Out in Jersey article


Jack Mackenroth speaks about moving on after Project Runway

Written by Steven Strauss Friday, 04 September 2009 14:07

Project Runway contestant, designer and AIDS activist Jack Mackenroth is moving on with his life and has plenty to say.

Steven Strauss: Co hosting a radio show, training for the upcoming Outgames, your design work and design show in development, and spearheading “Living Positive by Design”… Wow, that’s a lot on your plate. How do you do it?

Jack Mackenroth: Haha. Well, I’m well-organized and I’ve basically given up my social life for the time being. I swim and lift weights very early in the morning, which leaves my days open for the rest of my work. I also have some great people around me that make a lot of this great stuff happen.

SS: Okay, lets talk fashion. Your 12 look collection, what inspired it and
what are we looking forward to?

JM: Well, right now my own collection is on hold because of the TV show. We have already filmed and edited the pilot and we are just waiting to hear if it’s greenlit. If that happens, I will have to go out to LA indefinitely right after the Outgames. The shooting schedule will be very rigorous so I really can’t design and do the show. But fashion will always be there. I would love to develop a brand based on the work we do on the show. We shall see.

SS: With your successful run on Project Runway behind you, you are looking ahead to your own design show. Any teasers you can toss our way about what to expect?

JM: Not really. Sorry! I’ve signed a confidentiality contract. But I’m working with Kevin Christiana as my co-designer and I’ve seen the final cut and it’s adorable.

SS: Fashion disasters: we’ve all had them. What is the worst fashion train wreck you’ve been victim of?

JM: Oh, Lord! There are so many. I was a club kid in the 80’s so I have a lot of horror stories. I started cutting my own hair and making my own clothes when I was about 14. That involved a lot of trial and error. I emphasize the word error. I have one photo of me dancing in a club with shoulder length bleach blond hair, a vest that I had made out of the American flag, no shirt, denim shorts with stars sewn all over them, red knee socks and black square-toed platform shoes. Oh, the 80’s. Good times.

SS: Since your diagnosis about 20 years ago with HIV, you have been a huge force in combating the stigma associated with HIV. Can you elaborate on why you chose “Living Positive by Design” as your campaign slogan?

JM: Well, thank you! I like to think I’ve made some difference. I still have a lot of work to do. I worked with Merck to put together the “Living Positive by Design” program after they read an article about me in the Advocate. Basically, the program is a road map for HIV+ people to “design” their own life and health care program. I hope we can all fight the stigma of HIV by speaking openly about it and being visible role models. We also advocate that HIV+ individuals partner with a doctor they trust and get on a treatment regimen that keeps the HIV virus at an undetectable level. It’s very similar to the steps I “designed” for myself when I found out about my status 20 years ago. We also like the name because I am a fashion designer and it’s a fun play on words.

SS: Do you feel that there has been substantial progress toward public education about HIV and what it is like to live with it?

JM: Yes, I think there has been progress. I think we have a long way to go. I think the educational material has always been out there but until HIV effects someone you know, you don’t really pay attention. I am still surprised by some of the miseducation I encounter in emails and in person. I do think people like me and Ongina from Rupaul’s drag race help dispel some of the myths about living with HIV.

SS: When you see celebrities (not naming any names) being elusive about their orientation and instead waiting for the “big bang” in promotion to out themselves, do you feel that this is hurting or helping the cause?

JM: Let me put it this way: if someone is secretive about a part of his or her life—whether it’s being HIV+ or being gay or whatever—it sends a message that whatever he or she is hiding is shameful. That’s not helpful. Coming out with the secret in a “big bang” publicity moment doesn’t negate the fact that they were lying. On the flip side, any celebrity that comes out in some way does educate the public, normalizes the issue and starts discussions. Everyone needs to take their own time to be their true self. Being in the public eye just adds even more scrutiny to the situation.

SS: If you could give one piece of advice to that person out there struggling with the news that they are HIV positive, what would it be?

JM: Please know that it is not the end of the world. There is a lot of support out there. There are many great treatments that will help you live a normal life. You are still lovable. It is not anyone’s “fault” that you have HIV. Go to Livingpositivebydesign.com for great resources and information.

Visit Mackenroth’s website for more information you may need at http://www.jackmackenroth.com.


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