Last night's Project Runway was filled with genuine emotion. From the family visits to Valerie's farewell there were tears all around. The highlight of course was Mondo's admission about his HIV status, a secret he has kept from his family for 10 years. Laura Bennett says it very well this morning on her blog:
"Mondo's brave revelation of his sexuality and his HIV status sheds light on many things about him — his fragile nature, his initial trouble connecting with the other designers, his eventual bond with the outcast Michael C., but most of all it sheds light on his clothing design. It was screaming to us the entire time. "I am colorful!" "I am young!" "I am alive!" It is a message more to him than the rest of us. If he can believe those things, he can overcome HIV. And he will. And we will all be rooting for him."
Mondo scored a deserved win with his fantastic design that told a story about who he was both as a designer and a person. But something just doesn't quite feel right about the way this episode played out. With such an inspirational storyline, why did I end up with such a bitter taste in my mouth?
Let's start with the preview. On the Lifetime website it was titled "Coming Up On Episode 10 Of Project Runway Season 8". Is it not reasonable to expect that what you are shown in such a preview would, you know, actually be seen on the episode? Where was the "scandal" that would "destroy the workroom"? And how could they dare tease an accusation of cheating and not deliver? We spent all week speculating about this and not to have a pay off makes me feel slighted. It was deceptive, plain and simple, and as a Project Runway fan I do not like to feel deceived. With such an incredible story to tell for this challenge, why did they even try to diminish it with this misdirection?
But there is even more reason for cynicism. Wasn't it a bit too convenient that Nina said to Mondo "I wish I knew what the story was"? And then that was immediately followed up by Rachel Roy saying "...the one thing that holds me up is the inspiration...". They might as well have said "C'mon Mondo, tell us about your story that the producers have already whispered into our ears". It felt manipulated. And I am not one who usually falls for these types of conspiracies but Bunim-Murray and Lifetime have hardly earned our trust with Project Runway.The editing for this episode was also brutal. Just when we were getting to that "moment you'll never stop talking about" we were greeted with....a Garnier commercial. Yes, this touching moment has been brought to you by the Garnier Hair Studio, for a look you can even cry in. One of the reasons Episode 5 was so successful was that they let Gretchen carry on and on without interruption. They needed to let this story unfold on its own in the same way. Instead, it felt insincere and hollow with this corporate sponsorship plopped in the middle.
Lifetime has been quick to congratulate themselves over all of this already. This morning they have claimed it to be "Project Runway's Best Moment". Just because Lifetime tells us that doesn't make it so. It might have been, but the way it was handled left much to be desired.
I know, I know, this is not a very supportive position. Pick your cliche - I'm raining on Mondo's parade; I'm pooping on the picnic, whatever. But the fact of the matter is that we were unnecessarily deceived, manipulated and lied to about what this episode was about. And Project Runway, of all shows, owes its fans better.
Congratulations Mondo, you are an inspiration and an amazing designer. Your story is ultimately the best takeaway from this episode. I just wish it could have been given the proper respect and treatment from those who presented it.