Nicole Richie leans over to designer John Varvatos and, surveying a snug pair of pants slinking down a runway, whispers, "it looks like someone's grabbing her in her vagina."
We missed you on television, Nicole. The mom and designer has moved from her humble days in reality TV to the fashion-competition genre with NBC's big spring hopeful, "Fashion Star."
Richie has been tapped as a mentor for a slew of up-and-coming designers who pitch garments and accessories each week directly to department store buyers.
The hook: Richie, Varvatos and Jessica Simpson offer feedback to the hopefuls who are ultimately showing off their wares to buyers from H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. At the end of each presentation, the buyers make cash offers for the goods. Or don't.
Always a welcome chat here at the Ministry, Richie spoke with us about the innovative sales model, the vibe on set and what her kids think of Mama's new gig.
Ministry of Gossip: What sets "Fashion Star" apart from other competition shows like "Project Runway"?
Nicole Richie: Well, it's an extremely rare position that these designers have access to major buyers, week after week for 10 weeks. For designers like myself, John and Jessica, we see these buyers once a season. They come to the showroom and they love it or they don't. And success in one season doesn't mean success in the next. So for the designers on our show, it's such an amazing chance to connect with the buyers each week.
MoG: How are you approaching mentorship? Tough love or maternal?
NR: I took the position of being their friend. I mean, we're all in this together.
MoG: You have a pretty fun panel. How are you all getting along?
NR: Well, we shot the show last summer so we could have time to get the clothes made [all the winning looks from "Fashion Star" hit store floors and online shops right after an episode airs]. But we had a blast. What's the point of doing anything if you're not going to have fun? My dad used to tell me that all the time.
MoG: Speaking of Lionel Richie, how has your family reacted to the show? I know you've got two little critics in Harlow and Sparrow [her kids, 4 and 2, respectively].
NR: Well, my daughter hasn't seen the show. They don't really know what I do.
MoG: It must be hard to keep a secret.
NR: What's funny is we were watching "The Voice" — sometimes they show reruns when [Harlow's] awake — and my dad was on helping Christina Aguilera mentor. And Harlow just looked at me and said, 'Why is pop-pop on TV? That's weird." So I panicked for a second and then said, "Isn't he silly?"
All in good time, Harlow. Catch "Fashion Star" on NBC at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
— Matt Donnelly
Photo: Nicole Richie strikes a mentor pose for "Fashion Star." Credit: John Russo / NBC.