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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Project Runway’s Mondo Guerra :: rolling with the punches

By Jim Halterman-
Mondo Guerra on Project Runway    As with any season of Lifetime’s popular competition reality series Project Runway, its current one (#8) is chock full of drama, back-stabbing, cheating accusations, and a few tears. But recently there was a very emotional moment that went beyond the rivalries and backstage drama. It happened when Mondo Guerra revealed not only that he is gay, but went public about his very private HIV positive status.
   It happened as a result of a challenge in which the contestants were given the task of making a textile design based on a profound moment in their lives. One designer, front-runner Mondo Guerra, made pants with decorative plus signs, then revealed during the runway portion of the show that he has been HIV positive for 10 years. The judges - Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and guest judge Rachel Roy - were moved to tears. It was no surprise that Mondo won that runway challenge.

   EDGE’s Jim Halterman spoke with Mondo to talk about the Project Runway experience as well as how personal it was for him to reveal his positive status on national television.

Any qualms about coming out?

EDGE: As a viewer, you see the show and you see there are certain people who are painted a certain way in the editing process. Now that you’re seeing the episode, do you agree with what you’re seeing?

Mondo: The thing about it is that doing the show and being under such time constraints I feel like it’s really easy to lose your temper and I know these people so when I watch it now I know they’re in a bad situation. They might not feel too confident about their work or they’re just having a bad day. We were working constantly and I was around these people a lot. It does feel like it’s pretty accurate from what I’ve seen.

EDGE: Before you started shooting the season, did you have any qualms about being out and revealing your HIV status on the show?

Mondo: I always just roll with the punches. I was terrified once I got the call that I was a part of the cast. Upon arriving, I was really just terrified. It was a great experience and I didn’t really plan anything. I actually set goals in my head with what I wanted to accomplish along the journey and it all went well.

EDGE: You came out recently as being HIV positive on a recent episode and you talked on the show about how nervous you were about your family knowing. Now that the episode has aired, how is everything with you and your family?

Mondo: I couldn’t be happier. Their love and support has been amazing. I was very scared about how they would react but I think they’re just proud of me being who I am and it was something I was able to let go of and move on. They understand that I am a strong person and it’s been a really great experience.

EDGE: One of the things I love about the show is what you will come up with in terms of your own outfits. Is there a lot of thought put into what you wear every day or is it just an easy process?

Mondo: Whether I’m on the show or in my own apartment, I’m such a messy person in my own personal life. I usually just pick things up off the ground and just put it on. I love to sleep so on the show when we would wake up and get ready for the day, I didn’t’ really have time to think about it so I would just go with it and hope for the best.

EDGE: Since you have been a fan of the show, how surreal was it to interact with Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia throughout the competition?

Mondo: It was really surreal when I first got there and it continued to be but I guess after a couple of challenges you have to just adapt and not let it get to you. For me, I’m really affected by other people’s energy in a place and I felt like I had to just stay focused. I wasn’t really paying attention to anybody else. I felt like when I was having a bad day or I wasn’t feeling very confident in my work or I didn’t want to work that hard...and I’m sure when Nina first walked into her editor-in-chief job I’m sure she was scared. And when Heidi walked out as a model for the first time I’m sure she was scared. As a creative person, I think that they can understand that so maybe they’re a little more lenient with certain things. Of course, it’s a competition and they’re probably working to pick on us a little bit.

EDGE: What’s the plan after the show finishes running and we know whether you win or not?

Mondo: Before this all happened I was working in a professional stage theater. I don’t even have a website or business cards! It’s sad! I haven’t had time to get all those professional things done. I do envision having my own business and doing the tradeshow circuit again but my first goal is to design myself a business card. Baby steps, right?

Project Runway airs every Thursday at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime. This week is the first part of the show’s two-part finale. For more information, visit the Project Runway website.


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