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If you haven't watched last night's Project Runway yet, go watch it. It's okay, we'll wait. And you'd better have Kleenex. You'll need it. This is a life changing episode for one of the contestants.
It's week ten of Project Runway, and the designers enter their workspace to find childhood photos of themselves on their HP workstations. These include one of Mondo in a matador costume—obviously his sartorial tastes haven't changed. Tim informs the designers that they will be repeating the Design Your Own Fabric challenge from last season, but this time they are to create a print and a runway garment inspired by a "profound moment" from their childhood. We suspect that even if they'd been given this childhood directive last season, Emilio Sosa would still have made a print with his monogram on it, albeit, possibly in a finger paint motif.
The designers all create beautiful prints. April makes a stark family tree pattern, inspired by memories of her parents divorcing when she was thirteen. Valerie's pattern is a faux blueprint, based on her father's construction work. Mondo designs a bright bold pattern which first appears to consist of purple and yellow crosses. But they're not crosses, they're actually plus signs, as in positive. Although Mondo won't tell his fellow designers what his inspiration is, he shares with us that he is HIV Positive, which he has been keeping a secret for ten years. As Mondo cries to the camera, we too start crying, and much of our usual Project Runway snark evaporates, as we feel his pain and realize the immense amount of courage it took to share this with anyone, let alone the world. This is not going to be your typical Project Runway episode. For any of us.
Just as we're thinking, "Mondo, your family may not have known about your condition before, but they're going to find out when they watch this episode," Tim announces a surprise for the designers—the arrival of their family members. Gleeful hysteria ensues. Most of the designers are visited by their mothers, although Christopher sees his partner and Michael C gets a visit from both his mom and his son. Tim then announces another surprise—the designers have the afternoon off to spend with their relatives. With much delight, they all go off to have heart to heart talks about their Runway experiences. Mondo and his mother sit in The Highline park, where he surprises her with news of his challenge wins. He considers telling her about his health status, but eventually decides not to, as his family is a very religious Catholic one and he doesn't want to ruin her visit.
As we watch, we realize that the producers have never given the designers time off with their families during any other season. We wonder if they knew of Mondo's secret from his medical forms or pre-interviews, and question if this situation was set up to encourage him to open up to his family on camera. Then again, we also always thought that Mother Theresa was a little too good at getting press, so perhaps we're just too cynical.
This week, judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are joined by guest judge, designer Rachel Roy. The beautiful, but surprisingly uncharismatic Roy, gives the designers useful feedback. The stand out of her appearance, however, is a seemingly unmemorable, but actually life changing comment she makes to Mondo, "The print you created is so perfect. And no one's life is perfect." These words, which follow a comment by Nina, who says that she wished she knew what his story was, push Mondo over the precipice. "Nina, you asked what my story is..." he begins. And there, on the runway, on national television, for the first time, Mondo goes public with his HIV status and the fact that he's been living with this secret for ten years. With this huge weight off his shoulders, the designer says that for the first time he feels "free."
Our top three designers for the week are April, with her one-shouldered, black and white family tree dress; Gretchen with her Go West Young Girl pants outfit; and Mondo with his boldly patterned slacks, print halter and black jacket, which are so striking, that the other designers all "ooh" and "aah" when his model walks onto the runway. And our winner is...Mondo! The judges love his outfit and the fact that he has turned such a negative burden into a positive, with no pun intended—by us or Michael Kors. Last week we predicted that if Mondo won again this week, his third victory in a row, he'd need to hire a food taster. We were wrong. His fellow designers show nothing but compassion for him after this announcement. Although Gretchen is so competitive, we wouldn't be surprised if next week, she announces her own secret case of Leprosy.
Our bottom two designers are Andy, who admits he was completely thrown off his game by his mother's arrival, which led him to make a hideous gray shorts outfit; and Valerie, whose intricate architectural ensemble looks awkward, heavy and too much like the one she designed for the party store challenge. Heidi bids "auf Wiedersehen" to Valerie. The designer has the most gracious exit in the show's history, praising each of her fellow designers, whom she now considers family, and talking about how much she loved being on Project Runway. We'll miss you Valerie.
And in our As Tears Go By count, we counted seven different sobbing sessions, and that was just in our own living room. On the show, however, between the family visits, Mondo's announcement and Valerie's aufing, there were fifteen crying jags—four by April, four by Mondo, two by Michael C, one by Andy, one by Gretchen, and three by Valerie. This makes a grand total of forty seven for the season.
And now for this week's Top Ten Moments of Project Runway Greatness...
10). Michael Kors says that Gretchen's skintight, black, stretch pants are, "More Olivia Newton John than Gretchen." If only Gretchen had replied, "Tell me about it, stud," she could have redeemed herself for this whole season.
9). April and her Mom get pedicures. We wonder if the polish is black.
8). When Mondo tells his mom he won twenty thousand dollars in a challenge, she does the wave and hoots.
7). Gretchen says that the single most influential memory she has is of her mother's summer bonnet. Gretchen, star of Little Bitch on the Prairie.
6). Michael C says that he and his brothers each wear a red string tied around their wrist. These represent the evil eye, or possibly they're just all Madonna wannabes, circa the Kabbalah years.
5). While all the other Mothers are warm and nurturing to their children, Gretchen's mom focuses on strategies for winning Project Runway. Apple, meet the tree you didn't fall far from.
4). Valerie celebrates her 29th birthday. Mondo wishes her a "Happy 43rd."
3). In the workroom, before the runway, Tim says to Mondo: "You're coming out of a big moment, so keep it big." Tim you had no idea...
2). When they leave the runway, Gretchen immediately tells Mondo, "I feel really grateful to have been here when you opened up." Because of course Mondo's life changing moment is really all about Gretchen.
1). After sharing his story, Mondo says, "I've held onto this for such a long time, I thought that maybe I can help somebody else in the same situation." We're sure you will, Mondo.
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· Project Runway Ep. 7: Lingerie, Grandma and Too Many Men Named Michael [Racked]