UPDATE: Mondo won, as you know. Read all about it here: "It's a celebration, bitches! Mondo Guerra wins Project Runway All Stars"
Denver designer Mondo Guerra is about to emerge from the Project Runway vortex after a two-year stay, and he'll be the latest personality to try and prove that there are second acts in the lives of American reality-TV stars.
Since Season 8 of the Lifetime reality show began filming in June 2010, and through this Thursday night's finale of Project Runway All Stars, Guerra has become a bona fide celebrity, but that doesn't mean he sees himself returning to the pressure cooker of a reality-TV show.
No, Guerra won't be returning to the workroom -- at least not as a contestant.
The 33-year-old Guerra, who's known for brightly colored designs, a sometimes prickly attitude that has endeared him to some viewers, and a social conscience that has endeared him to even more viewers, has been the clear favorite to take this best-of-the-best series, winning more design challenges (four) than any other contestant.
Yesterday, Guerra told us he's ready for the next level -- although he can't talk about the outcome of the competition -- and mentioned that he'd like to have his own gig:
"I think I'm ready for my own show," Guerra says. "I've had the opportunity to do a couple on-air media things, and that's something I'm really looking into."
As for a return to Project Runway, "I would go back as a judge or to present a challenge," he says. "I don't think I would go back as a competitor. My competition days are over."
A bit surprisingly, Guerra didn't have a Klum-esque quip -- his own version of "One day you're in and the next you're out" -- at the ready.
"I've never even thought about it," Guerra said. "I'm not that cheesy. I'll definitely work on that, though."
In the second of a two-part season finale (which airs at 7 p.m. MST on Thursday), Guerra, fellow Season 8 contestant Michael Costello and Season 1 contestant Austin Scarlett will debut their designs in a runway show, as is the tradition for Project Runway season finales.
The three finalists have been whittled down from a field of thirteen and are vying for a couple hundred thousand dollars in prizes, as well as a one-year guest-editor job with Marie Claire magazine, among other career-fueling incentives.
Thursday's Runway watch party has been moved from Beauty Bar to the larger Exdo Event Center, 1399 35th Street, which will host a "Mondo Bizarro" fundraiser for the Denver Colorado AIDS Project, featuring a carnival-like atmosphere and emcee duties by KWGN personality Chris Parente.
Designers Ivy and Casanova from Season 8, Anya from Season 9 and All Star muse model Jessamine Kelley will be in attendance. Tickets are $10 in advance, and VIP tickets are $50; doors open at 5 p.m. for VIPs and 6 p.m. for the rest of us riff-raff. The event is open to fans eighteen years and older, and guests are encouraged "to dress in their carnival best," so take that as you will.
Guerra spoke with Westword yesterday about this latest season, what's next for him and being recognized in Costa Rica.
Westword: What has it been like to look back on your return to Project Runway?
Mondo Guerra: [Project Runway All Stars] was nice. It was a clean slate, and we had a chance to prove ourself again.
Which guest judge to remember the most about?
The challenge with Cynthia Rowley. I really tried with the challenge, as it was my mom's sixtieth birthday and I wanted a very '50s design because she grew up in that decade. I wanted to give her a tribute for her birthday. It wasn't received very well, especially by Cynthia. She couldn't even find the words and had to ask another judge for the words. She felt like it was so disturbingly awful. In that episode, I really broke down and started crying, not because I got a bad critique, but because it was a gift to someone who was really important to me. I was emotionally attached to this look. I learned a lesson about trying to pull myself away from my work. That episode was definitely a kick in the ass.
We're approaching two years in June that you've been filmed for Project Runway. Is there anything about your life pre-reality TV that you miss?
I like traveling. I like the anonymity of doing things on my own. But now when I travel, or even if I'm in Denver, I don't like to go out by myself. If a friend is there for support, then I can fall back. Sometimes that's not available, and I have to engage in a conversation about Project Runway that I maybe don't want to talk about.
What's the farthest from home that you've been recognized?
I was on vacation in Costa Rica, and I went to a beach town, and some guy that was a waiter knew who I was. That was really scary, weird -- I don't know what the word was. It was crazy. Then I went to a hotel for a while, and a lot of Americans were staying there. Somehow it got out, and I was known and had some visibility. Then everybody knew.
Did they at least kick you up to the penthouse when they found out you were a celebrity?
We already were in the penthouse.
Are you in close contact with Michael or Austin? Even though the episode has been in the can for a while, is there a congratulatory call that's made to the other guys, like in political races?
Now that you've reminded me, I should probably send them flowers for a sign of affection and gratitude. [To assistant: Can we send Michael and Austin flowers?]
On your first season of Project Runway, you opened up about having HIV. Can you you talk a little about looking back on that moment and why you support the Denver Colorado AIDS Project?
Getting on Project Runway was a dream come true, and there were so many things I had to accomplish -- and to accept the fact that I had HIV. It happened to be in that episode, and it was so emotionally charged. I felt like it was time to let go. Since I have been a client of DCAP, I felt like it was fitting for me to give back to them, now that I have the visibility. I used to go there for social services, and I was a client of their food bank.
What do you make of the primarily positive impression viewers have of you?
I didn't go on there as a "character," and people say they edit it -- yes, they edit it -- but if you said it on camera, you said it. And luckily I was having some pretty good days when I was on there. I'm happiest when I'm working, so I think that was a good place for me.
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Mondo's final appearance as a contestant on Project Runway is at 7 p.m. MST Thursday on the Lifetime channel.