True story about how I met mister Jack Mackenroth. It was at the gym in New York City, and I was terrified of him. Not in a scary way, but he was so unbelievably good looking and I was drenched in sweat from a 15 minute elliptical exercise, that I didn't really know how to approach him just to say, "I'm a fan."
Luckily, Jack is one of the nicest people I've ever met, so that stupidity I once had has gone out the window. Jack Mackenroth has made quite the name for himself over his illustrious career, being a major force in the fashion industry starting in the early 90's all the way to him being on Project Runway, where he was considered one of the favorites to win the whole thing.
It was because of his appearance on that show that Jack became a vital presence for HIV activism, as he had to withdraw from the competition due to a contagious staph infection from being HIV positive. He has won several awards and drew positive criticism for his work with organizations such as Living Positive by Design and HIV Equal, the latter of which gave him universal acclaim for creating "HIV Shower Selfie Challenge" media campaign.
Jack is just a good guy, with a good heart, and he's taken a page out of the Madonna handbook and is looking to reinvent himself at the young age of 48. He sits down with us at Instinct to discuss how crazy his life has been since his appearance on Project Runway, his love of guys who have beards, his happiest career moment, and what's next for this incredible guy. Take a look.
It's insane that it's been officially 10 years since your season of Project Runway premiered! What is your fondest memory from being there?
Well it’s actually only been 9 years as my season was in 2008 but who’s counting. Regardless it was eons ago. I think my most vivid memory was winning the menswear challenge. It was very surreal and it was only the 3rd challenge (which was 6 days of filming total in real time).
My favorite memory was working on the 4th team challenge with Kit Scarbo and Christian Siriano. They are amazing. Along with Kevin Christiana, they are the ones I have stayed friends with since filming. I also used to carry Cristian around the workroom because at the time he weighed 98 pounds and I was about 190.
Is there anyone you still keep in touch with, and would you ever consider doing Project Runway: All Stars if they asked?
Well you can see the people I stay in touch with above. I’m also good friends with Scott Patric who does the makeup now. But he arrived once the show went to Lifetime.
I wouldn’t do All-Stars if they asked. It’s kind of a joke at this point. I feel bad for the designers who are just being exploited for mediocre ratings. They do All Stars every season now and some people who weren’t even contenders have now been on it 2 or 3 times. If you remember, the show was sold to Lifetime after season 5 and they ran it into the ground. They wouldn’t ask me anyway because I was from Bravo and we are sort of the ugly step-children. I was actually promised that I could come back the following season after I left, but then right before filming they told me they changed their mind.
I know you worked for years in the non-profit world, but a little birdie told me you are reinventing yourself. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yes! Well I was going to mention in the last question that I quit fashion (as a designer) right after the show aired. I had been a designer for 17 years and I was done. So, I used my social media skills to move into PR and communications. I have been doing that for 9 years now but it’s time to reinvent myself again. I’m going back to school and getting my nursing degree.
Are you still modeling (as you should)?
Yes actually. Apparently, there is a new demand for muscle daddy models. Hahaha. I recently signed with an agency called Zandwagon (Zandwagonnyc.com) They represent a lot of diversity—different ages, sizes, looks and sexual/gender identities. They are more about representing “personalities” which is sort of where the modeling industry is headed anyway.
Is a career in design something you would still like to pursue, or is there another passion that you want to go full throttle for a while?
Nope. I’m done with design. Runway distorted the public’s idea of what fashion design is like. 99.9% of the time it’s like any other job. You sit at a computer and email factories. I’d reached the top of my field and after the show I was ready to move on.
I was actually pre-med at UC Berkeley for 2 years so I’m really excited about nursing.
What has been your happiest career moment to date?
Hmmm. I’ve received a lot of awards for my work in the HIV non-profit sector, but I think the happiest moments are when total strangers contact me on social media and tell me that my openness about my HIV status really impacted their life. I know I’ve stopped at least a dozen people from committing suicide. That’s fucking amazing.
Are you seeing anyone right now, and if not… do you have a type of guy you generally pursue?
I am very single right now. It’s difficult because it seems like I’m such a public person (even though all my social media is just branding). A lot of guys think they want to be with that but in reality they can’t handle it. I want a guy who is super secure and confident and has a passion beyond going to the gym. I’m sober so I would prefer someone who doesn’t drink, and drugs are totally out of the question. Generally, I like guys around my age and I do like beards and muscles. Sue me.
Anything else you would like to add?
Please follow me on Instagram! @jackmackenroth.