'Project Runway' Contestant Wendy Pepper Dies at 53

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Wendy Pepper
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Wendy Pepper, who appeared on the first season of Project Runway, has died. She was 53.

The designer, whose real name was Anne Eustis Pepper Stewart, died peacefully on Nov. 12, surrounded by her loving family, according to an obituary in The Washington Post. The cause of death is unknown.

Pepper was a finalist on the first season of the designing competition show in 2004 and came in third place. During her time on Project Runway, she had the chance to sell one of her designs at Banana Republic and designed ET's own Nancy O'Dell's GRAMMY gown.

"We are saddened to hear of the passing of another member of the Project Runway family, designer Wendy Pepper, this year," Lifetime said in a statement. "Wendy was one of the original designers that sent creations down the catwalk, paving the way for other designers to come.  We wish her family and friends peace during this difficult time."

Pepper also appeared on Battle of the Network Reality Stars, Celebrity Poker Showdown and the second season of Project Runway All Stars. In 2006, she launched her debut fashion line in Washington, D.C.

In an interview for Project Runway, Pepper explained how she got into the world of fashion and fell in love with designing.

"I realized I was a designer when I was living in Nepal," she shared. "Dyeing some yarn, I suddenly turned to these people that I was living with and I started to drape the yarn. 'Oh my gosh, this is so much fun, I am creating this whole sort of experience with these women.'…That's when I knew this was my life's work."

"She was a chef, a writer, and a life-long entrepreneur. Her wit and humor were unmatched, as was her generosity of spirit," the obituary states. 

Pepper is survived by her daughter, Finley, her parents, her three brothers and nieces and nephews.