U.S. Army, UWM, now ‘Project Runway’ for arts grad

Miranda Levy (far left) with the other top 11 designers await the details of their next challenge. (Photos by Barbara Nitke/Lifetime)

After her third audition for Lifetime’s Emmy nominated reality T.V. show, “Project Runway,” UWM alumna Miranda K. Levy finally got her shot.  The Army veteran turned fashion designer is now competing and starring on the show’s twelfth season, which premiered July 18. The show airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. CST.

Video by Logan Mitchell

Watch UWM alum Miranda K. Levy as she competes on the 12th season of Lifetime’s Emmy nominated reality TV show, Project Runway. View full size on YouTube

Season 12 finds 16 designers, including Levy, sharing a workroom in Parsons The New School for Design, an NYC apartment and weekly design challenges. In typical reality T.V. fashion one designer is eliminated on air each week.  Levy heads into Week Five with a controversial penchant for pencil skirts, plus a strong individual style and story as the show’s first military veteran.

Miranda works on her garment for the second challenge where designers had to create clothing to complement multi million-dollar jewelry.

After eight years in the U.S. Army as a construction equipment mechanic, Miranda decided to pursue her passion for art at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. Fibers professor Marna Brauner of the Peck School’s Art & Design Department encouraged Levy to explore her military background in her work.

Levy was resistant to the idea. “I kind of refused to let that be a part of my life.”  Looking back at it, though, she has since realized that “all I was trying to do was discover my identity through my art.” Levy graduated from the Peck School of the Arts in 2009 with a BFA in photography, with a minor in fibers.

It wasn’t until Miranda was persuaded to show clothing made of wallpaper in a Milwaukee fashion show that she fell in love with the runway. After unveiling her designs on stage and feeling the reaction of viewers, she was hooked.  Designing clothing for women became her true passion. “Fashion design is about making a uniform for women – having structure and femininity in the same outfit.”

“My art was kind of about a loss of identity,” says Miranda. Wearing her military uniform on duty, she says, was a way of blending in. Wearing it in the civilian world, however, made her feel highly recognized and empowered. This concept continues to inspire her designs. “I want women to feel empowered by what they wear and not disguised. They should feel like the most powerful and most beautiful person in the room.”

Miranda’s design from Episode 4.

The glamour of being on a reality T.V. show does have its challenges, Levy now says. “There is no ‘movie magic’ going on here.”

Contestants go through rigorous challenges that test their ability to produce unique, quality designs under extremely tight time constraints. “I cried, I laughed, I got angry, and I was real and it was raw,” she recalls. “I had no problems making work in the limited amount of time, but I had no idea about the cameras, and the editing, and the stress of that.”

The Milwaukee native says she had no idea what to expect when she agreed to be on the show but stuck to her platform and design concept throughout. “I’m not an actress, I’m a real person. Every time I interviewed I was as real as I could possibly be.”

Miranda says her art degree from UWM has played a huge role in her success as a designer. “Sometimes we take meandering paths to where we are and art school was completely influential in who I am as a designer.”

She spent a short time in New York City filming “Project Runway,” but says she is thankful to be back in Milwaukee and looks forward to continuing her design work from her studio in Shorewood. All 16 designers will return to NYC for the finale, which will air this October.