In the land of reality television, Project Runway takes the crown for being one of the most respectable and entertaining in the lot. The show has even won a prestigious Peabody Award.
For the uninitiated, Project Runway is a competition show all about finding the next best fashion designer. It’s a grueling show for the contestants. They wake up in the wee hours of the morning to design and construct an elaborate garment based on a set of rigid parameters imposed by judge and host of the show, model Heidi Klum. What normal designers must do over a span of weeks, these contestants must achieve within hours.
Unlike other “reality” shows with scripted fight scenes, Project Runway‘s built-in honesty led to a very real moment with contestant —Project Runway: All Stars Season One winner— and fan favorite Mondo Guerra.
What Guerra revealed, soon became one of the rawest, most iconic moments in reality show history.
Guerra was the runner-up on season 8. During the season, the contestants were given a challenge to design an original print inspired by throwback family photos. The family photos made the contestants —who had been separated from their families to be on the show— pretty emotional. But for Mondo, it also struck another chord.
He created a pair of pants —later dubbed the “positivity pants”— which had a scattering of plus signs outlined by bright yellow and purple. When his turn came to defend his design, the judges asked him what the story was behind the pants.
He pointed to the plus signs on the pants and said: “These pluses are positive signs, and I’ve been HIV-positive for 10 years. And when I saw these pictures of my family, it brought back a lot of emotion, and so I wanted to pull from the past, but I also wanted to give something back of who I am now.”
That moment, standing on stage in front of the judges, his fellow contestants, and millions of viewers, was the first time he had shared that he had been living with HIV. Up until that point, it was a secret he kept.
From that moment on, Guerra became a face of bravery, and of HIV/AIDS education and advocacy work.
Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa sat down with the designer to talk about that moment he chose —live in fronts of millions of viewers— to speak up and live his truth.
Featured Image: Mondo Guerra (Bridget Seigfried)