Runway Winner Mondo Talks Win and HIV Status
After Thursday's big win on Project Runway All-Stars, TheInsider.com caught up with Mondo Guerra, one of the most beloved designers in the history of the show, to talk fashion and life. The candid designer opened up about his winning collection, his televised meltdown and his how his life has been affected since coming out as HIV positive in season eight.
TheInsider.com: How does it feel to win Project Runway All-Stars?
Mondo Guerra: It has been time invested and it feels like such a relief. But I’ve really enjoyed the ride. I’ve really taken the opportunity of going on to Project Runway. The first time I ever stepped on that runway, I was ready to share that experience with people. I’ve always created stuff. And whether I am doing it in my studio, or doing it on television – it was just me continuing to work. Fortunately, I had that platform of Project Runway to show my point of view.
TheInsider: Going back to your season of Project Runway, your coming out as being HIV positive was very moving. How has the reaction been from people since that happened?
Mondo: I really appreciated the support and honesty from my friends – I don’t call them fans, I call them friends – so that has been really amazing. That episode in particular has really given me the opportunity to continue the conversation about HIV/AIDS. It’s still very relevant, whether you are infected (or not), we all know someone who is affected by this disease. So it’s really important for us all to talk about it because ultimately that conversation is what is going to not only fight and see an end to HIV/AIDS, but also to the stigma that is so attached to this disease, but really the main disease is this stigma. And the fans have really supported the cause. It’s really nice to see them contributing and participating.
TheInsider: It seems like you put a face on the disease, so that people all over the country saw a healthy man living with HIV.
Mondo: It’s really important in the Latino community, which is disproportionately affected by the disease and the stigma is so attached to us -- our religion, our morals, family tradition, respect, all of it. It’s really engaging to me. I’ve even noticed that my family who has lived in Denver for a generation can put a face to the disease and it doesn’t have to be such a negative thing. As long as we are talking about it and paying attention to it, we are all going to grow together and educate ourselves. I think that’s the most important thing and I think that its very impressive to me that my family has taken the opportunity to read materials to educate themselves.
TheInsider: How are you feeling now?
Mondo: I am taking a little down time. I have been going for two years now, so I need to take a little time.
TheInsider: Unlike most designers who are in New York are Los Angeles. You are based in Colorado. Are you still planning on staying there?
Mondo: I am still in Colorado, still in the same studio you saw me present myself in the audition tape. It’s lovely. Relating back to the HIV thing, since [I told them of my positive status] my whole family dynamic has changed. I’ve always appreciated my family, but now I appreciate them so much more in a different way now that I don’t have to hide this fact about my situation. I am really enjoying experiencing for -- in some words -- the first time again.
TheInsider: What did you think of your collection?
Mondo: I really enjoyed my collection. It was definitely a struggle getting to that point -- and not because I didn’t want to do the work or invest my time or be in the competition. It was because I was having a bad day. I was having a really bad day and I had to take a moment to really step back. To be honest it wasn’t about Austin and it wasn’t about Michael. After that episode, I’ve had really negative responses to it and I’ve had really positive responses. I think at the end of the day, people really do realize after all, I really am just a human and I have emotions. If you have a camera in front of your face for six weeks and you are working day after day after day after day – you might slip up a little bit. I think some people totally realize it and some people choose not to realize it. For me when I watched that episode I was able to give myself a moment to reflect and realize I don’t have to go to that place every time I want to produce something. It’s something that I am working on for myself. I think that it will not only improve my well being but it will also improve my work. It’s also just part of the journey.
I could take it really negative and be like 'you guys don’t understand.' But we all have our days. I guess to answer your question: I thought my collection was good. I really enjoyed once I got into the groove of things that I was able to be artistic, and play with the paint and create the Rorschach. It was really fitting for me because I really applied all that negative space into my work and it worked well. It could be so negative and angry but it turned out to be a really beautiful thing and I was really proud of where I went with it. I took all that negative into something positive, which I kind of always do.