A couple years ago my best friend called me to let me know that there was a deaf designer on Project Runway that signed and had a cochlear implant. I had never watched the show before that or since then, but I religiously followed that entire season rooting for Justin LeBlanc the entire time. At one point he was actually eliminated and it was very emotional.
I might have okay, I did shed a tear, but then he was able to get back on the show because you know how those reality shows can go.
I was thrilled to see a role model on a popular TV show that was deaf like my daughter and I even blogged about how I was a big fan. So when I found out that Justin LeBlanc was coming to my SJ’s school I was ecstatic! I had the opportunity to photograph the event for the school. After LeBlanc was introduced to the kids (grades K-2) they had a Q&A which mostly included
Can you make shirts?
Can you make a hat?
Can you make shoes?
Did you make your clothes?
Did you make my clothes?
Can you make toys?
And lastly, How old are you?
The answer is yes he can make just about any clothing item, but no he did not make the clothes anyone there was wearing, and he is 28 years old.
Afterwards LeBlanc helped all them decorate their own hat. It really was the coolest thing! It was like watching the mini version of Project Runway with all of them busily losing themselves in the fabric and materials.
Then came the fashion show!
All of the elementary age students walked down the runway in front of their classmates and other special guests. It was adorable to say the least.
At the end LeBlanc shared a little bit more about his hearing loss and what his passions are. I was able to get a picture and talk to him briefly when everything ended. In classic fan girl fashion I started sputtering out “It is SO great to meet you. I never even watched Project Runway until you were on it” and his response was “Yeah, me neither.” I have had a lot of PR fans ask about what he was like in real life, not that I hung out with him for a week or anything, but for that afternoon he was so polite, sincere, and always had this smile on his face.
His parents were there too. Whenever there is a deaf celebrity I am always most interested in the parents behind the scenes, because that’s what I relate to and I loved getting to visit with them.
I’m sure everyone there took away different things from the experience, but the highlights for me were hearing LeBlanc talk about how Project Runway was kind of like a designer summer camp for him because he had six weeks being completely unplugged. No cell phone. No social networking. No TV. Just hours upon hours spent working on clothes and really getting to focus on his craft, which he had never had that opportunity to do to that extent before.
On top of all that channel 12 in Cincinnati was there.
Much to my surprise they decided to interview me (I am the only woman in the video. It’s about the halfway point and they also show a short clip of SJ while I am talking). I’ll admit it was a little bit intimidating and definitely made me self-conscious, it was still a great experience though. The cameraman and anchorwoman were so personable and down-to-earth. You can view the video on their website.
I really can’t say enough good things about the fashion show at Ohio Valley Voices and I do want to give credit to Justin Leblanc designs, Sewn Studios, and TJ Maxx for donating their time and materials. I know that it means so much to these kids and their families.
I meant what I said in my interview
“It’s really inspiring to have someone that’s deaf that’s shown how successful you can be despite whatever challenges you may face. I think they had a great time”