Philly's 'Runway' star is already a winner

PHOTO: BARBARA NITKE Philly's Dom Streater watches backstage at the "Project Runway" finale, with mentor Tim Gunn.
PHOTO: BARBARA NITKE Philly's Dom Streater watches backstage at the "Project Runway" finale, with mentor Tim Gunn.
Posted: October 18, 2013

* PROJECT RUNWAY. 9 tonight, Lifetime.

* REIGN. 9 tonight, CW57.

IF DOM Streater wins the 12th edition of "Project Runway" tonight, she'll be the first Philadelphia designer to take the prize - or even make it to the finals - since Jay McCarroll won in 2005.

But that's not why I'm rooting for the 24-year-old Moore College of Art & Design grad in a competition that admittedly was decided more than a month ago.

If Dom, as "Runway" fans know her, is a source of local pride, it should be because she's been modeling behavior we're not used to seeing on "reality" TV, acting like a grown-up on a show that can't seem to stop casting for conflict, if not actual crazy.

And so her big moments haven't involved tantrums or tears, but triumphs, including a jacket-and-jumpsuit outfit two weeks ago that had guest judge Emmy Rossum snatching the jacket off the model. (Philly-based fashion bloggers Tom and Lorenzo wrote that the ensemble, which didn't win but guaranteed Dom a spot in the finals, was "easily the most high-fashion look all season" and maybe in several seasons.

As someone who watches "Runway" for the creative stuff, I'm often turned off by the whining - and occasional bullying - but this season was heated enough that "Runway" mentor Tim Gunn complained to the New York Times that "the level of anger and acting out and grumpiness was really beyond the pale."

Through it all, though, Dom came off as sane, pleasant and even-tempered, responding well to criticism and letting her work do most of her talking.

"I kind of, like, made a decision before I got there that I really just needed to be true to myself, but also make sure that I focused primarily on my work. Because that was the reason that I was there," she told me this week.

"I do agree with Tim on [some of the behavior]. It was very, very dramatic to the point where it was kind of laughable. It was bizarre. I guess that was one of the reasons that I was on the sidelines a lot. Because I was just kind of astonished. It was like watching a car wreck. Like I couldn't look away and I couldn't believe what I was seeing, either."

It was worse, apparently, than we knew: "The editing is very, very kind," she said.

Unable to find a job in design after graduation, Dom's been working in animal care at the University of Pennsylvania and occasionally hostessing at Silk City (where Gunn met with her and her family in last week's episode), while designing on the side.

"Yes, [animal care] is kind of a bizarre tangent from fashion design," she said, but "it's easy for me to get a job because I have a lot of experience in it."

Her goal, though, remains the same: "I eventually would like to be designing and running my own label, based in Philadelphia."

Whether or not she wins tonight, it's hard to believe that her life's not about to change, even if that means an employer being smart enough to hire a talented designer with her kind of attitude.

"It's great, the response I've gotten from fans and the requests for commissions and . . . the exposure that I've gotten from being on the show, and I'm so grateful for it," she said.

"I knew coming into it that it could be a possibility, that I could get far enough where . . . I won't have to do animal-care work anymore, and I could actually design for a living. It's looking pretty good for me at this point."

Unlikely 'Reign' events

Care about fashion but not "Project Runway"?

There's always "Reign," the new CW drama most likely to inspire its own line of prom dresses.

I was the kind of weird teenager obsessed enough with Mary, Queen of Scots (here played by Adelaide Kane), to have welcomed a TV show about her youth in 16th-century France.

Especially one with Megan Follows (yes, "Anne of Green Gables") as Catherine de Medici.

But the CW doesn't make shows for the likes of me.

No need then to list all the historical whoppers, which range from made-up or reimagined characters to renaming Mary's ladies-in-waiting. (Confusingly, they were all named Mary and known as "the four Marys," but in "Reign" they're Greer, Kenna, Aylee - and Lola.)

Some may get worked up by a scene, toned down from the original pilot, in which one of the young ladies masturbates in a dark corner of the castle before the French king comes along to offer a hand. But it's perfectly in keeping with a show that displays no faith at all in viewers' ability to imagine life before Miley Cyrus.


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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