Capping a season-long story arc that saw him go from arrogant bad boy to accused cheater to announced winner, last night's finale of Project Runway's third edition ended with Jeffrey Sebelia, the 36-year-old Los Angeles-based founder of the Cosa Nostra fashion label, being crowned the winner of the Bravo fashion reality competition.
"Congratulations... we loved what you did, you have a great style, you are a great designer, and we want to see more of you," Project Runway host Heidi Klum told Jeffrey as she informed him of the judges' decision. "We absolutely do," Michael Kors added as he, fellow Project Runway judge Nina Garcia, and special guest judge Fern Mallis, the founder of Olympus Fashion Week, added their own congratulations.
"Are you kidding me?," Jeffrey, appearing genuinely surprised to beaten Uli Herzner for Project Runway 3's title, remarked after learning of his victory. "Thank you so, so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
"I'm in shock, my brain is trying to figure out exactly what's happening," Jeffrey later added in his final Project Runway interview. "It's just been intense, every step of the way it's been intense -- intense happiness, intense fear, intense love, passion. The volume on everything has been turned up all the way. It's all just a bunch of vibrations, it can be anything you want it to be, just don't take it all so seriously."
As Project Runway 3's winner, Jeffrey will receive an ELLE magazine photo spread featuring his designs, a 2007 Saturn Sky Roadster, a mentorship with INC International Concepts, and $100,000 intended to help him launch his own clothing line.
Project Runway 3's finale had begun with Tim Gunn informing the show's four remaining designers that, following a "very thorough investigation and inquiry," the show's producers had cleared Jeffrey of fellow finalist Laura Bennett's allegation that he had illegally outsourced some of the sewing of the clothing collection he was going to be presenting at the show's New York Fashion Week final challenge.
But although the producer's cleared Jeffrey of Laura's accusations (which had also been subsequently echoed by Michael Knight, the finale's fourth finalist), the producers did find Jeffrey had committed two lesser infractions: 1) failing to provide a receipt for the outsourced pleating on a pair of shorts, 2) submitting receipts that exceeded the show's $8,000 budget by $227.95. After replacing the shorts with an extra pair of leather pants that he had created, Jeffrey solved his budget problem by doing away with $600 worth of blond wigs he'd planned to have his models wear.
After the designers presented their final collections, Michael, a 28-year-old Atlanta native who had previously won the show's $10,000 "Fan Favorite" award, was the first finalist cut by the judges. "We believe in your future as a designer, but you need time to mature, I'm sorry you're out," Heidi told Michael as she revealed his elimination.
Laura, a 42-year-old New York architect who competed in the show despite being pregnant with her sixth child, was the next finalist dismissed. "You created an exquisitely crafted collection, but it was too limited for us, I'm sorry you're out," Heidi announced.
In the end, although the judges gushed that Uli, a 35-year-old East Germany native who now lives in Miami Beach, had "pushed herself" and designed a "beautiful collection that every woman will want to wear," they declared Jeffrey the competition's winner.
"Your collection was innovative, cohesive, and it really showed your range," Heidi told Jeffrey just before revealing his victory.
Uli was gracious in defeat. "I'm really happy for him, sometimes things in life happen for a reason and I think #2 is perfect for me," she told the cameras after Jeffrey's victory was announced. "My experience on Project Runway was definitely positive, I think it was the best thing I've ever done. I can survive in fashion and I think you will see me is fashion definitely."