Mondo Guerra, “Project Runway” season-eight runner-up and winner of “Project Runway: All-Stars,” will headline Fashion in Action, 6-8 p.m Feb. 14 at Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, 117 S. 17th St., to raise money for ActionAIDS.
The event, co-hosted by Subaru, Dining Out For Life International and ActionAIDS, is focused on an issue that hits close to home for the designer.
Guerra is HIV-positive — which he revealed during his time on “Project Runway.”
“When I revealed my status on season eight, I was scared of the backlash, but it has been overwhelming with the support and love from both my family and the community at large,” he said.
Like many who are diagnosed, Guerra said his initial reaction was one of shame.
“I was scared. I felt lonely, ashamed, guilty. I didn’t see anything to look forward to in the future. My pre-conceived ideas about HIV in my own mind really shut me down,” he said. “My creative life is what really keeps me going, so when I was diagnosed, I really lost my way and didn’t set artistic goals. I was allowing HIV to define who I was.”
Although Guerra’s journey did not start out on a high note, he said he has come to see his diagnosis as an opportunity to be proactive about education.
“[HIV] has to continue to be in the conversation because it is something we all have to talk about. Not everyone is infected by it, but we are all affected by it,” he said. “It is a part of who we are now. This is a disease that hasn’t gone away yet. We need to bring attention to it and fight it.”
When he was diagnosed, Guerra said he had few people to talk to and was afraid to reveal his status to his family, so he sought help from his local HIV/AIDS organizations — and ultimately became an international activist and advocate.
Guerra recently became the spokesperson for Dining Out For Life, an event founded by ActionAIDS more than 20 years ago that encourages restaurants and food venues to raise funds for HIV/AIDS causes.
Guerra said Subaru suggested the partnership and he eagerly agreed, realizing it was a good way to support agencies that are doing vital local-level work.
“I’ve been Dining Out For Life for the past seven years. A large number of the funds that are raised are donated to local AIDS organizations. That is really amazing because when I was at a low spot in my life, I reached out to my local AIDS organization,” he said.
At Fashion in Action, Guerra will reveal a new T-shirt design for the upcoming 23rd anniversary of DOFL.
Guerra said he kept the design simple — utilizing kitchen utensils as inspiration.
Tickets for the benefit are $50 and can be purchased at www.ActionAIDS.org.