April 26, 2013 at 6:42 PM ET
Michelle Lesniak Franklin got her last kill on "Project Runway." The "lone wolf" was crowned the winner of the team-themed 11th season, besting fellow finalists Stanley Hudson and Patricia Michaels with a nearly flawless collection inspired by her experience struggling to survive on the competition.
"It was the strangest experience ever," the scrappy Portland-based designer told TODAY.com. "It really is a Petri dish, and you learn so much about yourself over the course of time."
Stanley, unfortunately, didn't learn from his "time management issues" and barely managed to dress his models minutes before the show. "He's so incredibly talented," said Michelle. "It kind of fell apart for him at the end."
While Stanley and Patricia were frantic in the workroom, Michelle had time to relax and enjoy her completed collection.
"I just really like to be prepared and always put my best foot forward," she said. "Not that the other designers didn't take this seriously, but perhaps I took the weight of the seriousness heavier than they did. I was just really smart about it. It's 'Project Runway' -- they can throw three more challenges (at contestants) in one day, so I wanted to be prepared for that."
She was also prepared to hear criticism from the judges for her graphic bleeding heart sweater, which Tim Gunn loathed and begged her to remove from her collection. Instead, the judges all loved it -- so did she make the mentor eat crow?
"When we were watching the runway backstage on the television, and it walked down the runway, he was like, 'I totally take back what I said,'" she recounted. "He's like, 'It's stunning!'"
She also got sweet revenge after the judges bashed her design for the Miranda Lambert challenge.
"The one judge comment you dread to hear is 'I question their taste,' -- and they 'questioned my taste' (when critiquing) my leather vest and this leather fringe necklace," Michelle shared, adding: "H&M just made that necklace! So yeah, that was funny to me."
Michelle herself brought plenty of funny to the show, from her spot-on Nina Garcia impressions to her candid remarks about her fellow contestants.
"Sometimes it came across as mean," she said with some regret. "I know at one point I said that Tu couldn’t sew for s---. Well, that dress he did was terrible, but Tu is actually an incredible sewer. And an incredible technician. I ended up apologizing for that."
"I think a few people had hurt feelings, and for the most part I was really straightforward with them," she continued. "I'd tell them before (the 'confessional' interviews) even aired: 'Hey guys this is what I said. And this is what I meant by it.'"
Not everyone has been forgiving, though -- especially Daniel.
"When someone takes a ball from you in kindergarten, you go to first grade (and) you need to let go of it," she said, referring to the emotional mustachioed designer's overreaction to her comment about his pink jacket. "You need to not hold a grudge and get over it."
Michelle promised more fireworks when the gang reunites in next week's reunion special.
"There are some adults, designers on this show, who haven't quite figured out how to grow up," she said.
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