Mondo Guerra On The ‘Under The Gunn’ Mentor Drama And His Perfect Fit With Crocs

Mondo Guerra, Tim Gunn, Anya Ayoung-Chee, Nick Verreos (Lifetime)

Things went to a whole new level of intensity last week on “Project Runway: Under The Gunn.

The Lifetime reality competition series is already off and running but during last week’s tense episode, mentor Mondo Guerra was very upset that his design mentee, Michelle Überreste, was eliminated while another designer, Natalia (who is under the guidance of mentor Nick Verreos) was praised for her work. And Mondo, along with mentor Anya Ayoung-Chee, made sure the judges and host Tim Gunn knew they were not in agreement on the choices made.

What followed may have been gold for reality TV viewers and producers who love good drama on these shows but Guerra was still stinging from the show and the negative reaction he heard from viewers afterwards.

I talked to the usually gregarious Guerra the day after the episode aired last week and while the episode and the reaction was still weighing on him a bit, there was a brighter note which was the out designer’s news on his just-launched line of Crocs design shoes as well as his continued efforts with Project I Design.

So last week's episode was a little intense. What did you think when you watched it?

Mondo Guerra: We watched it last night. I’m in New York doing a launch event with Crocs and so we watched it all together at the store and it’s so funny because I know that this week was going to happen…I have nothing personal against Natalia, I never personally attacked her. Of course I had an opinion about her work and her body of work on the show, and so I guess, you know, I still feel the same way. I don’t think that I need to apologize for an opinion that I feel strongly about. In other circumstances I believe that Natalia is very talented, I just don’t think that she was adept to working environment and what she was able to accomplish. I mean, and I casted her during the casting process for the show initially, and she showed some really fabulous work.

And I think it got a little misconstrued because people felt like I personally attacked Natalia, and not only Natalia, but Nick, but I honestly feel, and I still feel, like I was sharing an opinion, and what we have to keep in mind is that we don't see probably 95 percent of what actually happens and so things can be a little wobbly, I guess you could say. People didn't see that conversation with Nick, it did escalate, it did become personal at one point…but what they didn't show is that at the end of that conversation Nick actually thanked me for being completely honest with them, and we all kissed and made up and walked out of the room. So, of course, they're not going to show that, you know?

I wish they’d kept that part in where you and Nick and Anya like all kissed and made up, because that would have been nice to see, but I know they like the drama on this show.

MG: It’s strange for me because like I said, I’ve never been in this position where I feel like I have to defend myself now, you know? It’s like, it’s not very comfortable because I’m not really a fighter, you know? I don’t know. I’ve been called words like bully, jealous, poor loser, prissy, all these adjectives that really kind of punch me in the gut.

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One thing I did like about last week, and this is something we don’t normally get to see on “Project Runway,” is when the judges get challenged a little bit since both you and Anya spoke up about their choices.

MG: Yeah, because we all know that the judges, they are judging based on the work that they see in front of them and I think that in the work room it’s an entirely different environment, and I think that some of the designers, observing them and their process, really makes up a good story. I’ll leave it at that.

Well can you tell me what we can expect in the coming weeks? Do things get back to normal or do they escalate dramatically?

MG: Yes. I am thinking about this too, because this is the first episode where things really got shaken up, at least for me and I have really voiced my opinion about a certain designer. That’s going to hold a little resentment moving forward, it’s going to be vocalized some more, and I think that people need to buckle themselves in for a bumpy ride. I’m excited to see how people respond to it because I can respect what their opinion is as a viewer, but it’s very interesting and I think that in the next coming weeks until the final episode it’s going to be very objective.

Mondo Guerra (Crocs)

Talk to me about Crocs since I wasn’t there for the launch in New York City last week.

MG: So my talks with Crocs started about a year ago when they approached me and sent me a simple little email, and they’re like, ‘we have this idea.’ They were very interested in working with me because I’m a Colorado-based designer and they’re a Colorado-based company so they just felt like it was, without a better pun, a good fit. So I went into their headquarters a little hesitant because my thought of Crocs was…what would you even call them? I’d call them duck shoes, but they’re actually like those clogs, you know?

But when I got there I was really, really impressed by their innovation and how really far they have brought the brand and really doing fashion-forward ideas and a very fashion-forward silhouette, and it made me excited [and] I think when we had further discussions, their mission really fell in with my personal company mission. They're really about having colorful and fun products and that's kind of what I like to do as well. So it's good collaboration.

So tell me about your Crocs design.

The Crocs that I designed are a limited edition, just available at their 34th street store here in New York that just opened a couple weeks ago, but we will see that going online and being able to be purchased not only online but at their other stores around the country and internationally in the summer months. So I’m very excited about that.

Reflecting on all these products that I’m doing, it’s amazing that I am able to use the patterns that I’m known for, and almost iconic, very special moments for me, from being on this journey that is “Project Runway,” so one of the flats is a print with a bubble dot print that I used in my final collection for season 8 and also became the dress that Heidi [Klum] wore, and then another one is a colorful stripe with a zigzag toe and that’s a dress that I designed to get me into the finale of “Project Runway: All Stars,” and then the third print is a print that I developed for my eyewear collection with See Eyewear that came out in October.

What else do you have going on? I know there's more.

MG: Oh yes, I’m proud to be a spokesperson with I Design on behalf of Merck this year, this is my third year with the campaign, and it was so successful in the past few years. Here’s the thing, I am so fortunate as a creative person to be in this position where I can really speak openly about my personal life and my healthy life, but also bring it back and have that crossover of what I’m known for, which is my fashion.

But, that being said, even that platform has really allowed me to do a wonderful campaign like I Design, which is really helping empower people with HIV to have an open conversation with their doctor to really find out what the perfect treatment package for them, and it’s very simple, easy messaging, and it’s really about engaging in your own healthy life, and this is all kind of messaging that really applies to my life and what I really had to do to be proactive living with HIV.

“Project Runway: Under The Gunn” airs Thursdays at 9pm on Lifetime. For more on Mondo Gueera, visit his Facebook page, his Crocs designs on the Crocs website and Project I Design at its website

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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