Feature   Know Your Military

Navy Spouse Competes on 'Project Runway'

Oct. 13, 2021 | BY GEORGE A. SMITH, AMERICAN FORCES NETWORK BROADCAST CENTER

Military families will get to cheer for one of their own when a Navy spouse competes for the $250,000 grand prize on the "Project Runway" television show.

Katie "Happy Color" Kortman, one of the 16 contestants on the Emmy-winning show, lives in Japan along with her husband and four kids.

A woman dressed in colorful clothing looks into the distance while fingering a tape measure that's draped around her neck.
Katie Kortman
Katie Kortman is one of 16 contestants on the season premiere of the "Project Runway" television show. She lives in Japan with her Navy husband and four children.
Photo By: Ramona Rosales, Bravo TV
VIRIN: 211006-N-NB144-0026

She's a self-taught fashion designer who crafts clothing with unique combinations of bright colors. Kortman went to school for art, but since her university didn't teach fashion design, she painted pictures of fashion instead. She then started designing fabric, bought a sewing machine, and taught herself to sew. She's been wearing her own handmade clothes exclusively for about four years.

Once "Project Runway" representatives reached out to her via social media and invited her to compete for a slot on the show, she immersed herself in preparations, saying, "I didn't know how to design from scratch, but I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass. I ordered textbooks, watched YouTube videos, and got some private lessons."

Kortman wasn't sure how it would work out since her family was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, with four young kids, but her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Francisco Kortman, was all in. He told her to say yes, and they'd figure out how to make it work.

"She has always had a sizable following on Instagram and my shipmates would tease me as being a husband of Instagram," Lt. Cmdr. Kortman said. "Now, I'll be a husband of 'Project Runway,' too! Hooyah, Katie!"

When it comes to who's her No. 1 fan, it's pretty much a tie between the "Happy Color" designer's husband and her mom.

"I think me going on the show fulfils my mom's lifelong dream," Katie laughs. "When we found out I was going to be on the show, she was jumping up and down screaming. We had watched the show together for years and for me to actually go on the show was amazing."

Katie feels appearing in the nationally syndicated show sends a positive message to other military spouses.

"I hope that by me being on the show they'll see [that] you don't have to put your dreams on hold just because you move around all the time. There are ways this can happen," she says. "Part of the reason I got this experience is [that] while moving all the time I adapted and learned new skills."

Watch Katie in the premiere of Season 19 of "Project Runway" on Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. on Bravo in the United States or on the American Forces Network at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 on AFN|prime in Japan, Korea and Central Europe. For AFN viewing times in other parts of the world, go to www.myafn.net