Famous fashion consultant Tim Gunn is not afraid to speak his mind, and audiences across the world love him for it. After becoming an aspiring mentor on the reality series Project Runway, his can-do attitude inspired fans everywhere to dress their best, regardless of the size that the fashion industry may want them to be. "I profoundly believe that women of every size can look good," Gunn wrote in The Washington Post in 2016. He’s an advocate for change and has put pressure on brands everywhere to be more inclusive in their designs.
Over the years, Gunn has made it work as a trend-setting TV host. "I am indebted to our incredible fans, they are the heart and soul of what we do, and continue to inspire us to raise the bar in this arena," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2018. Leaving no seam unsewn, this is the untold truth of Tim Gunn.
Tim Gunn’s decades-long career at Parsons began as a short-term gig
Though Tim Gunn is known for being one of fashion’s most famous gurus, he never actually planned for a career in the industry. In 1983, Parsons School of Design in New York City needed an assistant director of admissions for a 12-month gig, and administrators selected Gunn (via The New School). "I was a mister fix-it and sent into the fashion department for ostensibly a year to work with the faculty and students," he explained to Forbes.
It seemed the fashion world needed a mentor like him. Gunn made the school a success and was an essential part of the university’s design program for 29 years, according to The Commonwealth Club of California. "I believe that I was successful in repositioning the curriculum and teaching pedagogy because I’m not a fashion designer," Gunn told Forbes. "I didn’t have a particular point of view that I needed to hold up and protect." Little did he know at the time, his teaching career would eventually take him to television.
Weirdly enough, Tim Gunn hated school as a kid
With Tim Gunn’s educational experience growing up, it’s quite surprising that teaching eventually became his passion. Aside from being a brainiac with — we’re sure of — an amazing sense of style as a young kid, Gunn has admitted that bullies took a toll on him and made school a miserable place. "I had a really terrible, terrible stutter that caused me to shy away from people in general. It had a very negative impact on me at school," he divulged to Metro Weekly. "People teased me about it. I was not a popular kid." Considering he now has an Emmy-nominated television show under his belt, his name on The New York Times’ best seller list, and hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, we’d say he’s pretty popular in now.
"As someone who spent his childhood and teen years absolutely hating, hating, hating, hating school, to think that I would become a career teacher — that opportunity was a big, big break," he told NPR. His position at Parsons, after all, would be what put him on the path to fashion domination.
Tim Gunn was never supposed to appear on Project Runway
One unexpected twist in Tim Gunn’s story is that the world was never even supposed to see him strut on Project Runway. As a successful advisor at Parsons, he was asked for his advice on a new fashion television show. "I was a consultant to the producers and my role in the show was in no one’s vocabulary," he revealed to Forbes. For the first season of the show, Gunn agreed to chat with contestants so producers could get footage of the designers explaining their work and get them chatting. "I knew that the cameras were rolling but never dreamed that I would actually be in the cut of the show," he said. "I thought as long as the producers have the designers responding to me, no one needs to see me or hear my voice." Today, of course, fans of the show couldn’t imagine a Project Runway without Gunn.
In fact, Gunn never dreamed the show, which also featured Heidi Klum, would go on for so long. "I am grateful to Project Runway for putting me on a path I never, in my wildest dreams, thought my career would take me!" he told Entertainment Weekly. We are too!
The story behind Tim Gunn’s famous catchphrase
"Make it work" has been the advice uttered from mentor Tim Gunn during his time on Project Runway. It’s practically become the catchphrase for the television series. Little do fans know, Gunn said it as a teacher at Parsons long before cameras were ever rolling.
It all started after seeing many of his design students continually unhappy with their work. "I found quickly that there is an inclination to abandon a project that’s not going well," he explained to The Commonwealth Club of California. Gunn would encourage students to start over… until he came to a realization. "I then thought I’m doing my students a disservice," he said. "This ‘abandoning of a problem at hand’ is not good for them. If they sit with it, offer up a diagnosis of what’s going wrong, and then figure out a prescription for how to make it work, they have a whole new set of resources to go into their problem-solving arsenal." Spoken in true teacher fashion.
Then again, he’s also aware that the designers on Project Runway have no other choice considering they’re up against the clock.
Here’s where Tim Gunn keeps his Emmy
In 2013, the teacher-turned-TV host had quite a memorable moment. Tim Gunn won an Emmy for outstanding host on a reality or reality-competition program while working on Project Runway. "I am just a lucky guy and a very happy guy," he told The New York Times when opening up about his life’s accomplishments. And what better way to commemorate such an amazing accomplishment than displaying the shiny award in his favorite room in his New York City apartment — his kitchen, as reported by Kitchn.
Why? Well, maybe it’s because, along with fashion, Gunn loves food. In fact, the fast-paced fashionista cooks dinner for himself pretty much every night of the week. "I actually make a meal. I don’t like going out," he admitted to The New York Times. To Us Weekly in 2013, he noted, "I make a great meatloaf." And it’s apparently not just any old meatloaf, as Gunn tops it off with loads of cheddar cheese and rolls it up before baking it, according to Kitchn. Oh, and, of course, Gunn presumably enjoys it with the company of his Emmy.
Tim Gunn wasn’t paid for the first two seasons of Project Runway
Given how Tim Gunn is always so well-dressed in fancy suits, it’s shocking to know that this television personality started out his career in entertainment unpaid. In 2015, it was revealed that Gunn, who never thought he’d even end up on camera, worked on Project Runway for free. "The first two seasons I wasn’t paid at all, and I didn’t know that people were paid for reality television," he admitted to So Money.
It wasn’t until he was approached by a talent agent that he realized reality television worked much differently. And affording life in New York City is rough. "I was making nothing, living paycheck to paycheck to paycheck," Gunn said. "That’s how I’ve spent my life."
To think that the fashionista now has a net worth of $15 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, presumbaly still amazes Gunn to this day. "No one’s more shocked than I am," he said when discussing Project Runway‘s success (via Page Six).
Tim Gunn visits this place every week
As a lover of history and art, Tim Gunn’s visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art every week is something he always looks forward to. "My Sunday routine is to walk to the Metropolitan Museum through Central Park," he told The New York Times. "It’s delightful." And, like any other fashionable day in his life, Gunn must dress his best, so he wears a suit. The museum is "a sacred place" to him and he wants to "present [himself] properly."
His weekly visits are important, as Gunn believes it’s essential for people in the fashion industry to know what people are interested in looking at. "I’m always saying to my students you need to know the national and international news, even the local news," he told Smithsonian Magazine. "You need to know what movies people are going to see." And, according to him, that includes books, music, and more.
Tim Gunn has enjoyed a voiceover career
Not only has Tim Gunn lent his guidance to fashion designers on various television shows, but he’s also lent his voice to cartoon characters as well. In 2013, he took a step behind the camera and became a voice actor for Disney. "It’s totally and completely surreal," he told D23. "I grew up with Mickey Mouse and Minnie and Pluto and Goofy."
Gunn, who’d previously voiced a fictional version of himself for The Cleveland Show, began his Disney voiceover career by playing a character named Baileywick on the series Sofia the First, and, in 2017, he voiced travel writer Robbie Roberts on Mickey and the Roadster Racers. It was quite fitting, considering how Gunn now gets to travel the world as part of his role on the television series Making the Cut. "It’s a huge, wonderful honor. I get chills when I think about it and I pinch myself every day," he said. "Whenever anyone asks me if there’s something that I haven’t done that I want to do, I say, ‘Absolutely not.’ If nothing ever, ever happened to me again I couldn’t feel more fulfilled and fortunate than I am."
Tim Gunn loves this sport
There’s one sport that Tim Gunn is a huge fan of: fencing. However, fencing didn’t become his favorite sport until later in life — age 62 to be exact. "I love the history of the sport, I love the culture that surrounds it," he told The A.V. Club, "and I never dreamed I’d become a fanatic. I’m such a fanatic now that I’m committed to competing."
It all started while promoting spin-off series Project Runway Junior in 2015. Gunn was interviewed by Olympic silver medalist Tim Morehouse, who had just opened a fencing club. At first, Gunn was curious because he had no idea what a fencing club was. "I said I wanted to come visit him, and I did," Gunn explained, and, after observing, he was still intrigued. "I asked him, ‘Could I be your oldest student?’" And Gunn soon became hooked.
Eventually, Gunn was able to combine his love for fencing and fashion. "[Morehouse] did come out the set once, because he presented a challenge for Project Runway Junior to be inspired by the fencing uniform," he shared.
Tim Gunn bought his first pair of sweatpants at age 62
As it turns out, fencing provided quite a different atmosphere than the fashion world Tim Gunn was used to. Gunn quickly realized that his signature suit and tie didn’t make for the most practical uniform in the world of sports. His fencing coach even told him, "You cannot come to my fencing club dressed like this," Gunn explained to NPR.
At age 62, Gunn received fashion advice from his coach — advice he never thought he would ever hear. "He said, ‘You need a pair of sweatpants,’" Gunn admitted. So he bought his very first pair. To The A.V. Club, Gunn shared, "I never dreamed I’d become a jock!"
Before that moment, Gunn had never fully understood what he calls "the comfort trap." The fashion expert told Time, "If you want to dress to feel as though you never got out of bed, don’t get out of bed!" However, it seems he’s a changed man now. "I have to tell you, I get a real kick out of those sweatpants," Gunn told NPR.
Tim Gunn appeared as a superhero in a Marvel comic
In 2009, Tim Gunn became something that many of us only dream about — a superhero. "It was a dream I never even contemplated," he told The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. After all, fashion and crime-fighting don’t usually go together, but, we have to admit, it does sound like a pretty cool combination.
"How it happened was that Marvel came to me," Gunn explained. "They were reviving a comic from the ’50s that was very popular called Millie the Model. The new iteration is called Models, Inc., and I am in one of the books." He admitted that his superhero alter ego unfortunately has no superpowers, but he does possesses the same set of skills Gunn has in the real world. And he gets to wear a very special suit. "I have no superpowers, which is why I have to don the Iron Man suit," he divulged.
It sounds like Gunn fights fashion faux pas by day and by night.
Tim Gunn’s major issue with the fashion industry
There’s one major problem Tim Gunn has with designers, and he’s not afraid to speak out about it. "I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems," he wrote in an essay for The Washington Post, "and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women."
After becoming a mentor to designers on Project Runway, Gunn quickly became a mentor to the world. He was approached by many women looking for fashion advice for their own figures that the industry was ignoring. "There is no reason larger women can’t look just as fabulous as all other women," he wrote. "The key is the harmonious balance of silhouette, proportion and fit, regardless of size or shape."
With the average American woman rocking a size 16 to 18, Gunn wants fashion designers to understand how big of a market they’re truly missing out on, noting that they could make some serious money by creating clothes with these sizes in mind.
What Tim Gunn would do if he wasn’t involved in fashion
Following the success of Project Runway, Tim Gunn was able to purchase his first New York City apartment, and his love for all things design only escalated from there as he made the place his home. "If I wasn’t in fashion, I’d be in interiors!" he told New York Post.
Gunn describes his home style as classic, but also, he admits, eclectic. His walls are lined with books and knick-knacks he’s collected from his world travels. "I’m a collector, my greatest fear one day is I’ll be a hoarder," he laughed. His place reflects his passions for art, history, and, of course, fashion. His downstairs powder room even has a Project Runway theme.
Coincidentally enough, Gunn’s career began in architecture. "I studied architecture for one semester," he told The Commonwealth Club of California, and, unfortunately, he "hated it." From there, he found himself studying sculpting, but then "people were constantly asking, ‘What is that?’" As we know, he moved on to teaching, and then television followed. But who knows! Perhaps interior design is next!
This is Tim Gunn’s favorite movie
When Tim Gunn isn’t busy mentoring fashion designers, there’s a film he might be home enjoying. "My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz," Gunn told Us Weekly in 2013, and he’s seen the Judy Garland-led film at least 50 or 60 times. "For me, it has more allure and sensationalism than all these computer-generated things today," Gunn explained to The A.V. Club.
Watching it was actually his family’s annual Easter tradition growing up. However, though it’s a happy memory, he’s admitted that the movie used to terrify him as a kid and he’d watch it while underneath a blanket. But to this day, the film remains his favorite because of its long-lasting message. "I find the movie to be such an uplifting story of tenacity and perseverance and dreams," he told The A.V. Club.
Sure, it may be an inspiring film, but it also makes sense that it’s the fashionista’s favorite considering it was a pair of shoes that changed Dorothy’s life.