Design Offers New Details On Past, Present and Future

Jack Mackenroth Lets It All Out

Jack Mackenroth needs no introduction, we’re sure.

We all know the designer from Project Runway. We all know he left the Bravo reality show after developing a antibiotic resistant staph infection, but bounced back like a champ. And, of course, we all know he looks good naked.

We bet there’s plenty you don’t know about handsome Mackenroth. For example, do you know how many siblings he has? Do you know what went down when he found out he’s HIV positive? Why doesn’t he talk to his father? What’s his next step? These questions and many more will be answered in this installment of The Home Issue!

(PS: Mackenroth appeared on NBC Nightly News last night to talk about MRSA. The video’s after the jump – on page three, to be exact.)

Andrew Belonsky: Hey Jack, how are you? What’s happening?

Jack Mackenroth: You know, just email and crap all day today. How are you?

AB: I’m good. As I mentioned to you, we’re currently in the midst of The Home Issue, so tell me: what is home to you?

JM: I recently – well, two years ago this February I bought an apartment in Harlem. That was a huge goal of mine, because buying in New York City alone is a huge hurdle and I just love it. Physically that is home to me and I feel really at home here. On a broader spectrum: New York is home to me. My family lives in Seattle, but I’ve chosen to live here. I’ve chosen my new gay family. [Laughs] I’ve had the same friends for fifteen, sixteen years – I think that’s what makes a home: having people who care about you around you. I love my family dearly, but Seattle just never – I never felt [right].

AB: Was coming to New York essential to your coming out?

JM: No, I came out during my freshman year in college. I went to Berkeley before I moved to New York to come to Parsons. I love Berkeley and San Francisco’s an amazing city, but I’ve always wanted to move to New York ever since I can remember.

AB: How was coming out for you?

JM: Um, it was okay. I didn’t have a horror story that a lot of people have. I was at Berkeley and I had all these images of people doing their own thing. As soon as I left home, I kind of experimented with everything and had a couple girlfriends for brief periods of times. I just knew that it wasn’t right for me. So I got a fake id and I started going to the bars in San Francisco. As soon as I walked into The Stud, I saw two guys dancing together and I was like, “Okay, this is what it’s supposed to be”. Shortly after that I started telling my friends and then the summer I came home after my freshman year, I told my mom.

AB: And?

JM: She’s very liberal, but she just – surprisingly, if had seen me as a child, you would think she would have expected it – but she was kind of shocked. I was like, “Oh, come on, lady! I was wearing your nightgowns when I was five!” But, you know, it’s suburban Seattle back in the early 80’s – there weren’t a lot of – gay men were hairdressers and florists. There was no real imagery. There was nothing for her to compare, so she was really kind of surprised. Of course she gave me the whole “I love you, anyway” speech and we hugged. And then I didn’t really talk about it for a year: just giving her time – I didn’t push it in her face and I just lived my life, went back to school. And my mom didn’t talk about it, either. I guess – I don’t know what happened in that one year interim, but she must have read some books because now she’s a member of PFLAG, she’s been to parades and she sends me pictures of her with leather queens! She’s the best mom you could have.

AB: What about your father?

JM: My father is not really in my life. My parents divorced when I was eight and I kind of never got along with him. I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t have a lot in common. I’m not going to bad mouth him, but he just is not very present. He wasn’t abusive necessarily in the sense that he was aggressively abusive, but he just wasn’t a very present father figure. So, when I was thirteen, the court said I could decide if I wanted to keep – we had forced visitation up until that point – and I decided that was enough for me. I’ve never had the conversation with him. I know that he knows that I’m gay, but he’s never talked to me about it or not. I don’t know if he cares or not, so I just don’t really think about it.

AB: You mentioned your siblings – where do you fall in there?

JM: I’m the oldest of three. I have a younger sister who’s in the middle and my brother’s thirty-three.

AB: Did you like being the oldest child?

JM: Yeah! Well, you know, it was weird because my mother was a single mother. She was very, very strict. I think she felt the need to control where we were at all times, so I had swimming and soccer and piano lessons. My whole day was filled with activities so she could basically control us. Even as a senior in high school, my curfew was 11pm. I always so jealous because as it went down the line of siblings, my mother got more lenient. By the time my brother came around, she was like, “Whatever, see you tomorrow.” I was always sneaking out and lying because she was so strict!

AB: Did you ever get caught?

JM: You know, it’s funny – she’s going to kill me when she sees this – she caught me twice. One time I had forgotten to put the seat – she’s a little woman, she’s 5’2” and I’m six feet – I got so good at sneaking out that I would take the car – which was underneath her bedroom window – put it in neutral and roll it out into the street and then start it and drive away. I would come back at five in the morning, park it and sneak back into my house to go to bed. One time I forgot to put the seat back and she went out to go to work and came to my bedroom – I had just fallen asleep – and she was like, “Where were you last night don’t lie to me!?” I told her I was out dancing! She was like, “How did you think you could get away with this?” Meanwhile, I had been doing it for six months!