Show Me the 'Runway'

For Heidi Klum, reality is coming full circle. Eleven years ago, she was discovered in a modeling contest on German TV. Now she's partnered with Bravo, Elle and Miramax Television to host and produce a behind-the-scenes search for the next big designer. Project Runway, the 10-episode reality series premiering Dec. 1 on Bravo, throws 12 amateur designers into the famously bitchy world of fashion. Each week, contestants tackle a new challenge, and Klum and her panel of judges vote off one player. The last designer standing wins a coveted Elle photo shoot, a showing at New York's Fashion Week in February and $100,000 to launch their career. The top model talked to B&C's Anne Becker from a limo in L.A.

How did you get involved with Project Runway?

Miramax asked if I wanted to host. When they heard my ideas, I got to be one of the producers. Going to all the cities and finding designers wasn't easy. There are really talented people out there.

Did your background in modeling help you develop the show?

Definitely. It's all about designers and making it in the fashion world. When I was judging, I thought: Have I seen this before? Would I wear this on the runway? Being in the business, I've seen outfits for a magazine cover with a two-page description on how to get in it!

How involved were you in the process?

They put me into the mix when there were maybe 100 people left. Then we went through tapes and portfolios and made our decision on the final 12. It's crazy how much stuff you have to do before the show even starts.

Is this harder, easier or just different from modeling?

Totally different. Normally, models don't talk. So it's nice when you get to do other things. I get the rough cuts, look through it and make my comments. It's boring if you're only used for your face and body and not your brain.

Why will this reality show stand out?

People love the fashion world, the glamour and the glitz. Also, we have challenges people wouldn't think are things you have to do if you're a designer. Sometimes, I completely threw contestants for a loop.

What's the most gratifying thing about the show?

You see the talent grow and give people a chance. I'm also proud of the line I came up with to send everybody off. Donald Trump says, “You're fired!” But I'm German. I say, “Auf wiedersehen.” We were filming the first show and still didn't have the line to say goodbye to people. We were brainstorming, people were shouting, nothing was working, and then I got it. I had a great time doing it, and I tried my best.

Did you get advice from Tyra Banks on her own reality series America's Next Top Model?

No. We did talk about how difficult it is to do. Sometimes, we're filming till 2 in the morning. It's not like I just showed up and showed my face.