Article for A&U magazine.

Posted in The Fierceness on November 24, 2010 by jackmax2

Patterns of His Life

By A&U | November 22nd, 2010 | Category: Cover Story | No Comments »

Jack Mackenroth—Designer, Swimmer, AIDS Advocate—Continues to Bring His Positive Message Out into the Open
by Angela Leroux-Lindsey

Jack Mackenroth, the designer, smiles big when I ask him about swimming. We’re meeting for the first time in an office tower in Chelsea, and I recognize him instantly from Season 4 of Project Runway. “I’ve been a competitive swimmer since I was six,” he says, his bright blue eyes keen and expressive. “I have a really hectic life, and swimming is an escape. It’s an hour-and-a-half a day when I can just think about nothing.” He’s being modest, because his time in the pool is about a lot more than distraction—his athletic accomplishments are phenomenal. He’s been ranked in the top 10 by the U.S. Masters twenty-two times; he’s been named All-American three times; he was part of a relay team that broke the national record in the 200-meter mixed medley in 2006; and most recently, he competed in eight races at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, and came home with seven medals.

Have I mentioned that Mackenroth just turned forty-one, and that he’s been HIV-positive since 1989?

“When I get to these big meets, I’m so focused, and I’m just a swimmer, a competitor. But when I sit back and think about it, two of the members of the team [in the 2006 record-setting relay] were HIV-positive. That kind of stuff is really cool. And to have this gay visibility in sports, it sets a great example for gay youth. Hopefully I can be a positive role model and say, ‘Look, I won seven medals in this international sporting event,’ despite the challenges I had as a teenager.”

Despite the fact that an MRSA infection (unrelated to HIV) forced him to withdraw from Project Runway early, Mackenroth’s talent, likability and charming good looks earned him a ton of fans and emerging fame. Like many before him, Mackenroth capitalized on this newfound visibility, but not in the way you might expect—he directed his energy to a selfless cause, launching a national HIV education campaign called Living Positive by Design (in partnership with the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., which manufactures several antiretroviral drugs). Through this venture, Mackenroth travels the country to speak about the importance of having an open discourse about HIV, especially with a doctor, but also with friends and family. Combating stigma is also a big part of his messaging, an issue that looms large over our discussion in the wake of a horrifying spate of homophobia-induced teenage suicides. “It’s heartbreaking,” Mackenroth says. “When you’re a teenager, when you’re [being bullied], it’s really hard to see that there’s a future. For me, swimming really saved me. I went to a really small high school, and everyone knew who I was, I was the gay one in my class, I was an effeminate boy, and I was the punching bag. So the only thing that kept me from losing it was that I was good at swimming.” Now, years later, Mackenroth’s incredible success as a designer and athlete sets an outstanding example for young people and is living proof that HIV doesn’t have to limit physical or creative potential.

As part of Living Positive by Design, Mackenroth visits American cities that are hardest hit by the HIV epidemic, which, according to the CDC, affects more than one million people in the U.S. These areas are often less progressive on social issues, and may not be exposed to the kind of fundamental information that Living Positive by Design emphasizes: have an open dialogue with a doctor, make sure you’re on appropriate treatment, get your viral load to an undetectable level. Mackenroth’s honesty with his own disease management touches people in every city. “I got a message from someone who said, ‘Thank you so much for what you do, you’ve inspired me to tell my family, to move forward and be honest.’ Hopefully I can be an example of someone who has maintained a healthy lifestyle, and proof that HIV can be a manageable illness—if you know. It’s when you don’t know that your T cells drop and you get the really high viral load. Knowledge is totally power.”

Another recent statistic released by the CDC estimates that one in five gay men are HIV-positive, but only half of that number have been tested and know their status. The negative associations surrounding HIV still exist, are still pervasive, and at times prevent education that could save thousands of lives. “Coming out as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, we’ve made a lot of progress in those arenas,” Mackenroth says. “If everyone got tested [for HIV], found out their status, and knew, it would start to normalize, a ripple effect would kick in. People would not fear being judged, and would be honest with their partners, their families. I can count on one hand the number of public figures who are out about their HIV status. I’m glad there are people who are making a statement now to gay youth, but I just wish it was every day, that it didn’t take teen suicide to get celebrities out there with positive messaging.”

When Mackenroth was in his early twenties and starting school at Parsons School of Design, as it was called then, there wasn’t really a positive role model for him to look up to. Instead, there was a lot of mystery and misinformation about HIV and its treatments, and it was a tragic time for the HIV community. “I was sort of lost,” Mackenroth says of the year after his diagnosis. “I mean, statistically I knew I’d be dead in five years. I’d just moved to New York, I was poor, I was in one of the hardest schools in the world…for a while I was just treading water. And then I had a lot of friends who died. It’s weird how your brain copes, it sort of normalizes in this gross way that should never happen. After you go to your twentieth funeral, you’re just numb.”

Mackenroth just returned from the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA), the largest AIDS-related gathering in the country, where he represented Living Positive by Design. (This year, Orlando hosted the event; Florida has the third-highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.) He and Merck set up a booth that encouraged attendees to design a six-inch fabric square as part of a Living Positive by Design panel for the legendary NAMES Quilt. “It was amazing—people were really into it, they wanted to express themselves, and maybe hadn’t had a chance to say what HIV means to them, the reasons they attend this conference, why they want to be a part of the AIDS quilt. The final piece turned out amazing.” Mackenroth also meets with members of local AIDS service organizations in all of the cities he visits, continuing to tell his story and inspire others to be visible, to fight the uninformed discrimination that still affects many parts of the U.S. “Don’t own the stigma. Don’t take blame for that,” he says. “Be proud of all aspects of yourself. It may not be your favorite trait, but be proud. I’m proud of how I deal with my HIV, and I’ve been living with it for twenty-one years. By telling my story and showing people how comfortable I am, and to talk about how this is a really hopeful time in terms of all the treatment options that are available, I hope that people will work up the courage to find a support system and get the help they need.”

I ask him about Mondo Guerra, the Project Runway contestant in the current season who recently revealed his HIV-positive status during a challenge. Mackenroth largely paved the way for this kind of disclosure, as he was one of the very first reality show contestants on any program to be open about his diagnosis from the beginning of taping. “I was really proud of him,” he says. “It was great for me to watch, to be in the place of the viewer…it was a really moving moment. For people to relate to that, for someone to identify with what he’s going through, is great.”

Mackenroth’s own career as a designer is essentially on hold while he commits himself full-time to Living Positive by Design and other media ventures, including a Sunday-night internet radio show for POZIAM and a Webisode series on Gay.com called The Queens of Drag: NYC, which is about the daily lives of ten top New York City drag queens. “Right now we’re just introducing the characters,” Mackenroth explains, clearly excited about the project. “We film them in and out of drag, and we go into the mentality behind it—I mean that’s a whole other kind of coming out, and dating, what that’s like. Our ultimate goal is to have a Real Housewives series.” I tell him I would totally watch this and he grins, his enthusiasm infectious. “Their lives are truly interesting! It’s a real art form.” Mackenroth was also recently featured in a GLAAD Award-nominated PSA titled “Healthy with HIV,” which features him swimming, running, and proudly wearing his Gay Games medals while emphasizing the importance of a regimen including daily medication and a healthy diet. It’s inspiring to see someone utilize a modicum of fame as an opportunity to spread awareness about an important issue, and not just seek any excuse to get attention. Mackenroth could easily be pitching a dating reality show (right now he’s single) or banking on his Project Runway recognition to design for as many celebrities as would have him (as other contestants have done). But, he says, even though his schedule is insane, the feeling he gets makes it worth it. “Oh, I think I have to,” he replies when I ask him if he’ll remain a public advocate. “I know I’m making a difference in people’s lives. I was making a good living as a designer before Project Runway, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it. But I’ve always lived my life in terms of, ‘This is an adventure, let’s see where this goes.’ I’m so happy to be participating in this program, because if even one person can see me or visit the Living Positive by Design Web site and decide to share his story with his family, to change his life, that’s really powerful.”

Need more proof of Mackenroth’s dedicated altruism? He told me that he responds to every single e-mail he gets, even if it’s just to say, “Be brave” or “It gets better.” Even before Dan Savage’s Internet video campaign, Mackenroth had written a piece for Out.com’s National Coming Out Day that reiterated the powerful mantra in the form of a letter to his teenage self: “I know right now sucks for you, and it’s really hard, but just know there’s a place for you and you can make a family for yourself, you can choose a family for yourself. There are places like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, where whole communities are thriving and will embrace you for your individuality, and will actually celebrate it.”

Regarding his own future, Mackenroth plans to keep swimming with the group he’s been with since 1991, Team New York Aquatics, and to keep spreading the message of positivity, responsibility, and pride to other members of the HIV-positive community through Living Positive by Design. He describes a moment at a U.S. Nationals, where he saw two octogenarians swim a 100-meter freestyle in under two minutes. “That blows me away—I think it’s just the fact that someone’s doing something they’re really passionate about that moved me.” Clearly, he’s passionate about advocacy, and we’re lucky for it; and we’ll be even luckier if, thanks in part to his hard work, we’re soon able to witness a country that truly accepts the HIV-positive community.

“At the end of my life,” Mackenroth says, “what’s more important—making pretty dresses or helping someone get by?”

Learn more about Jack Mackenroth by logging on to www.jackmackenroth.com.

Learn more about Living Positive by Design by logging on to www.livingpositivebydesign.com.

Visit photographer Francis Hills’ Web site by logging on to www.figjamstudios.com.

Angela Leroux-Lindsey is a Manhattan-based freelance writer.

The Queens of Drag: NYC premiere!!!!

Posted in The Fierceness on September 8, 2010 by jackmax2

Finally after MONTHS of hard work, our little FABULOUS web series “The Queens of Drag: NYC” launches today on Gay.com. It’s been a crazy labor of love and the cast is amazing!

From the official press release: New original docu series focuses on the lives of New York City’s most fabulous and ferociously funny drag queen divas. Gay.com (www.gay.com), the world’s leading gay social networking site, has teamed up with film and television producer Larry Kennar (The L Word, Barbershop, 50 First Dates), designer and reality TV veteran Jack Mackenroth (Project Runway: Season 4), and award-winning producer/director John Rutherford (eXposed) to air the original web series The Queens of Drag: NYC. The 8-episode series, which explores the audacious New York drag scene, debuts exclusively on Gay.com on September 8, 2010.

“The fascinating part is how they all lead dual lives, both of which are incredibly challenging.  Most people think of drag as glamorous, fun fluff.  But it’s actually an underappreciated art form that requires an enormous amount of talents and guts.  These queens are at the top of their game in the most competitive city in the world and each has a unique story to reveal underneath the wigs and makeup.”

Legendary drag diva Lady Bunny leads the all-star Queens of Drag: NYC cast, which includes the ageless and evergreen Hedda Lettuce, uber-glam Sherry Vine, the vivacious Bianca Del Rio, sexpot songstress Peppermint, and the classless and campy Mimi Imfurst. Breakout performers Epiphany, Logan Hardcore, Dallas DuBois, and Acid Betty join the divas for their outrageous adventures.

Each Queens of Drag: NYC webisode on Gay.com focuses on an individual diva as she navigates life as a drag superstar in the world’s most amazing and unforgiving city, New York.  The series shows the real grit of the drag queens’ lives – both in and out of makeup – as they struggle to conquer the New York nightlife scene.

Watch episode 1, which features the flawless Sherry Vine, here.

Check back every week for new episodes. Next week Lady Bunny……

Photos of Jack Mackenroth by Thomas Synammon

Posted in The Fierceness on September 7, 2010 by jackmax2

Thomas Synnamon is an emerging New York based photographer with a passion for simple, yet bold, photography.  Inspired by some of the greats, such as Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paolo Roversi, and Steven Klein, Thomas Synnamon challenges himself to let his imagination prevail in the balance between creativity and technique.

His main work is fitness and fashion, with a slightly edgy aspect. He enjoys experimenting with lighting to create some drama. A self-taught photographer, Thomas approaches every project with the same objective: to create something beautiful. Check out his website www.thomassynnamon.com and a link for SLEEPLESS his book here.  

“With Jack, I wanted to create a sexy vintage look with him as the classic male. The photos are subtle and simple, but hopefully emit a serene beauty,” said Synnamon.
See 6th NSFW shot here.

Jack Mackenroth has been a fashion and fitness model for over 15 years and  mainly does photo shoots now just for fun. He enjoys being part of anything artistically expressive. “I’ve shot with Tommy before and we had a great time, and I feel completely at ease with him. I think the shots are stunning.” Known best for appearing as a designer on Season 4 of Project Runway, Jack is currently co-producing a web series called The Queens of Drag: NYC (http://www.gay.com/queensofdragnyc/) which launches September 8th on Gay.com. He is covering New York Fashion Week for the LOGO network, and a commercial he shot earlier this year for “Healthy with HIV” was just nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.

Gay Games Cologne Diary: Part 3. The Home Stretch

Posted in The Fierceness on July 16, 2010 by jackmax2

Opening Ceremonies

The 2010 Gay games start in Cologne  on July 31st with the opening ceremonies. My very first Gay Games competition was in 1990 in Vancouver, Canada. I was 20 years old, and I had just come out to my Mom the year before. I remember having to tell my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Vancouver that I would like to stay with them because I was coming there to participate in the “Gay Games.” They were cool, and totally understood my implication without asking too many questions.

At that time, I was still struggling to become completely okay with my sexual orientation. That’s why I will never forget the moment I walked into the stadium during the parade of athletes during the opening ceremonies. I had never been around so many people like me. And after years of torment, to witness a stadium full of spectators cheering for me was unbelievable; and to this day, the sensation is still completely indescribable. All I ever tell anyone is that I was literally moved to tears.

Ever since then I have been an avid supporter and participant of the Gay Games, having swam in every single successive competition in New York, Amsterdam, Sydney, and in Chicago where I had a life-changing moment. I swam the breaststroke leg on a 4 X 50 meter medley relay that set the national record. We were only .8 seconds off the world record. And it was even more amazing because my Mom had traveled all the way from Seattle to be there in the stands to cheer me along and to watch me swim!

I have actually been a competitive swimmer since I was six years old. Throughout these many years, I have enjoyed swimming because, even though I now swim with a team, it’s actually a very solitary sport. I’ve never really had to fear teammates’ homophobia too much. I always knew that as long as I was a good swimmer, I would always be respected. And it is for this reason that the Gay Games are so important. All athletes of all levels of competition and sport from all around the world support each other in a way that I have never experienced at any other sporting event.

Since that first week in Vancouver nearly 20 years ago, I have managed to win at least one gold medal at every one of the competitions; though they get bigger and faster each time. My favorite games have been the ones outside of the United States because they attract more international athletes, which is also why I’m so excited about the upcoming games in Cologne, Germany. I swim with Team New York Aquatics (TNYA.org) and for the last 6 months I’ve been swimming at least 1.5 hours a day and lifting weights at the gym. Lately I’ve been running 5 miles a day to get my weight down. At 6 feet tall I weigh about 200 pounds and that’s a lot of weight to lug up and down the pool. It’s a lot of work for 8 events that all last less than one minute each.

The amazing thing about the Gay Games is that they encourage people of all abilities and shapes and sizes to participate. They also send a powerful message to the world about breaking away from gay stereotypes because we gays kick some serious ass!

As I mentioned above, for the upcoming games I’ve been training pretty intensely. I actually just returned from the US Nationals where I finished pretty closely to some of my all-time best times. And as a result of all of this training and competing, I do hope to come back from Cologne with some hardware, though it’s really more about the competition and the experience for me; I love meeting other athletes from around the world.

The swimming competition at the upcoming Gay Games in Cologne is six days long, so I’ll be pretty focused on that during that time. But afterwards, I’ve always enjoyed watching other sports competitions, and I hope to get that chance this year. You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen same-sex pairs of figure skaters and synchronized swimmers. It’s amazing! I hope to see you there but I will be recapping my experience with lots of photos when I get back.

Go team New York!!

Advance in Quest for HIV Vaccine by Mark Schoofs

Posted in The Fierceness on July 12, 2010 by jackmax2

By MARK SCHOOFS

HIV research is undergoing a renaissance that could lead to new ways to develop vaccines against the AIDS virus and other viral diseases.

In the latest development, U.S. government scientists say they have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered. They are now deploying the technique used to find those antibodies to identify antibodies to influenza viruses.

Mark Schoofs discusses a significant step toward an AIDS vaccine, U.S. government scientists have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered.

The HIV antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man, known in the scientific literature as Donor 45, whose body made the antibodies naturally. The trick for scientists now is to develop a vaccine or other methods to make anyone’s body produce them as well.

That effort “will require work,” said Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was a leader of the research. “We’re going to be at this for a while” before any benefit is seen in the clinic, he said.

The research was published Thursday in two papers in the online edition of the journal Science, 10 days before the opening of a large International AIDS Conference in Vienna, where prevention science is expected to take center stage. More than 33 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2008, and about 2.7 million contracted the virus that year, according to United Nations estimates.

Vaccines, which are believed to work by activating the body’s ability to produce antibodies, eliminated or curtailed smallpox, polio and other feared viral diseases, so they have been the holy grail of AIDS research.

The Quest for a Vaccine

Last year, following a trial in Thailand, results of the first HIV vaccine to show any efficacy were announced. But that vaccine reduced the chances of infection only by about 30%, and controversy erupted because in one common analysis the results weren’t statistically significant. That vaccine wasn’t designed to elicit the new antibodies.

The new discovery is part of what Wayne Koff, head of research and development at the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, calls a “renaissance” in HIV vaccine research.

Antibodies that are utterly ineffective, or that disable just one or two HIV strains, are common. Until last year, only a handful of “broadly neutralizing antibodies,” those that efficiently disable a large swath of HIV strains, had been discovered. And none of them neutralized more than about 40% of known HIV variants.

But in the past year, thanks to efficient new detection methods, at least a half dozen broadly neutralizing antibodies, including the three latest ones, have been identified in peer-reviewed journals. Dennis Burton of the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, Calif., led a team that discovered two broadly neutralizing antibodies last year; he says his team has identified additional, unpublished ones. Most of the new antibodies are more potent, able to knock out HIV at far lower concentrations than their previously known counterparts.

HIV is a highly mutable virus, but one place where the virus doesn’t mutate much is where it attaches to a particular molecule on the surface of cells it infects. Building on previous research, researchers created a probe, shaped exactly like that critical site, and used it to attract only those antibodies that efficiently attack it. That is how they fished out of Donor 45 the special antibodies: They screened 25 million of his cells to find 12 that produced the antibodies.

Donor 45′s antibodies didn’t protect him from contracting HIV. That is likely because the virus had already taken hold before his body produced the antibodies. He is still alive, and when his blood was drawn, he had been living with HIV for 20 years.

While he has produced the most powerful HIV antibody yet discovered, researchers say they don’t know of anything special about his genes that would make him unique. They expect that most people would be capable of producing the antibodies, if scientists could find the right way to stimulate their production.

Dr. Nabel said his team is applying the new technique to the influenza virus. Like HIV, influenza is a highly mutable virus—the reason a new vaccine is required every year.

“We want to go after a universal vaccine” by using the new technique to find antibodies to a “component of the influenza virus that doesn’t change,” said NIAID director Anthony Fauci. In principle, Dr. Fauci said, the technique could be used for any viral disease and possibly even for cancer vaccines.

Some of the new HIV antibodies discovered over the past year attack different points on the virus, raising hopes that they could work synergistically.

In unpublished research, John Mascola, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center, has shown that one of Dr. Burton’s antibodies neutralizes virtually all the strains that are resistant to the antibody from Donor 45. He also found the reverse: The antibody from Donor 45 disables HIV strains resistant to one of Dr. Burton’s best antibodies. Only one strain out of 95 tested was resistant to both antibodies, he said. Dr. Mascola is one of the authors of Thursday’s papers.

Researchers say they plan to test the new antibodies, likely blended together in a potent cocktail, in three broad ways.

First, the antibodies could be given to people in their raw form, somewhat like a drug, to prevent transmission of the virus. But they would likely be expensive and last in the body for a limited time, perhaps weeks, making that method impractical for all but specialized cases, such as to prevent mother-to-child transmission in childbirth.

The antibodies could also be tested in a “microbicide,” a gel that women or gay men could apply before sex to prevent infection.

[VACCINE]

The antibodies might even be tried as a treatment for people already infected. While the antibodies are unlikely to completely suppress HIV on their own, say scientists, they might boost the efficacy of current antiretroviral drugs.

Dr. Nabel said that the Vaccine Research Center has contracted with a company to produce an antibody suitable for use in humans so that testing in people could begin.

A second way to use the new research is to stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies. Jonas Salk injected people with a whole killed polio virus, and virtually everyone’s immune system easily made antibodies that disabled the polio virus. But for HIV, the vast majority of antibodies are ineffective. Now, scientists know the exact antibodies that must be made—those found in Donor 45 and in Dr. Burton’s lab, for example. So researchers need “a reverse engineering technology” to find a way to get everyone to produce them, said Greg Poland, director of vaccine research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

That’s what scientists at Merck & Co. have done. In a study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Merck Scientists knew that an old antibody, weaker than the newly discovered ones, attaches to a particularly vulnerable part of HIV. They created a replica of that piece of the virus to train the immune system to produce antibodies aimed at that exact spot. It was a painstaking process, requiring researchers to add chemical bonds to stabilize the replica so that it wouldn’t collapse and lose its shape. Eventually, Merck was able to make experimental vaccine candidates capable of spurring guinea pigs and rabbits to produce antibodies that home in on the target site and neutralize HIV. Those vaccines weren’t nearly powerful enough, but, said Dr. Koff, Merck’s research provides a “proof of principle” that reverse engineering can work for the much stronger new antibodies.

There are other potential pitfalls. There is evidence that Donor 45′s cells took months or possibly even years to create the powerful antibodies. That means scientists might have to give repeated booster shots or devise other ways to speed up this process.

Finally, there are experimental methods that employ tactics such as gene therapy. Nobel laureate David Baltimore is working on one such approach.

His team at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., has stitched genes that code for antibodies into a harmless virus, which they then inject into mice. The virus infects mouse cells, turning them into factories that produce the antibodies.

Q n A with Jack Mackenroth for Night Times Boston

Posted in The Fierceness on July 11, 2010 by jackmax2

By Michael Fontana/ Eileen Dover

PHOTO: FRANKLOUIS.COM

Q: How are you Jack?

A: Doing good lady! You’re fabulous as usual. And by ‘fabulous I mean ‘hot tranny mess”.

Q: So where are you from originally?

A: Seattle, Washington. Pretty but dreary. The lesbians love it. Lots of fleece.

Q: What was it like for you growing up gay?

A: Well it was not so fun. I was very effeminate and I got picked on a lot and beat up in high school. But deep down I knew there was another life waiting for me. I just had to find it. Ugh that sounds so Wizard of OZ.

Q: How has life and your career been post project runway?

A: Really amazing. I think people have this misconception that if you go on a successful reality show that magically your life automatically becomes fabulous and you are a superstar. That couldn’t be more false. Viewers have about a 3-6 month memory and then they are onto the next show. Project Runway was really just a medium for exposure. Plus we had no control over how we were portrayed or received by the public. The real work comes after the show when people have forgotten about you. I could have easily gone back to being a designer at a very good job but I decided to run with the opportunities that came my way.

Q: Do you keep in touch with anyone from the show?

A:Yes. Most of them actually. My best friends are Christian Siriano, Kevin Christiana and Kit Scarbo, known as Kit Pistol on the show. I keep in touch with most of the others but we are not close friends. And I know several of the designers from the other seasons. I’m slated to be the official blogger for the upcoming season. We shall see…

Q: Any men in your life?

A: Not really. At least not for very long. (wink) I’m working on it. I am so busy and I travel so much that it would be hard to have a boyfriend right now. I want one but I have a feeling he would resent me for ignoring him. Anyone feel free to email me with a headshot and resume.

Q: What do you look for in potential love interest?

A: Good Credit.

Seriously, I am REALLY attracted to talent of any kind. He would also have to be totally cool with the HIV thing. It needs to be a non-issue whether he is + or -.  My eyes tend to dart to tattooed, swarthy muscle-boys but none of my x-boyfriends look like that so go figure. I also have a shaved head fetish.

Q: If you weren’t doing fashion what other artistic medium would you like to do?

A: I do a lot of them. I throw pottery on the wheel, I paint, I knit, I make sculptures. Right now I’m REALLY interested in video editing. I can’t cook and I can’t do anything having to do with music. I sing like a screeching howler monkey.

Q: What do you think of drag as an art form?

A: I think it’s amazing. I’m a huge fan of drag performers. They are severely underappreciated. I’m currently producing a web series called The Queens of Drag: NYC. It’s like a Real Housewives format except the cast is actually talented. We have all the fiercest ‘girls’ from New York—Lady Bunny, Sherry Vine, Bianca Del Rio, Hedda Lettuce, Peppermint and on and on….It’s set to launch on June 21st.

Q: Would you ever do drag for fun or for show?

A:I used to do drag on occasion on Halloween or for Wigstock back in the 90’s. But as a designer I like to go big so I invest a lot of time in making my outfits. I just don’t have the time anymore. Plus I’m too muscular and I end up looking like a line backer in a tube top.

Q: I hear you’re quite the athlete… Care to elaborate?

A: HAHA. Yeah. I’ve been a competitive swimmer since I was 6. I train about 5 times a week in the pool and lift weights about 6 times a week. I just swam at Nationals in Atlanta last month and I am currently training for the Gay Games in Cologne, which starts at the end of July. I’m gonna come correct.

Q: Who is your dream client?

A: HMMMM. Its cliché to say Lady Gaga because everyone wants to design for her now, but she’s amazing because she wears art and she is not concerned with looking pretty like so many celebrities. I don’t have a dream client. Maybe Linda Evangelista just because I worship her. Or Alec Mapa because she’s just a wisp of a girl.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: Well I’m still designing but on a commission only basis. I’m producing the drag show I mentioned before. I also just shot a pilot called “Who Wore It Best” for the Oxygen network so I’m waiting to hear about that. I’m writing a book that I hope to finish by Christmas. I do a radio show on Sunday nights at 9 PM EST on blogtalkradio.com/POZIAM where we talk about HIV issues. And I travel all over the country speaking at colleges and events about HIV education and my personal experience living with HIV for 20 years. I blog. I do photo shoots. Oh yeah. And I swim. A lot. There’s probably some more stuff in there somewhere. It’s a sketchpot that changes on a daily basis.

Q: What is the most important issue facing the LGBT community today in your opinion?

A: Equal rights. Though all issues are important.

Q: Do you think gay men have become apathetic about HIV?

A: I think it’s a generalization but in many cases yes. If you lived through the devastation of the 80’s and 90’s you tend not to be apathetic. But since the stigma of being HIV+ is so intense, many people will not disclose their status. We don’t hear about HIV like we used to. Since treatments are so much better than they used to be I think the fear factor has dissipated. It’s still a potentially fatal disease with no cure. There are people like me who are doing very well but there are also many people who really struggle and are still dying of AIDS.

Q: Do you think we need all the letters? Like LGBTQQIA Etc.? I’m confused maybe we should add a C for confused.

LOVE IT!!  I have know idea what most of those letters stand for, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Androgynous?  Just use the entire alphabet. It’s easier to remember because of the cute melody associated with it.

Q: Michael Kors… Brilliant designer: or sassy contest judge? I find his fashions to be…kinda scary SHHHH don’t tell him I said that!!

A: He’s fine. He was the best judge from a technical standpoint because he understands how difficult the garments are to make. Plus he is the queen of sassy sound bites and the producers LOVE that. I think he is a good designer. It’s ironic that Project Runway beats you over the head about innovation and Michael is so mass market. But his clothes are really beautiful.

Q: Do you see yourself as a role model?

A: Yes. I feel a responsibility now that I didn’t feel before. I know from facebook messages and emails that a lot of people really look up to me. So I’m quite conscious of that.

Q: What would you say to an aspiring artist of any orientation who feels they can’t achieve their dreams? So many artists face the scrutiny of naysayers. What say you?

Well my theory is that if you absolutely love something enough to sacrifice for it then you will probably be successful. Nothing comes easily like you see on TV. You have to work your ass off. But if you are willing to do that and persevere when countless people tell you “no” then you will achieve some degree of success—whatever that means.

Thanks Jack for “sitting down for a chat” and thank you for being a role model. I wish I had someone like you to look up to when I came out as a teenager and I’m so glad that we have amazing people like you to give the LGBT youth of today people they can not only be proud of but aspire to follow. You’re not just a handsome guy but also a dynamic artist and a brave man whose overcome challenges and adversity to follow your dreams and I personally want to thank you! You rock!

To contact Jack or find his fashions please go to Jackmackenroth.com.

A Straight Person’s Guide to Gay Pride

Posted in The Fierceness on June 29, 2010 by jackmax2

By Brian Moylan, Jun 25, 2010 04:38 PM

A Straight Person's Guide to Gay PrideIf you are a opposite-gender lover you may not know this is Gay Pride Weekend in New York. You should come join the party! But first, here are a few things you need to know before joining the fun.

If Halloween is Gay Christmas and the Oscars is the Gay Super Bowl, then Pride is Gay Fourth of July. There are picnics and fireworks and lots of drinking and it’s all about freedom! Pride isn’t really one single occurrence. Much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it is a collection of parades, rallies, parties, private events, functions, fundraisers, and bead throwing. So, one doesn’t so much “go to Pride” as one “does Pride.” Every gay observes it differently, but it really is the one time of the year when all the leather daddies, bull dykes, twinks, alternaqueers, trannies, drag queens, femmes, circuit boys, bois (who are actually girls), and all the other wonderful gay archetypes rub elbows in a giant celebration of living somewhere over the rainbow.

While the day is all about being gayer than Liza Minnelli singing “Single Ladies” in a Sex and the City movie, we love it when our straight allies come out and lend their support. If you want to join in, here are some handy tips to keep in mind.

  • The first Gay Pride parade was really a march through the streets of New York to protest the unfair treatment of gay men by police at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. We now mark the infamous Stonewall Riots every June with a parade through town. It is no longer very political. It’s mostly about corporations telling us that they’re “down with the gays” and an excuse for gay people party. Don’t judge us.
  • In New York, the major event is the Gay Pride March, which goes down Fifth Avenue in Midtown before snaking through Greenwich village before stopping at Christopher Street, where the Stonewall Riots took place. The people who go to the parade are out-of-towners, the very young, the very old, every lesbian who lives in the suburbs, and straight people. Please go, you’ll fit right in.
  • OK, the real main event for the boys is the Dance on the Pier, a giant outdoors dance party on the Hudson River. There’s usually a surprise performer who comes out and does a number at the end of the party. If you want to send any gay into a tizzy between now and Sunday, tell them you heard Lady Gaga is going to be at the Pier Dance.
  • Seriously, every gay bar is going to be packed all weekend, so if you want a festive good time, just go to your neighborhood homo watering hole. Just watch out though, because you may walk yourself square into a theme party and not have anything to wear!
  • While watching the parade, every float will basically be either a gay group (charitable, social, activist, religious, or otherwise) or a a bunch of men wearing little clothing and lots of body glitter. No matter which of the two these are, they will be dancing to one of the same three dance remixes—probably Gaga. Once you’ve heard “Bad Romance” for the fiftieth time, feel free to take revenge by using the little “Gaga at the Pier Dance” trick we just taught you.
  • If you’re going to come to an event, even the parade, you need to work a look. Straight girls, you better not leave the house looking all half-assed, because there will be a ton of semi-drunk professional stylists walking around and they will want to read you (and if you don’t know what reading is, please Netflix Paris Is Burning before going to Pride). Do your makeup, shave your legs, paint your toes, and then dress! But not too much, you don’t need anyone thinking you’re a drag queen. Boys, you’ll be fine, as long as you’re hot. And if you are, you should take your shirt off. If being an objectified piece of beef is the one thing you do for your gay neighbors all year, that is enough. And if you really want to drive them wild, wear a harness.
  • And that goes in reverse. Never, ever, ever, ever tell a drag queen that you can do hair and makeup better than she can, even if she is wearing a ratty wig and some globby pancake makeup over two days of beard. You probably have better makeup skills, but they are way more vicious, and they will make you cry. Even at Pride.
  • Yes, we know all the lesbians look like Justin Bieber. Stop telling us.
  • The first places where gay people could freely congregate were bars and still, to this day, most Pride celebrations are bar centric. Just because we want to hang out at a place that is overly decorated with rainbow banners and has hot shirtless straight boys slinging drinks doesn’t mean that we’re a bunch of drunks. Don’t judge us.
  • Girls, we love having you in gay bars, even when it is super crowded and we’re trying to get laid. Just one rule. No shrieking! This is Gay Pride, not a bachelorette party. And nothing makes a gay’s testicles retract back into their body like drunk girls screaming.
  • Also, ladies, don’t show your support by making out with another straight girl. This isn’t a frat party. However, if a dyke on a bike calls you her bitch and tries to jam her tongue down your throat, you’d better let her.
  • Straight guys, if you want to make out with another dude, especially for the first time, this is completely acceptable—especially if you’re hot.
  • Oh, guys. If you see anyone that you want to remotely have sex with, it’s either a fag hag or a drag queen. They will both flirt back with you, just make sure you know which is which, because one has a “surprise.”
  • For the last time, they are not “assless chaps.” All chaps are inherently assless, so saying “assless chaps” is as redundant as saying “fingerless mittens.” If you see some guy with a pasty, hairy, tush waddling around in a pair, just say “Ew!” and point. That’s what the gays do.
  • Lots of lesbians have children, whether from adoption, sperm donors, or previous relationships. Do not mess with the lesbians’ children. If you think regular Park Slope mothers are vicious when it comes to their kids, you don’t even want to find out what happens when you get between a lesbian and her cubs. Also, gay men treat their little dogs like children, so be careful of them too. Yes, it’s stupid, but it’s our only choice. Don’t judge us.
  • If you go to any sort of Gay Pride dance party and someone puts a bottle under your nose, do not inhale. These are poppers and they are a secret gay elixir. We don’t want straight people knowing how good they are, so please don’t try them. The last thing we need is a shortage of Rush thanks to you guys!
  • We know you want to show your support, but no rainbows. Not on hats, pins, necklaces, leis, or boas. They’re good enough for flags and decorations, but actually adorning one’s body with a rainbow is just tacky. Trust us.
  • The soundtrack for the day is stereotypical gay jams: Madonna, Indigo Girls, house anthems, Melissa Etheridge, Katy Perry, Beyoncé. Steel yourself.
  • Remember, this day is all about the gays. It’s like you’re a Red Sox fan at Yankee Stadium. You need to just go along with what’s happening. Even if you don’t like it or get uncomfortable, take a deep breath and try to fit in. Every other day of the year is Straight Pride Day, and today, you play by our rules.
  • Feel free to stare. That’s what Pride is all about. And if we were ashamed, we wouldn’t be out in public like this in the first place!
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