Alan Gonzalez’s life hasn’t slowed down at all since he starred in the 2019 season of Project Runway.
Following that grueling competition, the 25-year-old openly gay Houston designer relocated to New York City in early February to try his hand on the national stage. “I moved there with no plan and no job,” Gonzalez recalls. As luck would have it, on his third day in the city a friend got him a job creating costumes for the new HBO show Legendary.
Legendary, a voguing reality show, will debut May 27 on HBO Max. Viewers can look forward to watching larger-than-life personalities like Dashan Wesley star as the master of ceremonies and rapper Megan Thee Stallion appear as one of the judges. The costumes Gonzalez helped create with designers Eric Archibald, Johnny Wujek, Natalia Barzilai for the show are over-the-top fashion.
Unfortunately, the unthinkable happened right after filming ended in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in New York. “I was only there for a month and a half,” Gonzalez sighs. “We had just wrapped our last episode.”
Gonzalez went into lockdown in his New York apartment for two weeks to make sure he was not infected, and then flew back to Houston where he quarantined for another two weeks with his mother and brother. “I knew being with family was important then.”
With his New York dreams on hold, Gonzalez began making face masks—again.
“I was already the king of masks,” he says. “[Even before the pandemic], I was thinking about air pollution and how people all over the world were wearing surgical masks, and pretty soon everyone would need them—but they should be fashionable and match their outfits. I just didn’t know we would need them so soon, and for a different reason.”
After creating some of Houston’s most sought-after face masks, Gonzalez joined Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s “Mask Up!” campaign to get Houston to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“It started with just my mother and I sewing masks, and my little brother handling the shipping,” he says. But that quickly blossomed. “Now we rent a little studio and hire help and turn out about 2,000 masks a week. Fifteen hundred go to the Harris County hospitals, and the rest we sell on alantude.com.”
Gonzalez’s masks typically sell out within hours of being posted on the website, and proceeds from his sales go to Meals on Wheels.
With face masks becoming more widely available, he thinks he may be able to get back to designing those ponchos and gorgeous gowns with integrated masks that he made last year. (A few of those gowns were featured in OutSmart’s December 2019 issue.)
So does Gonzalez have plans to return to New York City?
“I do miss it,” he admits. “When I first told people I was moving there they would tell me, ‘Alan, you’re not going to be able to get your chips and salsa and queso there.’ I said no way, I’ll find my spot. But they were right! When I do go back, I’ll take a jar or two with me.”
In addition to enjoying his beloved chips and salsa in Houston, he also likes Space City’s car culture.
“In New York, you walk or ride the subway,” he says. “Here, you have a car with a moving closet in back,” he says, referring to automobile trunks. “You can put everything you need for the whole day in there, and you don’t have to lug it around.”
He doesn’t have any plans for his return, other than selling on his website and hoping television productions will start up again so he can get another design gig.
In spite of all the turmoil, Gonzalez remains confident because of his great faith in God. “I know when I leap, God will catch me,” he says. “I know homeboy’s got me.”