D enver fashion designer and Bravo’s “Project Runway” winner Mondo Guerra spoke candidly with students at the University of Colorado Thursday night about his experience as an HIV-positive, gay Latino man.
Guerra answered questions from students about revealing his HIV status and homosexuality to his family, as well as to television viewers on season eight of “Project Runway.”
Despite the heavy topics and honest dialogue, Guerra did not miss a chance to make the packed auditorium in Old Main roar with laughter.
“I was terrified to tell my Mexican family. All 240 of them,” Guerra said, lightening the mood.
Guerra told the story of “what really happened on the runway” when he revealed his HIV status during a “Project Runway” design challenge, which pushed him to tell his family four days before the episode aired on national television.
“It wasn’t until I heard the six other designers talk about their inspiration and how they wanted to execute that, and their emotions that went into that,” Guerra said, “I decided to share.
“So when (host) Heidi (Klum) said ‘you can leave runway,’ I turned around and said (to judge) ‘Nina (Garcia), you asked me what my story was.’ And within a minute and a half my entire life completely changed.”
For two hours, the Denver native sat on a barstool, flashing his turquoise and leopard Topshop shoes while sharing intimate moments.
In dark, cuffed skinny jeans — and perfectly fitted black blazer — Guerra gave short and simple answers to a student questions.
“There are no rules in fashion,” Guerra said. “Keep it fun and keep it light. Try something you don’t think you can pull off — because you really need to just pull it off.”
Guerra’s fashion-forward metallic tie paired with his red and leopard-print glasses seemed tamer than the faux-fur rave pants he described as his first sewing experiment.
After a few more questions, including a brief description of his drag queen alter ego and some advice for up-and-coming designers, many of the students rushed to the meet and greet session following his discussion.