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"Project Runway" runner-up Mondo Guerra, of Denver.
“Project Runway” runner-up Mondo Guerra, of Denver.

“Project Runway” has gained a reputation as the fashion reality competition to watch, but last Thursday’s finale struck home with Colorado.

That’s because Denver designer Mondo Guerra made it to the finale of the Lifetime network competition. The local talent came in second place to designer Gretchen Jones, but fans around the country were rooting for Team Mondo.

Friday, Reality Bytes caught up with Guerra and talked to the talented designer about “Project Runway’s” intense competition. This season’s contest drew in fans with its inventive projects and emotionally charged contestants.

“Being on ‘Project Runway’ was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Guerra said. “It really changed my life. I learned a lot about what I was able to accomplish as an individual and designer.

“The hours are intense being on the show and there’s a lot of stress just adapting. You had to pull through and move forward, but I saw it as an opportunity to really take things as they come.”

Guerra’s inventive design palette and his warm personality made him a favorite on “Project Runway’s” eighth season.

The Denver designer has a flair for mixing different patterns, colors and textures, and turning them into unique runway fashions. While other designers on the show played it safe, Guerra dared to make bold fashion statements.

“I simply stayed true to my own voice,” Guerra said. “On the show, I was able to refine who I was with a sense of joy and happiness. People got a good picture of what’s to come.”

The designer also tugged at the audience’s heartstrings when he revealed that he is HIV-positive.

Guerra hadn’t intended to speak about the issue, until one of the judge’s asked the inspiration behind a material pattern he created.

“I really wasn’t planning to reveal that personal a part of myself,” Guerra said. “But the colors and shapes of my pattern really had meaning to me. When the judge asked me about it, something clicked and I was able to talk about it.

“I literally had a dark cloud lifted off me and I felt like a whole new person.”

Guerra’s heartfelt personality and unique designs earned the Denverite second place on this season’s “Project Runway.”

In the end, the judges chose Jones’ mainstream designs as the winning fashion statement. However, Guerra still feels like a winner.

“I really didn’t even expect to get this far. My first goal was to be in the top eight,” Guerra said. “I really exceeded my own expectations.

“I feel that everything happens for a reason and that there’s a bigger picture for me. When the opportunities arise I’ll make wise decisions. We’ll see what happens.”

Guerra is still getting used to the idea of being a “Project Runway” celebrity.

The Internet has been slammed with tweets and news about this Denver designer — and that doesn’t usually happen with “Project Runway” runner-ups.

“This is all new for me,” Guerra said. “I don’t even have a website or cards. Before this show, I was working at the Arvada Center. Everything really has changed for me.”

The fashion designer’s clothes haven’t reach stores — yet. But you’ll be hearing more from Denver’s newest reality star.

Wendy Kale’s Reality Bytes column runs every Monday in the Colorado Daily.

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