The HIV-positive designer on "Project Runway All Stars" talks about his transition from fashion hopeful to impassioned activist
LOS ANGELES -- After becoming a fan favorite on season 8 of "Project Runway" — partly by coming out about his HIV-positive status to the show’s millions of fans — Mondo Guerra turned his newfound fame into a platform. In between launching a jewelry line and competing on Project Runway All Stars, Guerra has emerged as one of the nation’s most high-profile Latino HIV activists. While sewing and designing come naturally to the 33-year-old, Guerra talks to HIV Plus magazine about his new role as an advocate, which also suits him rather comfortably.
“When you get up [to the podium], you feel like people are there to participate, to listen to you, they’re really engaged in what you’re saying,” Guerra tells HIV Plus. “So it’s actually grown quite relaxing.”
Guerra’s decision to put himself out there as a face and voice of HIV was not taken lightly. He knows he’ll likely be referred to as “the HIV-positive designer” for the foreseeable future, but the reception he received after season 8 touched him deeply. He’s also now working with fellow HIV-positive activist and "Project Runway" alum Jack Mackenroth on the Living Positive by Design campaign, which stresses the importance of a strong mind as well as a strong body.
“After the episode aired [in which he revealed his status], there was so much positive response from so many different people,” Guerra remembers. “A lot of that was from people who were still keeping their status a secret and letting the stigma really define who they were. It was keeping them from being honest. So coming off the show it’s been my responsibility to continue the conversation.”
Since he revealed his status, Guerra’s family has proven both warm and understanding. “My entire family has really stepped up to the plate,” he says. “Now they have put a face to the disease and have sought out the materials to educate themselves. Within my own little family—well, I’m Mexican, so it’s not that little — to see them educate themselves and talk openly about HIV and ask me questions makes me really proud to know that with my community, I’ve made a difference. I hope that continues with my advocacy work.”
Read the full interview with Mondo Guerra in HIV Plus magazine HERE.