The Project Runway premiere is just over a week away, and if you're anything like me then you are more than anxious to get your Runway fix again.
Jack Mackenroth is one of the new designers who initially caught my eye. Then he caught my interest as I heard more about his background as a medalist in multiple Gay Olympic games, his openness about being an HIV-positive man, and about being a Seattle native. (Got to root for our own, Seattle!) He is designing his own line of mens shirts and pants, as well as a memoir about his life experiences.
Jack agreed to do a little Q&A with Hunk du Jour about his life leading up to Runway -- and kept his lips sealed about what we can expect in the new season (premieres November 14th, 2007 on Bravo.)
For more information about Jack, read our full interview after the jump and then check out his new website, jackmackenroth.com!
Hunk du Jour: What was your auditioning experience like for the latest season of Project Runway?
Jack Mackenroth: The audition process is very elaborate. They need to make sure that you have a clear design point of view and that you have the necessary skills to handle the challenges. You need to be able to illustrate, pattern draft, sew, drape and know your fabrics all while looking pretty and be interesting. Personally for me the process was fairly positive. Tim thought I could push the envelope with my designs because my aesthetic is very classic. Laura Bennett was the guest judge and she totally "got" me so I think she helped me get to the next round. Truthfully I was a sweaty, panicky mess the whole time. I had auditioned the previous season and was told "maybe" so I was nervous as hell.
HdJ: Where were you when you found out you were selected? How did you celebrate?
JM: I got the call when I was walking down the street in Manhattan. It's a very surreal experience because you want to scream and tell the world but because of the air tight confidentiality agreement you cant tell anyone. Basically I just said "shut up!" to the person from Bravo and then I hung up and jumped up and down for about 30 seconds like a freak.
HdJ: Are you a fan of the show already? Which of the previous seasons' designers do you relate to professionally? Which do you relate to personally?
JM: I was a HUGE fan of the show already. Honestly I think it's the best show on TV. I have all the DVDs and I watch the reruns on TV all the time. I wanted to be on it from the first episode but I didn't think I could because it's a women's wear show. Once I saw Emmett on season 2 I knew there was a chance because he was primarily a men's designer like me.
JM: As far as designers I related to---I think my personality is a cross between Nick Verreos and Robert Best. I'm kind of sassy but not mean spirited (I hope.)
JM: Professionally I guess Emmett McCarthy would be the closest to me in terms of his career experience.
HdJ: Why did you want to participate in the show?
JM: I wanted to be on the show because I love it first of all--but I had reached a point in my career where I was making really good money but the job was creatively boring. I think the public has this false idea that all designers sit around and play with beautiful fabrics all day and kiki with top models. In truth the majority of designers aren't making oscar gowns. We are designing for Macy's and Target and the general public. My days were spent drawing on the computer and sending emails. I wanted to open a new chapter in my life and get back to creativity. I wanted to rediscover what I loved about designing clothes.
HdJ: You've been an active participant in the past five Gay Games competitions. How has your participation in the games shaped your life?
JM: The Gay Games have been some of the proudest times of my life. Walking into a huge stadium in 1990 during the opening ceremonies with thousands of people cheering for you because of your personal pride and participation was an amazing feeling. I remember it like it was yesterday. I cried. Unfortunately--especially back then--gay men and women are told from a very young age that we are not worthy. To be validated for your achievements in such a public way is life changing. Twenty plus years later I still look forward to that moment at every games. I've made great friends over the years. And winning medals is fun too. I don't like to lose.
HdJ: What was your first competition there like? What do you remember from the first time you walked out onto the pool deck? The first time you placed?
JM: The first Gay Games I participated in were in Vancouver, Canada. They were actually the third Gay Games. The first two were in San Francisco and I was only 12 and 16 so I was too young to participate (even if I had known about them). At my first games I was swimming without a team. I was living in New York but I wasn't training that seriously. I had been a very serious swimmer though high school and I had really just been doing it to keep in shape. I was only 20 and I was a ball of emotions--excited, nervous, proud, scared, amazed all rolled into a speedo. The games have grown exponentially every four years but even back then the competition was pretty fierce. In my best event, the 50 breaststroke, I won a bronze medal. That was my only medal at those games. I was so proud. I became more committed after that and I have won at least one gold medal at every games since then.
HdJ: In what ways has fashion touched your life?
JM: Hmmm--thats an interesting question. I've met a lot of amazing, talented people. I get to do a job that is creative (most of the time). And now I get to be a part of Project Runway. WORK!
HdJ: Did you ever doubt fashion as a career choice?
JM: Actually yes. I was pre-med at UC Berkeley for my first 2 years and I planned on going to medical school. Art and design was sort of just a hobby but I didn't realize I could make a living doing it. I love science but I'm glad I changed my mind and applied tom Parsons. There are moments that I miss science and medicine but they are fleeting.
HdJ: On your MySpace profile you list Janice Dickinson as one of your heroes -- how has she contributed to your world?
JM: HAHA! I was just joking when I said she was one of my heroes. However I do admire her sense of humor, her longevity, her ability to self-promote and the fact that she doesn't seem to take herself to seriously. And didn't she marry a plastic surgeon? Go girl! My real hero is my mom.
HdJ: You have a cameo in the Sex and The City movie (currently in production) -- how was your day on-set?
JM: It was really amazing! I have a lot of tattoos on my arms that they wanted to cover up so I spent about an hour in the make-up trailer. Kristin Davis sat right next to me and she was super nice. Later SJP came in and we all just chatted for a few minutes. It was very surreal. They were both just as sweet as can be.
JM: The scene was filmed on the street in New York. The crazy part about that was the fans. The crew had blocked off the street but anywhere that was not blocked off was PACKED with fans. It was wild. Everytime any of the girls came out people would scream like crazy. I pretended it was for me. If they cut my scene someone is going to pay!!!!
HdJ: What are your plans for Project Runway's premiere night?
JM: I'm not sure. Honestly I'm kind of nervous for the premiere. We have not seen any footage so I don't know what's in or how I come off on camera. I'll probably just be watching at home with a few friends and a six pack.