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HOME > Project Runway > Project Runway 5

Jack Mackenroth decides against trying to return for 'Project Runway 5'

By Christopher Rocchio, 05/19/2008 

While Jack Mackenroth may have been forced to exit Project Runway's fourth season due to a potentially fatal staph infection, the 39-year-old Harlem-based designer who is HIV-positive said he has no plans on taking up Bravo's offer to audition for the show's fifth installment.

"Bravo said, 'You certainly can audition again, but there are no promises,'" Mackenroth told The New York Post in a Sunday report.  "To re-audition, I couldn't have brought the same [clothes]. I would've had to make new pieces, which is a huge investment in time and money. In the end, I decided I just couldn't give up another year of my life."

After being cast for Project Runway's fourth season, Mackenroth wowed the judges in a menswear design challenge before announcing he would have to quit the competition due to an MRSA infection in his nose. 

"It was just so scary," fellow fourth-season contestant Kit Pistol told The Post.  "You're in this crazy world where you don't have your cell phone to call home.  You don't have your family or close friends and you're not feeling well. And there's all this pressure. I know Jack had auditioned [for] season three and then to be accepted [for] season four and not make it through due to health reasons was just crushing."

Mackenroth was then hospitalized for five days after leaving in the middle of the fourth season's fifth challenge.

"I remember we were standing by the elevators, just before we went in, and [Project Runway fashion guru Tim Gunn] was trying to comfort me because I was crying," Mackenroth told The Post. "And he said, 'Listen, you're very talented. Everything happens for a reason.' And at the time I thought, 'That's a load of crap.' Because at that moment, it didn't feel that way."

Still, Mackenroth said he simply couldn't risk the infection spreading or being contracted by one of his fellow finalists.

"I'd had this once before, in my leg, and it's really resistant to antibiotics," he told The Post, adding the staph infection wasn't related to HIV.  "The larger issue is that it's a really contagious bacteria. The producers were trying to make it work. They were going to have a special sewing machine that only I would use. But I was like, 'Am I going to be selfish and just hope that no one else will get this?'"

Since then, Mackenroth has apparently come to peace with the way his Project Runway experience ended.

"Things do happen for a reason," he told The Post.  "There was an outpouring of support. And a lot of opportunities have come my way."

Those opportunities include a cameo in the new Sex & The City movie; designing a red carpet dress for The Bold and the Beautiful actress Heather Tom; and a potential job with Tokyo-based Uniqlo clothing company.

"The show was amazing for me," he told The Post. "For one thing, people answer my phone calls."

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