A 'Runway' Success

By Jill Hudson Neal
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, October 31, 2006; 5:50 PM

If you didn't watch the third season of Bravo TV's hugely successful reality show "Project Runway," contestant Laura Bennett's name may draw a blank. The 43-year-old architect quickly established herself on the series as a bit of a tough, sexy cookie, the kind of woman who wears a pair of $600 shoes and a black cocktail dress to the office because it makes her feel better. Pin-thin, husky-voiced, hyper-focused and immaculately turned out at all times, Bennett created terrific-looking ensembles for nearly every fashion challenge, outfits that a real woman might wear if she had the budget and the occasion.

And although she was an early fan favorite, Bennett's name didn't really get thrown into heavy watercooler rotation until she confessed that she was pregnant with her sixth child. I don't actually know anyone who has six children -- well, anyone my age, anyway -- but I started hoping that she'd win for real just because I could see in her eyes how tired and determined she was. The one-time single mom didn't win "Project Runway," (Jeffrey Sebalia did), but she came away with a sizable, empathetic following.

I reached the designer in her Manhattan apartment last week just before her children (who range in age from 18 to three) came home from school. Two weeks out from her due date, Bennett was, not surprisingly, chatty and self-assured.

So Laura, this baby is number six for you. Does pregnancy get any easier?

I don't know about the pregnancy, but the delivery gets quicker. The last labor was only two hours. I went to the hospital and husband almost missed the whole thing.

You were my favorite contestant on the show this year, especially after I found out that you had all those kids! And you were so focused, even when you were in your first trimester.

Well, that's what mothers have to do. We learn that you have no time to whine and complain because you have people depending on you. You have to get things done; that's how you move through life. Being a mother has given me time management skills and discipline. You get done what you need to do. Motherhood has absolutely made me stronger and able to handle the whole thing

Yet you manage to look so pulled together.

Mothers don't usually put themselves first, but I do a little bit. My whole dressing up thing is my way of taking time for myself within the chaos of it all. But I didn't expect to go so far in the competition.

You sure seemed confident on the show.

Well, I thought it would be fun for my friends and family to know someone on the show.

Seriously, that was your motivation?

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