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Project Runway recap: Mondo's Big Secret

The tears start flowing when the designers look to the past to create custom textiles.

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Mondo Project Runway
Barbara Nitke/Lifetime Television

Project Runway

TV Show
Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen
Current Status:
In Season

Raise your hand if you cried during this week’s episode. I did. And no, it wasn’t out of frustration for the stilted delivery from HP Big Shot Whatshername. But those tears would be perfectly acceptable, too.

No, I cried, of course, for Mondo. This season’s most talented, interesting, and lovable designer broke my heart with his deeply personal and moving confession — first to us via video diary, then to the judges during the runway Q&A. His courage and spirit made for the most emotional episode in Runway history. I’m still a little weepy as I sit here writing. I don’t even know if I can bring my usual sarcasm and snark to this recap.

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I will.

So this week, the contestants had to draw inspiration from a series of photos of themselves as children to create a textile that they’d then incorporate into a design of their choosing. The very nature of the challenge touched nerves in all of them. Seeing photos of their family while they were toiling away in the unforgiving tar pit of Project Runway gave them all a sense of perspective, I think, and reminded them of what’s really important in life. (Hint: It’s not you, Gretchen!) But in the case of Andy, it skewed his priorities a little too much.

Here’s what they all came up with: Valerie paid homage to her house-building papa; Michael C. incorporated an evil-eye bracelet that he and his (awesomely named) siblings (Spanky and Peaches) all wear; Gretchen nodded to her squash blossom-filled upbringing in the Southwest; April journeyed back to her parents’ divorce; Christopher thought of his mom (who apparently wears a lot of blue) and hometown of San Francisco; and Andy doodled out a nebulous concept he called “memory bubbles.” The first sign he was in trouble? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, Mondo created a plus-sign pattern that he declined to explain to April and Tim, telling them simply that it was “personal.” But in the (relative) privacy of the video diary room, he calmly revealed that it represented his HIV-positive status. Wow. I did not see that coming. Mondo further explained that he’s kept this a secret for 10 years. Due to his guilt and shame, he said, he hasn’t told his parents. But he realized he couldn’t live this way forever. He couldn’t hide. So he disclosed the information on Project Runway for the many millions of viewers watching. Considering some of them are probably his family members, that’s a massive step.

Emotions, then, were riding high in the workroom — for Mondo, obviously, but also for his six colleagues. So when Tim swooshed in to announce he had some “special guests” to introduce, and those guests turned out to be the designers’ families, well, the happy-happy-joy-joy freakouts rippled through the room like The Wave, only with 1,000 times more tears. Everyone was sobbing and hugging and kissing. Christopher even got to smooch his partner, J.J. (Cute!) And in a shocking demonstration of humanity on the part of the producers, Tim announced that work was suspended for the day so the contestants could enjoy some time with their peeps. Gah. It was so sweet. And clearly needed. These folks are spent.

NEXT: Fashion oatmeal…it’s what’s for breakfast.