Jay McCarroll Wins Again

Jay McCarroll knows he needed Project Runway more than Project Runway needed him; after all, humility is just one facet of his considerable charm. The other part is his outsize personality, equal parts wit and whimsy, and although Project Runway has done just fine since McCarroll won the Heidi Klum-hosted fashion design competition in its inaugural season in 2005, the reality show has never quite found a contestant to match his appeal in the years since. Eleven Minutes, the 2007 documentary about McCarroll, which is screening Saturday as part of the 10th annual Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, confirms and extends the young designer's draw. The film chronicles post-Project life in the fashion industry, which can best be described as a giant pin that pops the protective bubble of reality TV and reminds us why we just about never hear from these people after their initial 15 minutes are up. Although the title might seem to suggest an aptly abbreviated version of that fame-span, it's actually the approximate length of a runway show: 11 minutes for which McCarroll spends months of long hours preparing, as he readies the launch of his first line of clothing. (He'll be in Miami Beach to host his own runway show at the Catalina hotel Saturday night.) Eleven Minutes offers a primer on the nitty-gritty backdrop that props up the industry's façade of glam — scenes that Project Runway, with its fabric-shopping sprees and sewing-machine marathons, won't show you. It's a surprisingly well-crafted documentary that would stand on its own even if its central character weren't already reality-show-famous, but our familiarity with McCarroll makes his quest only more compelling. Three words for you, Jay: You are in.

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