The designer acts as mentor on Under the Gunn, with Tim Gunn (above left) and other Project Runway alum
Guerra, who continues to collaborate with the older fashion guru as a mentor to designers on Lifetime’s Under the Gunn, says conversations such as these are particularly important among people from different generations who are affected by HIV.
“I feel like it is important to look forward, whether you’re 19 years old or if you’re 50 and you lived through it in the ’80s,” says Guerra, who sees stigma surrounding the virus as a substantial hurdle that still needs to be addressed. “There isn’t a cure yet.”
Guerra also served in the role of mentor to Viktor Luna, the designer who came out as HIV-positive on Project Runway All Stars in December. Luna had confided in Guerra just before the show’s taping, a conversation that Guerra believes may have helped Luna find the confidence to disclose his status on national television. From experience, he also attests to the supportive setting of the Project Runway workroom.
“It’s an encouraging and very supportive environment,” says Guerra. “Yes, we see all the drama that happens, and that is the television show. But being in the workroom and being around other exceptionally creative people that are doing what they love makes me feel very safe. It makes me feel very comfortable. And ultimately, I think that’s what gave me the strength to talk about it.
“I think that’s a good example of surrounding yourself with people that really inspire you and encourage you and support you to do your best work, whatever that is,” he adds.
His recent projects reflect his commitment to both cause and craft. In March he celebrated the launch of his fashion label, available at MondoGuerra.com, as well as a partnership with the shoe designer Crocs. He also recently released a line of ’70s-inspired eyewear through the optical store SEE, with proceeds that benefit the AIDS organization amfAR.
But Guerra is also thinking long-term. In 10 years he hopes to have established a foundation that instructs youth in the creative arts as well as HIV and AIDS awareness. Interacting with people, he says, is among the most gratifying aspects of his career.
“The most rewarding [experience] is being able to hear everybody’s story and really engaging in conversation with people who are affected by HIV—not necessarily infected, but affected,” Guerra says. “And when you think about it, I think everybody, whether they know it or not, is affected by HIV.”