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Dancing onto ‘Runway’ From marriage proposal to winning episodes, Lowville native enjoys ride


LOWVILLE — As Lifetime’s “Project Runway” season 12 progresses into the final stretch, Bradon P. McDonald had to ponder what he could and could not say during a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

While the Lowville native remained tight-lipped on what “PR” fans can expect in coming weeks, he had no trouble recounting the day he proposed before the cameras to his partner of 18 years.

“My knees started shaking. My whole body was kind of shaking and words started coming out of my mouth,” he said slowly, as if reliving the moment. “They did not start in my brain, they started from the floor, and then my mouth, and my brain was the last to know what was happening.”

Mr. McDonald proposed to his now-fiance, Josh, in the fourth episode, called “Tie the Knot.”

It was one of many emotional roller coasters he has ridden as a contestant on the elimination-style fashion-design reality show.

The 1993 Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts graduate grew up in Lowville and attended Lowville Academy until his senior year. He started out training under local dance instructor Donna J. Foote, and later her daughter, Rhonda, owner of Rhonda’s FooteWorks in Watertown and Lowville.

He graduated from the Juilliard School, New York City, in 1997 and in 2000 he went on tour with the professional Mark Morris Dance Group.

TimeOut New York called him “one of the most excellent, memorable dancers that the Mark Morris Dance Group has ever produced.”

After a 14-year career, he retired from dancing and enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles.

The career change evolved from the years he spent on the road, first sewing costumes and later designing and selling his own brand of bags. He graduated from FIDM in the spring.

Of his time on “Project Runway,” the son of Shirley McDonald and the late Stephen P. McDonald said, “You’re going to have really exciting high moments and then crash and burn the next moment. It’s going to happen no matter what.”

The proposal came on Mr. McDonald’s second winning challenge and was inspired by guest judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson, known for his role as the openly gay Mitchell Pritchett on ABC’s “Modern Family.” In July Mr. Pritchett married his partner, lawyer Justin Mikita.

Mr. McDonald said he was unaware at the time the “Project Runway” episode was shot that the Defense of Marriage Act, which gave states the right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages, was in the process of being overturned. A week later, June 26, the federal law was declared unconstitutional.

The fashion designer has remained successful since winning the first challenge in episode one, “The Sky’s the Limit.” So far, he has won three challenges, landing in the bottom two just once. There are four episodes left in the season.

In the most recent episode, “Project Runway Super Fan!” which aired Sept. 19, Mr. McDonald and the rest of the cast had to use superfans as models, rather than the models they were used to working with.

“Every season they have non-runway models, so we are creating clothes that are not for runway models,” he said. “This one was a really, really great challenge because the women competed to be on the show. They had to show that they were the most super, super fans in order to get a spot in the hotel. They competed too, which is a pretty great addition.”

According to the former “super fan” himself, the show always has featured an episode where designers work on non-runway models. As such, he said, all the designers were anticipating how the episode would go.

Fortunately for Mr. McDonald, his design was in the “high” mark. There are six competitors left, in addition to Mr. McDonald, in pursuit of the grand prize that includes cash, gifts and contracts worth more than $500,000.

“Feels like everyone in the competition — especially because no more immunity — everyone is starting out equal in every challenge and I think that’s what’s great about the show,” said Mr. McDonald.

“Anyone that’s watched “Project Runway” knows the closer you get to the end, the more twists they’ve thrown in the past seasons. As a contestant, at this point in competition, that’s all I’m thinking is what they’re going to do and trying to prepare myself for anything.”

The next episode of “Project Runway,” titled “Next Generation,” will air at 9 tonight on Lifetime. Competitors will be asked to take their inspiration from the next generation, according to an episode guide.
Go to to see past episodes.
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