In one of the most emotional Project Runway (Wednesdays at 10 pm/ET on Bravo) episodes ever, Jack Mackenroth withdrew from the competition after developing a potentially dangerous staph infection. The good-natured 38-year-old menswear designer spoke to us about his sudden departure, his Sex and the City movie cameo and his new reality-show romance.
TVGuide.com: First, let me say how bummed I am about your leaving the show.
Jack Mackenroth: Not as bummed as me! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Can you walk me through the sequence of events? What happened?
Jack: Basically, it seems like a week but it’s only a day, tops. The day before, I had this bump in my nose and I thought, "This is weird." The next morning, I woke up, and my lip was really puffy. The progression was so rapid that I thought, "I know what this is." Twice before, long ago, I had a very antibiotic-resistant form of a staph infection. It’s not an HIV-related thing. [Mackenroth is HIV-positive.] Anyone can get it. And it’s not the horror story you hear, like the flesh-eating bacteria, but it’s very serious. I went immediately to the production staff and said, "I think I have a staph infection in my face and I need to seek medical attention." They got on it, and I had medical treatment, but it wasn’t working fast enough.
TVGuide.com: We saw you and Tim Gunn leave the workroom and then return. What did you talk about off camera?
Jack: We were in the middle of the challenge, and I started to get a fever. I could feel it. So when Tim came up to me to review my outfit, I said, "I need to really speak to you." At this point, I knew I had to make a decision. It wasn’t safe for me to be there. It wasn’t safe for the other contestants. So we left the workroom and we sat down and I was crying. It still makes me very emotional. I said to him, "Obviously there’s something going on, and I’m pretty sure what it is, and for my own health and the health of everyone else involved, I think I need to withdraw."
TVGuide.com: Was your decision influenced by the producers?
Jack: No. It was a personal decision. I’m sure, at some point, if I hadn’t said something, the producers would have been responsible. They have everyone’s welfare in mind, and there are insurance issues and all that. But I wanted to do it on my terms and I think they let me do that.
TVGuide.com: Were you touched by the other designers’ reactions?
Jack: All of the emotion you see on television is really real. In person, it was awful and beautiful at the same time.
TVGuide.com: When you left the show, did you go straight to the hospital?
Jack: I didn’t even pack my stuff. I literally went to the emergency room from there. I was in the hospital for five days.
TVGuide.com: How is your health now?
Jack: Oh, amazing — this was June, so we’re talking months ago. I’m in perfect health.
TVGuide.com: Do you keep in touch with some of the designers?
Jack: Of course! Love 'em. I have a core group of friends here in New York — I keep in touch on a weekly basis with Kevin and Victorya and Christian. And Kit and Sweet P are my girls out in LA. I talked to Kit yesterday.
TVGuide.com: And I hear there might be an inter-Bravo-reality-show romance going on...?
Jack: I thought that might come up. [Laughs] Um, yeah, there might be. Dale [Levitski, a runner-up on Top Chef] is a really great guy. He’s adorable and he’s hilarious. We’ve both been through the Bravo reality experience. When we met, we just kind of got each other. It’s all in the very beginning stages of a relationship, but I really enjoy him and we’ll see where it goes.
TVGuide.com: Does he cook for you?
Jack: Actually, he doesn’t even cook for himself! We’re similar, in the sense that I make clothes but I wear jeans every day. I’m sure I’ll make him cook for me at some point.
TVGuide.com: You have a cameo in the upcoming Sex and the City movie. Did that grow out of Sarah Jessica Parker guest-judging in Week 2?
Jack: Actually, it was completely unrelated — I had a friend in casting who said they’re looking for, I think, "Hot Gay Guy #3." [Laughs] The scenario is, I pass Kim Cattrall and the girls, she checks me out, and I go fall into the arms of my on-screen boyfriend.
TVGuide.com: What was your experience like on set?
Jack: It was really funny, actually. I have several tattoos and the director wanted them covered, so they had me in the makeup trailer. Sarah Jessica Parker comes up to me, and she’s staring at me, and she says, "You look really familiar. How do I know you?" The show [filmed months before] was about to air in two days. Still, we’re not allowed to talk about it in any way, shape or form. So I whispered in her ear: "Project Runway — but we can’t talk about it!"
TVGuide.com: And you’re working on a memoir?
Jack: That’s something I always wanted to do. I’ve had some crazy life experiences, and I consider myself funny... [Laughs]. I have a loose outline at this point.
TVGuide.com: Is there a working title?
Jack: Well, I have a blog and I call it "Memoirs of Gaysha." But I don’t know if my mom will approve.
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