Jack Not Letting Project Runway “Shocker” Get Him Down

As you may or may not know, Jack Mackenroth, who has talked previously on the show about the fact that he’s been living with HIV for 17 years, left Project Runway last night because he developed a staph infection called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which he explains (via a clip from gratz industries) more fully on his site:

“It’s also sometimes referred to as the ‘superbug,’ as the combination of natural selection and over-prescribed antibiotic treatments has created a bacterium that’s stronger than anything we have to fight it with. (See? And you thought you were just tuning in to hear about darts and pleats.) Translation: the thing is as tough to kill as that shape-shifting metal robot in Terminator 2. There are two strains of MRSA, one you typically get in hospitals where lots of people are sick and lots of people have open wounds, and one found in communities where sick people and wounded people aren’t usually in the room next door. Strangely, it’s the communal variety that’s the most dangerous. We don’t know from the brief clip which strain Jack has or where he got it, but if it’s the communal variety there’s more of a danger other people working in very close proximity could get infected.”

Jack talks about the episode in an interview on Bravo Outzone:

“I announced it to the cast. Everyone cried, and then I literally dropped my scissors and went to the hospital. I was in the hospital for five days, and I had to have an IV of a really hardcore antibiotic — twice a day for five days. The good thing about this is that if you catch it quickly enough, it goes away as quickly as it comes. It was weird, as soon as they give you the antibiotic, you kinda feel fine. I was kinda sitting in the hospital like ‘Ugh, I’m bored.’ And they did actually have to go in, and a plastic surgeon cut open the inside of my mouth because they had to drain all the stuff. It was really hardcore. For about a month afterwards I had a little bit of nerve damage actually. I could feel a little tingling in my face, but that’s all gone now. So then, I think I came back about a week later just to do my exit interview stuff. … When you see me talking on the show, in (last night’s) episode, when my face is not swollen, that’s after I’ve already come back from the hospital. I kinda just want that to be clear just because I know a lot of people are saying, ‘I hope you’re OK.’ I know a lot of people think the show happens in real time. But just so it’s clear – I’m fine.”

Anyway, kudos to Jack for handling the episode with candor and grace and educating a lot of people about living with HIV in the process. Jack is a fan of Towleroad and sent along the photo at the top of this post last night just after the episode aired.

He also wanted to share the following video with you. Jack’s definitely not letting this exit get him down. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more from him. In the words of Tim Gunn, “Carry on.”

Jack: Dating, HIV, and The Everyday Woman [bravo outzone]
Jack Mackenroth [blog]

Jack Mackenroth Offers Insight into Dale Levitski Reality Romance [tr]
Real Reality Couple: Jack Mackenroth and Dale Levitski Dating [tr]
Project Runway: Jack Mackenroth Makes it Work [tr]


  1. rudy says

    THAT. IS. FABULOUS! I have not watched the show so I am not familiar with Jack Mack, but the video just made my day by showing what makes that gay man special. What a wonderful attitude. Gay affirmation with candor, style and grace.

  2. Mike says

    Before I get catty let me just say that I’m glad Jack is okay and kudos to him for being out there. However, has plastic surgery ever been more obvious on a person than it was in last night’s episode? When his cheek was puffed up you could see every structured correction around his eyes and noes. He looked like one of the Wicked Witch’s monkeys or Zira from Planet of the Apes.

  3. Jon says

    In the last 2 years I’ve met at least 20 people who’ve had staph infections, both MRSA and the more common drug sensitive kind. I’ve had three myself (two related MRSAs and one regular one I got through a cut on my foot. I was in the hospital for 3 days with the regular kind. The MRSA was treated with anormal antibiotic (they do cultures to find out what it is resistant to). It is not life threatening except in very very rare case (where people don’t go to the doctor for weeks or months and it gets into the blood stream) and it is very treatable by a number of antibiotics, just not by methicillin. I’ve never seen anybody make such a big deal about anything. What an idiotic drama queen.

  4. Jimmyboyo says

    I was not a jack fan

    BUT, last night’s episode tugged at my heart strings and now I think he is great.


    I hope PRW brings him back next season without making him try out since he wasn’t technicaly kicked off.

  5. Brian says

    I’m sure Jon knows that medical decision making is dependent upon individual variability. Jack had had this twice before, and he knew what worked for him the previous two times. I’m also sure that Mike knows that lots of people have plastic surgery, particularly people who’ve been HIV+ for umpteen years and might have been dealing with some facial wasting in the past.

    Gosh, folks… he’s unapologetically gay, he’s open about being HIV+, and he appeared to have some integrity and kindness about him in the show. I don’t know Jack at all, but it seems like he deserves a little more for those efforts than what I’m seeing here. I think he did a great job, and I hope he’s offered a spot in the next season of PR.

  6. Dan E says

    Standard medical protocal for a drug resistant Staph infection when you’re HIV positive is, unsurprisingly, hospitalization and IV antibiotics. So please, Jon, off the high horse.

  7. Giovanni says

    “I’ve never seen anybody make such a big deal about anything. What an idiotic drama queen.”

    So I guess being forced to prematurely leave the show thus forfeiting the chance to win a pontentially life altering / dream fufilling competition was no “big deal”?

    Not to mention the damage said infection poses to an already impaired immune system!!?

    Jon, you may not be a drama queen (though the faggotry involved in your post would imply differently) but you ARE kind of a jerk! Give me a Jack over a bitter jackass anyday.

  8. Marco says

    I swear, it’s catty here 24/7, Give this man a break. He’s been through a whole lot more than some of you motherfuckers in 38 years.

    Anyway, Jack, since you’re a Towleroad reader, you went out with class and everyone who watches is glad you’re healthy and happy. We’ll miss you on the show, but life goes on. Good luck to you in your every endeavor.

  9. RockyMountainGayGuy says

    Great Video! Thanks for giving me a smile this morning!

    “you went out with class and everyone who watches is glad you’re healthy and happy. We’ll miss you on the show, but life goes on. Good luck to you in your every endeavor.”


  10. justincredible says

    Wow there have been a few times where I’ve opined without really having all the facts but hopefully I haven’t been so nasty as it’s been getting here.

    I’ve worked in a nursing home for three years and haven’t seen 20 cases of Staph, so perhaps Jon lives in a hot zone where even METHICILLIN-Resistant staph can be treated by methicillin. Although I’m no doctor, I’d say Jon was mistaken as to whether or not he’s actually had MRSA, which is “the resistant kind” and life threatening, especially to someone whose immune system is compromised.

    I had the regular staph in my ear and that was absolute hell. Even that was life threatening. So where the hell are some of you people getting your medical knowledge? This shit ain’t as benign as a pimple, and Jack don’t got no sneezy-cold, either. Have some compassion for the man who has something really serious!

    I’m not happy that Jack to leave, but I am happy Heidi never told him he was “out!” I’d wear his clothes any day… And I’m drooling over the thought of him coming after me with those biceps holding a tape measure…

  11. Paul says

    I have lost two dear friends to aggressive staph infections over the past year. The latest one was NOT HIV positive and was a 70 year old woman who contracted it in her leg (not from a hospitalization)and died five days later. In Texas, 2 student athletes – in great physical condition – have died in the last year. Geez, get over being so jaded.

  12. Brian says

    As an openly HIV+, gay male I have to say I was more than impressed by the way Jack handled his status on this show. He did us all proud. I wish him the best of luck and sincerely hope to see him on this show next season or maybe Bravo/LOGO could give him his own show. I know me and my friends would watch.
    To all you catty, hateful, jealous bitches: well nothing actually, we are all that way on a bad day… carry on.

  13. CLIFF says


  14. JT says

    Just wanted to be one more voice against the “catty, hateful, jealous bitches” who’ve posted here. And I have to disagree with you Brian; we are not all that way on a bad day. There is always a better choice, and some of us take it.

  15. says

    I was shocked at how cavalierly the show appeared to handle what is essentially a MRSA outbreak. I hope they cleaned the work and living spaces and tested the crew and contestants to make sure they weren’t inadvertently exposed.

    The reason MRSA has gotten so totally out of control is the ridiculous ignorance and carelessness with which medical professionals respond to it (and the public’s ACCURATE knowledge of it). I’ve heard the most outrageously stupid things from nurses and doctors since the death of the guy in VA. People that don’t know anything about public health should shut up.

    CA-MRSA not only exists inside Jack’s body, but also outside on his skin. Being a diabetic, which is essentially a walking puncture wound with all the testing, this concerns me no end. I’ve been blogging on this since the USC football team successfully controlled a crippling outbreak.

    And BTW, CA-MRSA is most often NOT highly curable, it’s highly treatable and highly manageable – but that requires a lot of responsibility on the part of the facility(ies) where the infection took place and, most importantly, on the part of the carrier or infected individual. Does that profile sound familiar?

    I really hope Jack warned them to take immediate precautions. I’d really hate to hear a year from now that several people from the show (especially those sharing the living space with Jack) have become impacted.


    David B.

  16. anon (gmail.com) says

    Untreated, one strain is not going to be more deadly than another, but obviously some strains are harder to treat. Staph has long been a problem at hospitals.

  17. Richard says

    We all chase passion, but compassion should follow. Anything less, and you’re less than human.

    The video brought laughter and tears. It’s a very rough road, and at least Jack is making the best of a terrible situation. His day to day existence involves coping with setbacks. I think he’s succeeding, and I wish him the same jubilant energy going forward.

    What a shame that some feel the need to post such negative thoughts. To those who wrote them, a little introspection is in order, if you’re capable of that. Now, scratch a little deeper — maybe even draw blood, if you have to — try to touch your humanity.

  18. Derek says

    I loved the show, I loved last night’s episode and that video is *ucking hilarious and it made me laugh out loud. It also made me like him so much more. To see someone so comfortable with themselves is a wonderful thing to witness-especially when he is surrounded by such catty bitches.

    Some of you guys are just so damn nasty & negative. I am clueless as to why you feel the need to tear him down for the myriad of reasons you are – his infection not being serious, his plastic surgery, his being a tad nellie….my God to have to go through life so bitter and unhappy….you are all soooooo sad to me.

    Rock on Jack – *uck all these bitter *unts!

  19. Keith says

    Fame whore.

    Far more acceptable than a Chris Crocker; he has sometalent and a bit of a mission with HIV education.

    Nevertheless, can’t see what underwear photos and camp video remakes do to further either of the above.

    I repeat, fame whore.

  20. Jack Mackenroth says

    OK ladies–Enough with the plastic surgery crap. If any of you have known me for the last 15 years in New York I have looked the basically the same. I have never had plastic surgery (on my face) and if I did I would proudly admit it. Who cares? Ok–well my four front teeth are veneers but that’s not surgery. If you still don’t believe me and can’t friggin help yourself–I have pics on my myspace page of me as a child and I look basically the same. I also have a photo of my mother so you can see where I get my features. OK enough of that.

    And as far as the MRSA treatment goes–trust me I know what I had and I know how to treat it. I’m alleric to many of the other antibiotics that work and IV vancomyacin (sp?) is the only thing that works for me.

    As far as me being nelly–yes I am a big ole queen. I’m butch compared to how I used to be. I’m proud of it. I embrace all gay culture. I’m tired of all these marys thinking they are butch or masculine and that that is somehow better. Well you’re not and its not. When you hate on someone else it only illuminates your own self-hatred.

    that’s all.

  21. says

    HELLO AMERICA… lower the dosage already. A Poz man who’s got no viral load knows his health better than you bitches. Pullleeezzzze!

    Now to the reak news. Jack showed at Olympus Fashion Week. What’s the real skinny Andy?

  22. FunMe says

    I’m actually getting rid of cable because I detest reality shows!

    BUT last night I did watch this show and found myself crying. What a sweetheart and how wonderfully he handled it on camera.

    We are all spirit souls and at the end is the kindness we show one another that kinds.

    Enough with the catty comments!

  23. peterparker says

    I am HIV positive and want to correct a commonly held belief about HIV disease that I see here in these comments about Jack’s MRSA infection. Many of you seem to believe HIV infection automatically equals compromised immune system. This is NOT the case. My doctor is a world renowned HIV expert, and he has assured me a person with HIV is considered to have a compromised immune system only when CD4 (t-cell) count falls below 200 (most people have around 1000 t-cells). Thanks to improved monitoring and improved drug regimens, many people with HIV disease have functional immune systems. That’s why we are living longer.

    As for Jack’s decision to leave the show, it seems as though he has cleared up everyone’s confusion: he is allergic to all the drugs that can treat methicillin-resistant staphylococcus areus except for the one requiring hosptialization/I.V. drip. I do, however, wish Project Runway had clarified that MRSA, which most people believe is resistant to ALL drugs, is actually still treatable/curable…just not by the first-line antibiotics.

    As for what Jack looks like…puh-leeze…the man is beautiful! Good luck with your future endeavors, Jack! (And considering yesterday’s edition of the towleroad Guide to the Tube, we are lucky you didn’t get beaten to within an inch of your filming that video on the train!)


  24. Tom says

    Jack, you rock, keep going and ignore the nasty bitter queens (like Jon, what an asshat post!). For those who were not watching the series, Jack won the competition two episodes prior and showed a lot of talent, so leaving was in effect giving up a good shot at winning. But as he eloquently put it, his health is more important. Talent will out anyway, without reality TV.

  25. says

    Although the tone of the comments on this blog have turned markedly bitchy and petty the last year, with this thread I am embarrassed for the members here. The negative comments directed toward the subject on this thread are pathetic and represent the worst of this “community.”

    The tragic and petty queens who penned the vile entries above should hang their bitchy and catty little heads in abject shame. You are all to be seriously pitied for being so mean spirited – and just plain ignorant and inaccurate in your pithy assessments and the “judgements” rendered so nastily.

  26. nil says

    I have no idea who this person is, nor have I seen this show. But from what I have read from his comments, he seems to have a lot of anger and hostility towards those who obviously don’t appreciate his act.

  27. says

    None of us are Jack, we do not know what he has had to go through.

    Some of the comments read as if the writer was not interested in Jack but in an opportunity to make invidious remarks.

    Such observations, devoid of the milk of human kindness, belong not here but to a speech by the barb-tongued Lady Macbeth.

    Jack, may the spirits be with you.

  28. queendru says

    While not a fan of Jack’s personality on the show (could be editing?) I thought his outfits looked good and he seemed a threat to make the finals.

    I thought the show did a poor job explaining MRSA and why Jack had to leave. Jack did explain on the show his leaving was not HIV-related because his immunity was not in a compromised state. I don’t know how people missed that part.

    One of the things that annoyed me about PR’s editing was how Jack seemed defined by his HIV+ and not his talent or potential. I’d hope they’d let him return next season.

    What I really want to know is if Dale cooks for him!

  29. gr8guyca says

    Since Daniel Franco, who had been eliminated one year, was allowed to compete in another year, I don’t see why Jack shouldn’t be allowed to compete next year. He can make a stronger case for readmission than Franco could. I think it’s only fair that Jack get his best shot at winning the big prize. But, whatever he decides to do,
    let’s all wish him well. He’s doing his best to pursue his dream. Are you?

  30. Chris says

    Jack is HIV positive, and this video shows that it’s is no longer an immediate death sentence. Complacency will kill us all. It’s time to buck up and find a cure, so we don’t lose any more people like him. The energy he gives off in this video brought me to tears.

  31. Derek says

    Um Justin maybe you haven’t heard but dramma, drama, drama = ratings, ratings, ratings…..

    And it’s kind of jerky to announce things that most people want to wait and watch to find out.

  32. Michael Liberatore says

    It’s all been said, but I want to say it one more time. The bitterness, anger, internalized homophobia, jealousy, and lack of empathy in our community is damaging us as surely as homophobes and right-wingers. Gay people can speak from a place of ignorance as easily as straight.

    If Jack had plastic surgery to correct facial wasting, who on earth would blame him? He says he hasn’t, so accept that and move on.

    If Jack is “too nelly” for you big, butch homos, what the hell are you watching “Project Runway” for? Why aren’t you watching the NFL? Me thinks you doth protest too much, girls…

    If you don’t understand staph, or have never contracted it, shut the hell up. I’ve had staph, and it’s a nightmare. I’m still trying to heal, after 2 months, and mine isn’t antibiotic resistant.

    Ditto for HIV. I’m also positive, and I know how concerned I must be regarding everything from the flu to chicken pox.

    In conclusion, let’s be honest: people don’t like Jack because he’s handsome, talented, built like a God, and has a pleasant personality. Jealousy once again rears its very ugly head.

    Jack, I wish you the best. I’ll continue to watch PR, and I hope you do indeed show at Olympus Fashion Week. Thanks for your candor, bravery, and patience with idiots and haters…

  33. says


    Blessings on thee for your insightful comments. You are so right that the bitterness, ignorance and superficiality as voiced on this and other gay boards may do far more to destroy the achievements of the gay rights movement than anything Fred Phelps could possibly dream of.

    Fifty years ago, Joseph Welch addressed the Senator Joseph McCarthy Hearings in Washington, D.C. that dealt with the issue of who was and who was not a Communist. His response rings true for someone like Jack as it did for the original subject.

    “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

  34. scioto says

    I don’t have stereotypically gay characteristics – I “pass” for straight. I don’t have any interest in fashion. My TV is tuned in to ESPN much more than it is to Bravo.

    I never watched Project Runway until seeing mentions of Jack here on Andy’s site a couple of weeks ago. I checked it out and struggled through a couple of episodes – not my cup of tea.

    However I don’t make value judgments about the superiority of interest in sports or fashion, nelly or butch, etc.

    More power to Jack if he has the courage to be himself and pursue his interests.

  35. says

    I just watched Jack’s exit episode and damn, I cried like a baby. What a heart-breaking way to have to give up such an amazing opportunity. I was most touched by how all the other contestants were so broken up by Jack’s exit and worried for his health.

    These were people who were competing with him for the chance of a lifetime and *they* hated to see him go. That spoke volumes to me about the kind of person Jack must be. I really wish him all the best and hope I get to see him on tv again someday.

  36. BJ Dyer - Denver says

    Years ago I read that Princess Diana’s favorite quote was a short poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon.

    It’s also become one of my favorites, and I quote it regularly. Somehow, it seemed highly appropriate to share after reading the stream of comments here.

    It seems apropos to Jack’s courageous situation, as well as speaking to some of the catty queens who post here.

    “Life is mostly froth and bubble;
    Two things stand like stone.
    Kindness in another’s trouble,
    Courage in your own”

    —quote from Adam Lindsay Gordon

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