After an extremely busy day, I stopped by the store on the way home to say hello and meet the lady herself. I hadn't had time to prepare something to say, but I did come up with everything I shouldn't say:
Don't mention any competitors from her season. Make this about meeting her.
Don't ask too much about the show, it was a long time ago and doesn't define her now.
Tell her how you watched every episode and wish she had won? No, that reminds her that she didn't win.
Tell her that she was your favorite contestant ever. Even if that is true, it sounds fake. Don't be fake.
Say she's fabulous. No, you'll look like a creeper and you're not cool enough to say "fabulous" to a famous, inspirational, and, well, fabulous black woman.
I talked myself out of every single conversation I could start with. Not only that, I was seeing a fashion designer clothed in my Kohl's argyle sweater, pink glassees, and Kate Spade satchel. I am such a suburbanite, and I hate it. I am the opposite of fabulous. I reminded myself of that scene in The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda Pristely lectures Andy about how she doesn't appreciate fine clothing represented in Runway (the magazine). Miranda says,
...And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.
I was going to walk in front of a burgeoning fashion designer in my trickled-down, once-was-fabulous,-now-is-a-shameful-version-of-it's-former-self outfit.
Insecurities and all, I walked into the gift store, tickled pink by the whole affair--meeting someone whose talent I admire is something I was looking forward to, despite myself. I saw Korto in the middle of the store signing stationery and being just as lovely as could be. I walked up to her and said, "I know I'm looking all working girl here..." to which she replied, "Everyone acts like they need to dress well when they see me, but they haven't seen me headed out to Wal-Mart."
So sweet, so genuine, so disarming.
She got up from the table and hugged me, and the rest of the conversation (which didn't include any of the things I prohibited myself against) happened just the same, where she was nothing but laid-back and inviting--even when I was fumbling for conversation starters and words.
I got a picture with her and learned that she keeps up with lots of people from the show and that they are actually friends afterward. She has a friend in other Project Runway favorites like Anthony and Jerrell and is planning to get her line into retail stores in the upcoming year.
I may not be able to find an occasion for her decadent dresses, but I would definitely try some on in the dressing room to pretend, for a minute, that I am fabulous after all.