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Project Runway's Keith: I Didn't Cheat

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The first-ever designer to be kicked off Bravo’s Project Runway for breaking the rules has spoken out about his ouster – and he thinks he got a raw deal.

Brooklyn, N.Y., native Keith Michael, 34, was asked to leave because he had pattern-making books in his room – a violation of the contest’s rules – and at one point had gone AWOL from the production.

The freelance designer tells Bravo senior vice president of production and programming Andy Cohen, who writes a blog on, “I am not the kind of person who can’t admit when he’s wrong. I feel like there was a lack of integrity on behalf of the production. I thought it was one-sided.”

He doesn’t deny he had the books – only that he used them to cheat. “These pattern books were not the kind that you would be able to use for practical purposes on the show,” he says.

“One of the books was the most detailed pattern book you would ever see about menswear that had nothing to do with anything on the show. I brought it because I was working on my menswear line at the time. And the other was a dictionary of production terms.”

As for what he did during his four-hour unauthorized leave from production, Michael tells Cohen, “All I did was I went to my boyfriend’s apartment, found his spare key, found an e-mail from the executive producer and asked him to contact me. I don’t know what to say – that’s the deal.”

Michael says that at least one Project Runway contestant is on his side: Fellow Brooklyn native Alison Kelly. “Alison is very supportive of me. She was very confused because she liked me very much. It seemed like the evidence against me was heavy and she didn’t know what to feel.”

“I think this whole thing is farfetched and crazy,” he continues. “I have gotten so much fan e-mail from this whole thing. People want me to be the bad boy, but I am not that guy. I thought I would win because of talent, but now I don’t know who’s to blame but I am not owning up to this.”

Michael also addresses Internet rumors that the sketches he’d presented at his audition were in fact drawings from other designers’ runway shows. The sketches, he says, were part of a trend report he’d presented to a client as an overview of the latest styles.

“I work for a lot of huge fashion companies and do trend reports for a lot of them and people pay me for that information to review what’s going on in fashion,” he says.

What’s next for the designer? “I am focusing on getting a showroom to represent me,” he says. “I need cash behind me to do what I want. Getting the funding that I need will hopefully let me show in September.”

And he’s confident he’ll get the funding even without Project Runway’s $100,000 prize. “I was hoping to win,” he says. “But I will figure out another way of doing it. There’s a few ways to skin a cat, right?”

To join our online discussion of Project Runway, click here.