Q&A with Project Runway's Laura Bennett
The super chic -- and perpetually pregnant -- designer spills on her new fashion line, her huge family, and her commitment to staying fabulous.
Balancing It All
If you're a Project Runway fan, you definitely remember Season 3's elegant redhead Laura Bennett, who seemed to roll out of bed each morning wearing heels and red lipstick. As one of the final four, Bennett, 44, announced during taping that she was pregnant with -- count 'em -- her sixth baby.
The New Orleans native, who now lives in a Manhattan loft, says the show completely changed her life and career. Now along with architect husband Peter Shelton, she is parenting Cleo, 19, (from a former marriage) and sons Peik, 12, Truman, 9, Pearson, 5, Larson, 4, and Finn, 1. "Finn is short for finished, which I am...I think," she laughs.
When Parents.com finally got her to sit down long enough for a chat, she took the opportunity to multitask and watch her 12-year-old son play hockey at New York's Chelsea Piers.
Parents.com: Your life sounds crazy! How do you handle it all?LB: On a wing and a prayer! No, actually I am very, very busy but organized. I have narrowed it down to a few projects, but large and encompassing ones.
Parents.com: How does anyone have time to be fabulous with six kids?LB: Part of it is illusion but I also take time every morning to get dressed. It's so easy not to do that when you are a busy mom. But if I take those 15 minutes I feel better all day long. Women prioritize everyone else in their family and put themselves last. But if I take time for myself it can only be good. In the long run it makes everyone in my family happy because I am happy.
Parents.com: Do you have a team of people helping you every day?LB: I have two girls that help me. One has been with me for 12 years. If my kids wake up crying they usually call for Alicia. She comes in the morning and another girl helps me in the afternoon to bathe everyone. We powwow and figure the logistics every day. It's all about the logistics. I also have a great husband. Sometimes we aren't on time or not at every practice and we get a lot of slack from our friends. If I am in a meeting and its running over I will call one of the other moms and ask if she could pick up my son. I am not afraid to ask for help and I think that's really important. Women tend to get stressed out trying to handle everything by themselves. But who are you really trying to impress? I think a lot of women don't ask their husbands for enough help. Sometimes it's perceived that what they do is more important than what women do at home and that just isn't true. My husband is so great at helping me and I would encourage other husbands to do the same.
Parents.com: You seem so put together. Do you ever have days where you just wear sweats and no makeup?LB: I don't have help on the weekends and sometimes if I think I am not going to be leaving the house I have a pair of stretch velvet pants I wear. My nanny laughs because they're sort of upgraded sweat pants. But I think it's a slippery slope. If I am dressed dumpy, I am going to eat badly and act dumpy. It's such a simple thing to get dressed and feel better about yourself.
Life With Five Boys
Parents.com: Most people couldn't imagine managing five little boys in a New York City apartment.LB: We have a large space by Manhattan standards and we go out of town to a house we have in the Berkshires on the weekends to let them run around. During the school week they are so busy it's fine to be in the city.
Parents.com: You are in amazing shape. How do you manage that after all these pregnancies?LB: I'm a runner and like spinning. I used to preach that you had to make the time to exercise but it's been harder for me now that I am so busy. But I feel like if I can do it three times a week, it's enough for me to mentally feel good and that's what it's really about.
Parents.com: Ever have mommy guilt about working so much?LB: As a parent I think that it's great for my kids to see that I am taking advantages of all these opportunities. They have a healthy, successful role model. I love the idea that more moms are starting businesses and doing things for themselves. Women are amazing. Men could never handle all of the things that women do. It never gets easier, but women keep doing it and take whatever comes. We need to do a good job as parents but also have to be responsible to ourselves and live our lives to their fullest potential.
Her New Line
Parents.com: You are coming out with a line on QVC. What will it be like?LB: My first show with them will be in February and the idea is that it's all about easy-to-wear glamour. Every woman can be more glamorous and it just takes a few minutes a day. It's nothing over the top, but things that make the every day a little more special. A sweater could have a slight sparkle through the thread or a blouse that has a corset detail sewn in so there's a bit of a lingerie touch.
Parents.com: Is it affordable?LB: It's one of the more expensive lines on QVC, because I didn't want to sell junk. But blouses are about $60 and a satin trench coat is about $150 so it's not outrageous. The line is called Little Black Dress by Laura Bennett. The clothes are simple, chic, and always appropriate, just like your own little black dress.
Parents.com: And you've also become a spokesperson for Dress for Success. Can you explain what that charity does?LB: It a charity for underprivileged women entering the work force to give them a wardrobe that's office-appropriate and boosts their self esteem. There's a dress I have designed for QVC where we will donate $10 from every sale.
Dressing the Bump
Parents.com: Do you have celebrity clients now?LB: Patricia Heaton has called me and I think she really related to my designs. I've designed things for Heidi (Klum). Julie Bowen called me to make her some fancy maternity dresses to wear to events.
Parents.com: Are you still planning on doing a line of maternity clothes?LB: I have designed a maternity line but I haven't produced it yet because I haven't found a home for it yet. But I am ready to go! It's also focused on a bit more glamour.
Parents.com: What do you think about maternity dressing these days?LB: It's changed from the days when Grace Kelly hid her pregnancy with a Kelly bag in front of her. I think if you feel good about your body you should wear more fitted things. I do think the bare belly thing is a bit much but if you like something fitted and you feel good -- wear it! When I get pregnant I explode and feel like my butt is getting bigger and bigger so I like those baby doll silhouettes. But these days I think anything goes.
Project Runway Dish
Parents.com: Are you still in touch with any of the cast members?LB: I talk to Uli a lot. She stays with me when she comes to New York. She was texting me during a recent episode.
Parents.com: Venture a guess who will win this season?LB: I'm still trying to decide. There are some contestants who think that they are all that and I don't think they are that at all.
Parents.com: Like who?LB: I think Christian with the wacky hair is way too young and too full of himself, and he's making a mistake by not taking Tim's advice. I think Victorya and Rami are looking pretty good to me at the moment.
Parents.com: A lot of reality show contestants complain about how the shows are edited to make them look one way or another. Do you feel you got a fair shot?LB: I do think it was edited fairly and if a producer tries to tell you to act a certain way or start a fight or whatever you are supposed to report them to the other producers. They build characters but they never put things you say out of context.
The Cheating Controversy
Parents.com: So you still stand behind your accusation that Jeffrey was cheating?LB: Yes. I didn't do it out of malice. I honestly felt that he did not sew that collection on his own and if I didn't say something it would have eaten at me for the rest of my life. Your craftsmanship is like your signature and it didn't look like his signature to me. In the end they decided he was not wrong and he went on to win but karma is a bitch and if he did cheat it will catch up to him.
Parents.com: Were you surprised when people were angry at you for doing that?LB: Jeffrey picked on people all season and suddenly I was the horrible bitch taking on a heroin addict. I was really surprised by people's reactions. But nothing in life can hurt you if you know what's in your own heart. I didn't do it on a whim to make good TV and I would do it all over the same way with no regrets.
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