It's been many years since the world met Jack Mackenroth as a talented designer contender on Project Runway.
The end of 2007 to be exact.
Back then, in addition to writing about the news of the day, I had taken up recapping PR as it was my guilty pleasure, and given the myriad bigger-than-life personalities, quite easy to do. Anyone who has enjoyed the various recaps I have done over the years knows that they all come with a massive dose of snark. Yes, I make sure to cover all the highs and lows in an episode, but I do it with a heavy shmear of humor at the expense of those involved.
So it was with Project Runway Season 4 - replete with personalities like the gloriously tattooed Sweet P, Rami - who could drape me in oatmeal and I'm certain it would be gorgeous, the elfin Christian Siriano, and Jack.
For me, Jack stood out from the beginning episode. Yes, yes, yes - his ability to make my eyes orgasm had something to do with it. Jack was, is, and will continue to be extremely easy on the retinas. His baby blues are piercing, his smile lights up a room.
But it was Jack's demeanor and story that truly drew me in. The man had grace, talent, humility, and just happened to be HIV+. And in that last fact, he was opening eyes to how that diagnosis actually translated into reality in the new millenium.
He received that diagnosis in 1990. Do the math. By the time he hit PR, he was 17 years in - healthy, fit (a champion swimmer all his life, Jack puts brick shithouses to shame), and practically glowing.
As he once told an interviewer, "I am a living testament to what you can accomplish by letting go of shame and being your own advocate."
And that is what struck me, stuck with me during his run on the TV show. He literally flew in the face of what people think they know, what they think they fear. When a staph infection (not related to his HIV status) cropped up, Jack withdrew himself from the competition in order to seek immediate treatment (five days in the hospital). While there were tears shed, his priorities, humility, and grace were noteworthy.
In the recap of that episode, I suspended the snark, and wrote about just that. And in one of life's little surprises, I woke one morning to find Jack in my inbox thanking me for the kind words.
Since that day I have watched Jack leave behind the disappointment of PR and blaze a trail of advocacy and activism as a champion not just in the HIV+ community, but in the world as a whole.
Friends on Facebook for years now, it is a pleasure to find him pop up in my newsfeed (not just because many times he is modeling and partially clothed). He is funny, sharp, suffers no fools, and is always upbeat. And he is always busy opening eyes, supporting others, and educating the populace through his activisim. His reach is long, his message profound.
His most recent venture is to garner attention and raise funds for Housing Works. He has committed to the Braking Aids Ride - a 285 mile bike ride from Boston to NYC. He is fundraising currently in an attempt to reach his goal of $50,000.
Which brings us to the picture many of you saw recently on Facebook when I shared it in my newsfeed.
Yes, that would be my name resting his chest. Donating to his ride was a no-brainer, but the fact that he offered to scribe my name on his body, too? Well, sign me up for The Mack Pack.
And that brings us to the thrust (all pun intended) of this post. Read the press release below, and then donate if you can. The charity is worthwhile and the man doing the legwork is, in my opinion, not simply one in a million. That would indicate there are more men like him out there.
No, Jack is, quite simply, ONE. And an amazing one at that.
Can An Activist Monetize a Social Media Army to Fundraise for HIV?
Jack Mackenroth Pledges to Raise $50,000 for BRAKING AIDS® Ride With Sexy Selfies and Heartfelt Videos.
(New York, NY – June 28, 2014) Former Project Runway designer turned HIV activist, Jack Mackenroth is attempting a feat that many individuals and companies are struggling to conquer--mobilizing and monetizing a massive social media following. Mackenroth, who is mainly known on social media for scantily clad photos, sharp wit and a dose of activism, believes he can do just that all in the name of HIV charity, fundraising for BRAKING AIDS® Ride which benefits Housing Works.
If Mackenroth, who has been HIV-positive for 25 years, is able to reach his goal of $50,000 it will be set the record for the highest amount ever raised by an individual and he has only 7 weeks to make it happen. “I set the bar high just to see what was possible. It’s a cause that is obviously a very personal one and although I have worked for countless HIV charities and organizations and lent my face and name to campaigns, I have never directly asked for donations. I’m hopeful that others out there are as passionate as I am and willing to support me.”
BRAKING AIDS® Ride (www.brakingaidsride.org) is a 285 mile bike ride from Boston To New York which begins on Friday, September 12th and finishes in New York City on Sunday September 16th. Riders must raise a minimum of $3,500 each to participate. All the proceeds benefit Housing Works (www.housingworks.org) whose mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy and the provision of lifesaving services.
Mackenroth only started his campaign 2 weeks ago and he has already raised $8,000. His unconventional approach brought rapid results. “I promised anyone who donated $100 or more that I would tag their name or social media handle on my chest and post it all over my accounts. I got so many donations that I had to raise the amount to $250 because I can keep up with all the selfies.” said Mackenroth.
Mackenroth has 107,000 Twitter followers @jackmackenroth and 5 Facebook accounts with a total following of approximately 250,000 “friends” and followers. He has 17,000 followers on Instagram after joining earlier this year. The pay off for someone who donates $250 or more is not only that they are making a real difference for HIV but they also get a ton of social media exposure. Jack has also offered a personalized ass pic for anyone who donates $1000 or more. So far he has had 2 takers.
Two companies have also seen value in his ingenious, sexy marketing technique. Martone Cycling Co. (www.martonecycling.com) has donated two bikes to the ride. The red bike (pictured) will be used by Mackenroth to help his fundraising efforts. Every person who donates $100 or more will be entered into a raffle to win the bike, which retails for over $1200. The second bike will be given to the person other than Mackenroth who is the highest fundraiser overall. SCRUFF is also supporting BRAKING AIDS® Ride by purchasing team jerseys for Mackenroth’s 15-man team, The Mack Pack, and also matching up to $2,500 in donations later this month.
The Mack Pack, currently has 15 riders and to date they have collectively raised over $31,000. If anyone would like to ride they are still accepting registrations and welcome more members. Jack added, “I’d like to beat the team total record as well which is close to $150,000. We’ll see if people who read this will be motivated enough and selfless enough to give money to total strangers who are really struggling on a day-to-day basis.
Mackenroth will also be utilizing his social media outlets from now until the end of the ride to document the amazing experience and capture the challenges, the humor and all the inspirational moments during his journey. Watch his touching video about why he is so inspired to take on this monumental challenge.
Please donate and make a difference in the lives of people struggling with HIV and homelessness here: bit.ly/jackmack
You can follow Jack on Twitter and Isntagram @jackmackenroth.
For more information about BRAKING AIDS® Ride, contact:
Eric Epstein, Ride Director
For more information about Housing Works contact:
Andrew S. Greene
SVP for Development and Marketing
212-966-0466 x1134 (Soho)