At some point throughout this year’s season of Project Runway, the influence of one Merline Labissiere started to rub off on the other contestants. While initially they were mostly annoyed by her existence, vowed to tune her out or suppress her, her cast could not help but fall under the sway of her fun enthusiasm for fashion. There were dissenters, of course, who never dreamed of having fun or being fun in the work room, but the biggest convert from “quietly work diligently in workroom” to “work diligently in workroom, but enjoy yourself immensely on the way”. That was the original trajectory of eventual fan favourite Kelly Dempsey, also known as “Kelly from the Deli”, and she evolved into so much more.
While many of her fellow contestants used their hooks as ways to progress throughout the season, such as Edmond wielding his Superfan Card like an assault rifle or Candice dressing everyone short of Tim Gunn in leather, Kelly was nothing but herself. She always had a dry but funny way of speaking or narrating, and quite a stunning sense of street fashion for someone who only worked in a sandwich shop. If Project Runway were still the massive show it used to be, Kelly Dempsey could single-handedly have brought fanny packs into mainstream fashion, she was that big by the end of the season, and deservedly so. In this author’s personal opinion, she was easily one of the most rootworthy contestants in any of 2015’s seasonal endgames.
While unfortunately she did not end up winning her season, losing to Ashley Neil Tipton and the first plus-sized collection in Project Runway history, she would end up winning a hefty $25,000 from Mary Kay for winning the most challenges of the season, a resounding success story from a show many see as past its prime, but still giving successful designers the opportunity to live out their dreams.