, which turned out to not be the reason.
Instead, he was removed after Kayne noticed “some pattern-making books in Keith’s room,” he told Vincent, and eventually the show’s producers. Kayne explained his indignation, pointing out that “Keith has kind of got special recognition for his work, and if he’s using pattern-making books and how-to books and how-to books, then I want to be able to use those things.”
Tim Gunn told us, “We have very clear and concise rules for designers on Project Runway. One of the absolute no-nos is no fashion how-to books. None of any kind. Keith’s possession of the books was brought to the producers attention by Kayne; the producers in turn informed me.” Then the audio switched, and in a voice-over, he said, “And in a separate incident that happened off-camera, Keith left the production without permission for several hours and used the Internet which were additional violations of the rules.”
Tim told Keith directly that such “books that are illegal. You’re incredibly talented and that’s why these books make me sick for the designers on the show, it’s definitely and issue. And the other is your departure, and accordingly, we’re going to have to ask you to leave. We need you to get your stuff together tonight, and you’ll leave tonight.”
Keith didn’t bawl, but said, “I didn’t expect this. … My image has been tarnished forever, I’m off the show, and I’m going to be a laughing stock to my friends.” In an interview, he implied that he was a scapegoat, insisting that “the kind of sad part is that I never used those books to give myself any unfair advantage. I am disappointed. I would have made it to the end, pretty sure, if not pretty far along. I had a lot of tricks up my sleeve still.”
Way to maintain your innocence, Keith: with an allusion to hiding something. Earlier, during a long sequence of foreshadowing, when practically every designer said something about Keith’s , he said, “I always kind of break the rules sometimes, just like a tiny bit sometimes, ’cause I think I’m right.”
His departure profoundly affected the other designers, like Laura, who said, “Keith. What an asshole. I’m glad to see him gone.”