Katie Kortman is a designer on season 19 of Project Runway. She is also a Relief Society president and a mother of four children. She may seem to be an unusual fit for the popular reality TV show but Kortman was raised to embrace being unique in any space—she was taught by her mother that being different is good.
That belief has given Kortman the confidence to embrace opportunities life has presented her. The first episode of Project Runway has already aired on TV, it is clear that the judges on Project Runway appreciate Kortman's uniqueness as well.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones: So you've mentioned that you have four kids, and I saw a post on Instagram where you said that when asked if you had always wanted to be a mom, you've said, "Not really, but I'll have kids anyway." And now you have four kids and you said that the best parts of the mom that you are come from being the daughter of your own mom. And you said [on Instagram], "She's helped guide me through life and kept me strong when I feel weak." I think that is spot on for everything that a mother is and what mothers do for us, but what in your mind is the role of a mother? And I also want to ask you, I noticed that you had several posts about your mom so if you want to say anything about her she seems super rad.
Katie Kortman: You're like making me cry. My mom was—is, not was—she is awesome and was growing up. She really encouraged us to follow our dreams and she always told us, "You can do anything you put your mind to."
I really believed that so much that there have been a few things in my life that I was like, "Oh I can do this as long as I work hard enough," and I actually couldn't do it no matter what. And I was like, "Wait, but I thought I could do anything I put my mind to."
But I know that that advice she gave me has helped me have the confidence to do everything I've done in my life. She was always a really good example. We always saw her studying her scriptures and we saw her doing her visiting teaching. She's way better than I am at those things. I'm currently the Relief Society president and I'm still not as good as she is at any of those things.
She also was a really good spiritual example. She was a convert; my parents converted when I was a baby. But she told us, like, it was okay to be different. We grew up in south Florida where there are not very many Latter-day Saint people, so being different was…how it was going to be. We were going to be different. And she said, "We're just different and different is good. It's okay to be different, it's okay to be weird," [and] I kind of kept that with me.
It's something that I thought about, maybe subconsciously, my whole life. I don't have to be like everybody else…I remember when I first went to BYU I was like, "Oh, I want to be like everybody else. They're all wearing these things and they like to watch these sports? Yeah, me too”—no not really. I didn't really, but I thought for a second maybe I could. But then all of a sudden I was like, “You know what? I'm different. This is me.” And I wore butterfly wings and tutus and I was crazy at BYU. So I think [my mom] was a really good example of having a strong testimony and being okay with being different and working hard and all those things.
Morgan Jones: How do you feel like that has shaped the kind of mom that you are?
Katie Kortman: Well I try to be as good as my mom to my own kids and tell them the same kind of things like, "It's okay to be different." It breaks my heart when I see my daughters worry too much about being like all the other kids in their class or whatever.
I always try to tell them, "It's okay. It's awesome to be different. Not everyone's the same. We want to stand out." And I try to show them by being myself. They see all the kind of crazy things I do and sometimes they're like, "Mom . . . " you know, I'm like, "No, it's okay. This is who I am. And this is who we are." I try to show them through my example. And just hope for the best and hope that it will have the effect on them that my mom probably didn't even know she was having on me when I was growing up.
Morgan Jones: Right, which I think that's the cool thing—who you are shapes your kids. And I think a lot of times moms don't give themselves credit for the influence that they have and how many little eyes are watching everything that they're doing.