It was sad to see Gordana (or Sweet G as... only I call her) Gehlhausen leave us after Episode 3's Miss Piggy challenge. The designer and mother (who used her exit interview on last week's ep to encourage women of all ages to never forget their passions and dreams), has come a long way since we first fell in love with her feminine fashions and incredibly caring demeanor on Season 6 of "Project Runway." Calling from "sunny California," Gordana spoke with me about her experience on "Project Runway All Stars," including the scary moment we didn't see on TV.
Lisa: During the challenge you were saying your children were into Miss Piggy growing up, did that have any input on the challenge?
The funny thing is, I don’t know Miss Piggy at all because I grew up in a Communist country so we didn’t have Miss Piggy! When my children were watching it, I never paid attention. So when the challenge came along instead of "what would I like to see Miss Piggy in?" because I didn’t have that relationship so it was a little bit tough for me, I wanted to create something that a girl who might be watching would say, "Oh, this is so pretty!"
Thinking back to your first time on the show, a lot of "Project Runway" fans thought that you got robbed on Season 6 when you were cut right before Fashion Week. Did you feel that way with your experience on "All Stars"?
The reason why I decided to do "All Stars" was because of the first season of "Project Runway" and not being able to show, I thought, well maybe this is my chance for redemption. It is what it is, you know? You have to go into it with an open mind and you never know what can happen. I was so physically drained, that the biggest challenge for me was that I would have to take breaks non-stop and was just exhausted.
Funny you mention I was looking through the photos from the episode and I saw pictures from Episode 1 that showed you fainting (and Rami and Elisa coming to your rescue) on the runway that didn’t make it to the episode.
Maybe I’m happy it didn’t air because there are a lot of people who care about me, I didn’t want to scare them, you know? So its fine, but I read some comments and people were like, "Oh, Gordana looks like someone punched her in the face" and stuff and I’m like, "You don’t know what’s going on there!" In the building the producers chose to film in, they shut off the AC on weekends who would think the AC would be shut off? You can imagine how hot it was in there as if the challenge wasn’t enough for me, oh my God!
The next day I was looking at these blue marks all over me and I’m like, "When did I hit myself?" but it was when the people picked me up [after fainting]. I didn’t even know it was Rami, I just felt this strong hand and I remember hearing the voice saying, “Don’t worry, you are in good hands, you are fine, everybody loves you, we are all here for you.” It was Elisa, I found out. In these kind of situations you really see what humans are made of and that’s what the most touching part of the experience is, seeing how they all came together. And I didn’t even know these people, they were just there for the first episode and I walk away from it having such a tremendous respect and love for all of them.
At the very end of the episode, you said something about women going back to work and following their dreams. Can you kind of expand a little more on that for the fans?
It’s really expected a lot of woman today are really conflicted, a lot of women give up their life, their careers to give the best environment to their children. And then [the children] move on, they go to their own lives and the woman stays behind, [wondering] what am I going to do with myself, you know? I’ve had people comment and come into my store, saying "I admire you so much, in your age, you’re pursuing your passion!" And that’s the message I want, don’t be afraid of judging, don’t be afraid of what anybody’s going to think about something! As long as you find the passion in what you really want to do, even if it’s something that always was in the back of your mind but you never did it because you thought, oh it’s so too complicated and I’m not really good, if you follow it with your heart, I’m telling you, it’s going to be wonderful. When you do something out of love, the energy that comes in between that doing and you is just so beautiful that nothing can stop you. And that’s what I want to tell people: it’s never too late.
People come to me asking for business advice because surprisingly, I’m one of the successful ones from "Project Runway." I have my own business that’s thriving. In February, I’m actually opening in another location in Santa Monica. And I'm on local television teaching "how to's" every week. Last week, I was showing how to go to a closet, take faded shirts and make them beautiful [with dying]. My life is full, I love people around me, people come to me or my shop, I’m so approachable. Would I like to be longer on the show? Of course but it’s not the end of the world.
Do you think your positivity was your secret weapon on the show? I felt like you were portrayed as such a wonderful person #&151; we really saw that you were sweet, you were the voice of reason, you helped out the other contestants.
There is no secret, you just go in there with an open heart and who you are and the weapon is you and whatever comes out of it. I remember, even in Season 6, Tim Gunn would come to me and say, "Gordana, I see you helping everybody and that’s what I love about you but on the other hand, this is a competition." I’m not a competitive person and I know that about myself, I’m more like, "what can I do for you?" I also remember telling Tim, at that time I was 44, I was like, "Tim, I am older and have established who I am as a human being and I’m not going to change for a show." But staying who you are, at the end of the day is really the biggest challenge of everyone. When you love yourself and what you represent, then you end up loving everything and everyone around you.
Who would you love to see win?
I have such a love and respect for every one of them but I want to say, I hope that the ride is smooth enough for them and whoever wins at the end, I’m so tremendously happy for them.
You don’t have a favorite or someone’s clothes that you would love to wear?
Even if you have a favorite designer, you don’t necessarily end up loving every one of their designs. And that’s with all of them. There are aspects of all of them that I like and would wear. And it doesn’t mean I would wear every piece they created, you know? I actually like Mila’s designs, I like the clean lines that she does, but then I also like Kara’s and Mondo’s and Michael’s? Michael and I have been doing a lot of stuff together because we make clothes. All of them are really good and really talented.