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Friday, October 29, 2010

T Lo Interviews: Mondo Guerra

“I’ve always been 100 percent Mondo.”

So nice to finally talk to the “star” of Project Runway!

Oh, well. Thank you. I don’t know about that.

We do. We’re at 2500 comments and counting and most of them are in support of you.

Oh, wow. You know the thing about it is I haven’t even looked at the web this morning, because, well… I don’t want to relive it, you know.

Trust us, the response has been overwhelming. Who did you watch the episode with last night? Your family?

I watched the episode with my family and 556 of my closest friends. It was amazing. It was packed.

This is such a cliché to ask, but were you disappointed with the outcome?

You know what? I wasn’t disappointed. More than anything, I was a little shocked because I thought that I got the better critique. The way it happened in real time on the runway that day it felt like my critique was the strongest critique. But I’m not disappointed because you know, I went there to do something and I went there to do work and to show my creativity to the world. And people responded to me not only as an artistic person but as an individual. It really exceeded all my expectations. I mean, I am so grateful for the opportunity and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Were you surprised by the viewer response? Because you pretty much became the fan favorite.

You know what? It’s funny; I was surprised by that because I would never think that I would have that kind of impact on anybody, let alone a large audience. I’ve always been 100 percent Mondo and I’ve always been…kind of a bit of a misunderstood character. And I think when I got on the show, people related to me in the fact that they recognized that I was on a personal journey and that’s amazing.

Be honest. Did you think you had it in the bag?

No…you know, the thing about it is, anything can happen. The only thing I could do was go there and do my best, and I did; it was my dream collection, and I showed exactly what I wanted. I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished.

Wouldn’t do anything differently?

No, I wouldn’t have done anything differently and I think that the judges kind of thought, you know, maybe I could be some kind of snob because I didn’t listen to them and take off the pukey, cupcake head pieces or put in a solid color dress, you know? I could have done that very easily. But you know what, I said it was my dream collection and I never really go back on my ideas. Personally, when I do that, that’s when I get weak. I think when I’m self-doubting, that’s when I really drop the ball. And if I get kicked off for doing something that wasn’t true to myself then I’d be even more disappointed – with myself, more than anything. So I just stay … I stay with myself.

What about the gown that you decided not to show? Can you tell us about that?

That was actually the last look I made just prior to going to the runway and it was a pretty dress but, I mean, it was a gown-gown, you know? It would have been considered something for the red carpet and I’m not really that person. I really wanted to stay true to who I am as a person, and that’s what the deciding factor was. I don’t know … I can’t turn back time, I can’t put that gown back into the mix to see how it would get voted on, you know? It is what it is.

We loved the first look, the blouse and the shorts, and we loved that color-blocked tunic dress. Both of those looks looked very wearable to us, so we don’t really get why the judges were criticizing you on your wearability factor.

Right. I didn’t understand that as well and I think if you look at my collection and break it down piece by piece, you can really incorporate a lot of it into your wardrobe. I mean, there were tops that you could wear with jeans; skirts that you could wear with, you know, like a black turtleneck. There’s the tunic, which you could wear with a pair of leggings, or the same tunic you can dress up with a pair of heels and wear it out to dinner or a cocktail party; there’s so many options. So, I don’t understand what happened there, I really don’t.

The judges claimed that you’re not what’s happening right now and we strongly disagreed with that on the blog, citing a bunch of looks from the Spring collections that were using a lot of the same elements that you used. How do you feel about what the judges said?

I really don’t know what happened. I think they were – I don’t know, maybe they were just splitting hairs. They had to go with something and unfortunately, they made the decision for Gretchen to win. And I’m happy for her.

Are you really?

I am happy that Gretchen won. I would have loved to win, but it’s not just about making money for me. I’ll still continue to be creative and still be able to think up new ideas and, you know, bring joy to people through my passion and live that life that I dream of. It’s just that I’m not gonna have the management and I’m not gonna have the seed money or whatever. I’ll just have to work a little harder and in the end that’s just gonna make my collections stronger and make me stronger.

What happened with your models not showing up?

Oh man, I don’t know. I don’t know if they were trying to give me a heart attack or what. They just didn’t show up and they had alternates come in. I mean, we had like a four-hour model casting; Michael C, Andy, Gretchen and I, and it was intense. I picked girls that I was really happy with. They were not your normal girls but they were cute. But it was really scary when some of them didn’t show up. As Tim Gunn would say, it was a real “make it work” moment. This was my final chance to take the whole enchilada.

The line
up was wrong too, right?

Yes, the lineup was crazy. I gave them the lineup of the order that I wanted them to walk, and I gave them the pictures, and then also the three girls who didn’t show up and there were new names coming on to the list and it was just a real mess.

Some of our readers noticed that the girl wearing the turquoise top, sometimes she’s shown walking down the runway wearing a necklac
e and sometimes she isn’t. Do you know what happened there?

Really? Well.

You didn’t see that?

Oh, you know what? There’s this thing they do where it’s like a first run or a practice run and they do the taping. And for the taping, she wore the necklace, and I thought – I loved that necklace and it really represented me. I think it’s fun and it really complements my vision of found objects, like Aztec wood and beads, so I just threw it on her. I actually didn’t know that. Thank you for pointing that out.

Tell us about your inspiration for the collection.

I really didn’t look for inspiration any further than opening up my front door. I grew up in a neighborhood in Denver with a heavy Mexican population. My family has been in the area for generation after generation. I live a block away from the church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, that I was baptized in; the one that I had my First Communion in; the one that everyone in my family gets married in. So I really wanted to honor my family, my Mexican heritage, and my roots, and the Catholic religion.

Your relationship with Michael C., it changed over the course of the show and it looks like you’re very good friends. How did that come about?

The thing about it is when I got the opportunity to work with Michael Costello I found out that he’s not only a great artist and take pride in his work and does it effortlessly, he’s an amazing guy and he’s willing to learn and open himself up to criticism. And it just proved so much more about his character. I admire that about him. I was originally really playing the game and listening to the hearsay of the other designers but in the end I couldn’t not be friends with him. He’s a really great guy and a really talented guy.

Do you think things were accurate with the way people were depicted on the show?

I think that everyone was very true to character. I think the editing could have been a little more, you know, a little wacky to make people stronger characters. But there were 15 designer and everyone does have a very strong personality. I think everybody was very true to their character and it all came across on television. I spent six weeks with these people and even with the last 13 weeks I got to know them even more.

Is it true you’re going to have a TV show with Michael Costello?

I actually found out about that on Facebook the other day and it’s a rumor. I don’t know anything about it. I mean, it would be really fun it it was true.

When we first saw the promo pics of you we loved you for your personal style, but you said when people first meet you they think you’re strange. Is that true?

I live in Denver, Colorado. I’m kind of my own character. In the gay community here, I don’t want to say this in a negative way, it seems like everyone is cut from the same – it’s so cookie cutter. So whenever I show up, people don’t really respond to what I’m … doing. My whole experience here has made me very insecure, going on the show, about being who I am. So, yeah. People seem to think I’m strange but when you get to know me, I’m very approachable and I’m honest. I don’t have anything to hide and I’m an open book.

What has the response been to revealing your HIV status?

It has been amazing. I think me revealing myself as HIV positive is about more than just me. I think it’s about everybody living with a secret or with something they don’t want to express. I think it’s a message that people can relate to.

We loved your finale show outfit. Why did you pick a suit and tie?

You know, that’s just kind of how I do things. It’s whatever I feel like when I get up. Whatever I put on, I put on. It’s not really thought up.

Did you enjoy the Project Runway experience?

Yeah, I enjoyed it. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Coming off the show, I know who I am and it’s made me stronger. I think I’ve given some people the hope and the strength to move forward and tackle their dreams. The whole experience has paid me back in a million ways.

So what’s next for Mondo?

I think the thing that’s next for me is, I’m planning on moving to L.A. soon. I mean, tomorrow’s another day, someone might call me up and make an offer. You never know what’s going to happen. But you know? The thing about it is, I know that I’m going to continue to eat, sleep, breathe creativity and continue to design.

Thank you, Mondo.

Thank you, guys.

[Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke, myLifetime.com]

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