For Mondo

October 2nd, 2010

On the most recent episode of Project Runway, the designers were given the task of creating their own fabric using their childhoods and families as inspiration.  Mondo Guerra blew the judges and the other designers away by creating a fabric that boldly symbolized his HIV positive status – a secret he has kept from his family for ten years.  Watching it all unfold on television was surreal.  My twelve year old son sat down beside me and after watching the show for a few minutes asked me if it was a movie.  Even though he is familiar with the show, this particular episode was so fraught with intense emotion that it left the mundane plane that is reality television and entered into the realms of something much more important.  It was both painful and beautiful to watch Mondo finally let the world (and especially his family) know that he is unabashedly gay and tragically HIV positive.  He displayed a bravery that is going to reverberate positively through American society for a long, long time.  To conclude the show, Valerie’s farewell speech was yet another television moment that was almost too good to be true.  That girl knows how to say goodbye to the people she loves!

At one point in the show, Mondo mentions that he grew up in a devout Catholic family and how when he finally told his mother that he was gay, she told him not to tell his father.  He mentioned how the religious aspects of his family made it all much harder for him to come out with his homosexuality.  Watching Mondo deal with something so excruciatingly difficult in his life and then so beautifully express his dilemma in his design made me think about the Dan Savage ‘It Gets Better‘ Project.  Dan Savage, a nationally syndicated sex/relationship advice columnist recently created a YouTube channel in response to the suicide of fifteen year old Billy Lucas who hung himself in his grandmother’s barn after enduring vicious gay bashing from his peers.

Savage wrote…

I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

“But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

“Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.”

You can read Savage’s full column here. (You will have to scroll past the threesome advice and the call to create a ‘Masturbate to Christine O’Donnel Day’  Heh, heh, heh.)

Thanks both to Mondo and to Savage for using their talents to make the way smoother for the young people who will travel similar paths.


  • I am still reeling from the story coming out of Rutgers this week. So terribly tragic – thanks for putting this up, Rechelle. It is really encouraging in a week that has so little. EFH

  • Kay in KCMO:

    Well, now I think I might have to see if Project Runway is on Hulu. I’d never given it any thought until you started posting about it. Sounds like compelling stuff at times.

    I love that Dan Savage has done this. Maybe it can help in some small way. It *does* get better, but the getting through can be hell on earth for so many. Did anyone else see Ellen’s tearful sign-off on her show Friday? It was heartbreaking.

    Bullying isn’t going to stop until the parents of bullies actually do something about it. Schools can only do so much.

    • Cassie C.:

      I believe you can watch this season’s episodes on lifetime’s website.

    • amy:

      I saw Ellen’s message on the internet. Posted it on my Facebook page. One of the kids she mentions, Asher Brown, went to a neighboring middle school here in Texas. So, so senseless.

      I’d like to think that Ellen is a good mediator between the religious (who mostly like her from what I can tell–at least the women I know) and gay people. I’d like to think her message might make even religious moms stop for a second and realize how this bigotry is killing kids.

      I agree with your comment about the schools as well, Kay. I have no idea whether the schools in question did enough, but as a coach I know there is only so much you can do — and bullying usually occurs when the kids aren’t around a responsible adult.

  • Irma:

    Looooove this interview on so many levels. In high school, I was (I feel weird saying this) smart and pretty and popular and straight and normal and everything. And the whole high school experience still stands out as the worst time of my life.

    My son is 14. I have no reason to think he is gay, but I have no reason to think he is straight, either: puberty is only starting to rear its ugly head, so I’ll get back to you on that one. But I do plan to share this video with him, it is such a good message for ALL kids: bullying (for whatever reason) doesn’t last forever. If you can just hold on through these shitty, shitty years, Everything Gets Better.

    Thanks, Rechelle, for posting this.

    • Rechelle:

      I felt like a weirdo in highschool too and couldn’t wait to get out of there. Of course – I still feel like a weirdo now, but I am far more comfortable with it these days.

  • Sue D:

    I loooooooved this episode so much. How insightful of your son to think it was a movie. As I think back that’s how it felt watching it all unfold. Thanks for writing about it……

  • Christine from Canada:

    Lovely video! Thank you.

  • I don’t watch Project Runway but now must go look for this episode.

    But the ‘Create a day to Masturbate to Christine O’Donnell’ made me spit tea on the monitor!!! There could not be a more fitting tribute to a.. a.. a.. well there really are no words for ‘that person’

  • i finally got to watch PR last night, and it was one of the most moving moments in reality TV history (for me).

    I am many years out of high school, and with the exception of a handful of relationships that continue to this day, it was a miserable time for me also. I don’t understand how schools (in particular) can get away with tolerating intolerance. Teaching respect and love for the diverse richness everyone contributes to society – especially a micro society like high school – is something that should be woven through every course and lesson. What should not be tolerated is that any child should ever be made to feel insignificant by his peers or the adults around him.

  • Whitney:

    Hi Rechelle,
    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year or so and never commented.
    That episode of PR moved me and so did your post. I think people discount reality TV (because most of it sucks) but Mondo is hands down the person I most respect on TV to date. He was so brave and clearly wasn’t doing this for the publicity.
    And I also loved Valerie’s fairwell speach. Its so rare that you see people being so kind on TV.
    Thanks for blogging. I really enjoy it!

  • It made me like and pull for Mondo even more!

  • Jan Blawat:

    I know you’re not a homeschool supporter, neither was I (I work in the edbiz). But the unbridled nastiness at our huge public high school was too much for my son and his 4 best friends. They are not gay, but they are kind, caring fellows. It’s not just gay kids who need to know that things get better, all kids and families need to know this, and they need to know that there are alternatives. Many high schools, I think, are cesspools. This is the time of their lives when, yes, kids are the most sensitive and vulnerable; but also the most energetic, idealistic, and enthusiastic. They shouldn’t have to suffer through those years and wait for better times to come. It’s such a waste.

    • Rechelle:

      Jan – I absolutely agree that highschool is not exactly Disney Land. I think it is a combination of many things – adolescence coupled with developing identities coupled with a society that values conformity coupled with a system that does not help kids learn the proper skills to navigate this whole mess. But I have seen programs in highschools that help kids figure it all out. My son’s school has a few things going on such as peer counsellors and a mentoring program. Probably the best support though is a parent who is keeping their eye on the ball and when their kids start to lose ground – they step in and turn the ship around doing whatever they can to make it happen.

      I will say that I was always confused as to why the religious homeschoolers I know kept their kids out of elementary school and often put their kids back in school during middle school and highschool. I always thought they had it backwards. If they were really concerned with morality and bad influences from peer groups, it seems to me that they would get their kids out of the public schools at about age eleven.

  • We love Mondo!

    • Mistergee:


      You make an interesting point and I agree with you 100%.

      Kids are so sweet until, generally, about 11 years old. At the onset of all the hormonal changes, children start changing. Ask any sixth or seventh grade teacher.

      Home schooling is the “in” thing these days. Of course, when it gets tough, lets all send those kids, we can no longer control, to public schools where they are handled by “professionals”. That is a very damaging “copout”.

      We demand training for professional educators and certifications and licenses, in some cases. We should demand that any oine who wants to be a parent or a homeschooler be certified fit for the job. It would be for the common good of each and every member of society.

  • I just started watched this season’s PR a couple of days ago.

    Mondo’s story was so sad – tenuous relationship with his family, his mother’s reaction to his sexuality, having to lie. I wished that I could hug him.

    When he explained his the inspiration for his fabric, I bawled like I knew him. It was so moving.

    He seems to be emerging from the other side a stronger and incredible person. Oh, and his clothes are stunning!!

  • kimj:

    As a mother of a gay son, this post really brought out the emotions in me. I have to say that my son had a relatively easy time of it in high school. Actually, the “whole high school” new he was gay before I figured it out, and he finally came out to me. I think part of reason that he survived high school without any deep seeded issues about it was that Jordan was very comfortable and confident with who he was, and part of it was that his classmates and teachers were very accepting of him. Now, don’t get me wrong…there were a few students that were nasty (one seemed to enjoy spitting a snot-hockey on the seat of his scooter everyday), and he had a very misguided teacher (he told the pe/health class that homosexuality was a disease!) – but I have to hand it to our little ‘ole Kansas small town high school for being pretty chill about it!

    The person in my family that DID get bullied was my #2 son, who is two years younger than Jordan (grade-wise). He’s straight, athletic, fairly intelligent, fairly popular in high school…but his friends were ruthless about teasing him because he has a gay brother. He is now a sophomore in college, and this teasing started probably when he was in 8th grade. He has pretty much not talked to Jordan for the past 5 years – he just can’t seem to forgive Jordan for the fact that his friends teased him because Jordan was/is gay. I have told #2 over and over that the teasing really wasn’t about Jordan, it was about getting his (#2′s) goat!! Jordan had some of these same kids in class, and got along fine with them. I do think that #2 is slowly (and I stress slowly) coming around…but he hasn’t talked to Jordan in so long, he just doesn’t know how to start at this point. So, we’re working on it. #3 son has been teased as well, but pretty much tells his “friends” to shut up about it. He and Jordan have a great relationship.

    I just wish that people would realize that being gay is not a choice. It’s the way they are made from the get-go. Gay people like to go on dates – just like straight people. Gay people like to have sex – just like straight people. A lot of gay people are intelligent, creative, athletic and funny – just like a lot of straight people. And yes, there are some gay people that are hard to like – just as there are some straight people that are hard to like. Gay people are just like you and me, the only difference is that they’re…well…gay. Get over it World!!

    Also…love PR…love Mondo!! :)

  • Lgirl:

    Loved this episode both my hubby and I cried.

    I think his mother was protecting him by telling him not to tell the rest of his family.She knows him best and what he can handle I think she was accepting of Momdo but knew how the others would react. I think she did him a favour and possibly saved him a lot of pain.

    I am noticing that the contestants this season are closer to each other than any season previous. Am I the only one who see that?

  • Joel Wheeler:

    Thanks for this Rechelle!

    I’ve been away/busy lately, just checked back in today. I haven’t watched PR since season 2, but I just HAPPENED to stumble onto the last half of this episode and was tripping out with serious empathy. So cool.

    Thanks for plugging the IGBP as well: I can testify. It gets better.