Project Runway's Season 16 Cheating Scandal Explained

Project Runway season 16

The Project Runway season 16 cheating scandal saw a contestant disqualified for breaking the rules, but which designer left the competition and why? Created by reality TV producer Eli Holzman, Project Runway is a fashion design contest that aired its seventeenth season in 2019. The show features several contestants who compete against each other to create the best outfit in a series of weekly themed challenges, whose outcomes are decided by a team of fashion industry judges.

Project Runway’s sixteenth season aired in 2017 on Lifetime and featured supermodel Heidi Klum, fashion designer Zac Posen, and Marie Claire magazines then creative director Nina Garcia as its judges. A total of 16 fashion designer wannabes took part in Project Runway season 16, with fashion consultant Tim Gunn serving as their mentor as they navigated through challenges that included designing everything from a red carpet look to outfits made from recycled materials.

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The season was notable as the first to feature plus-size models but it’s also remembered for a less positive reason too – the Project Runway season 16 cheating scandal. This involved contestant Claire Buitendorp who entered the contest with twin sister Shawn. Prior to Project Runway, Claire and Shawn appeared on the VH1 reality show Twinning which they won. Unfortunately, their appearance on Project Runway wasn’t quite so successful when in episode 8 it came to light that Claire had broken the show's rules.

Project Runway season 16

The episode opened with the twins going head-to-head in a one-hour challenge that would see one of them eliminated from the contest. Shawn decided to forfeit the challenge, leaving Claire to progress to the next challenge which involved designing an ensemble featuring a custom print created by the contestants. Claire was declared the winner which saw fellow contestant Michael Brambila walk off the stage in disgust.

In the following episode of Project Runway season 16, it was revealed Claire had a measuring tape that she’d been using to measure her own clothes back at the contestants’ apartment to get proportions to use in her designs. As using a measuring tape outside of the contestant workroom is expressly against the rules of Project Runway, Claire had her previous win revoked and was disqualified from the competition.

The Project Runway season 16 cheating scandal wasn’t the show’s first either. Back in season 3 contestant Keith Michael was similarly disqualified after it was discovered he’d broken the rules by keeping pattern-making and fashion history books at the contestant apartment.

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