Tragically, Mychael Knight, a beloved and respected Atlanta-based designer who appeared on Project Runway, where he soon became a fan favorite, has died young at the age of 39. TMZ reported that he died in a Georgia hospital.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Knight “represented Georgia on Season 3 of Bravo’s Project Runway.” Knight passed away on October 17, 2017, and he was surrounded by loved ones when he passed away.
What was Knight’s cause of death? How did the Project Runway star die?
According to the Atlanta newspaper and other news sources, the official cause of death for Knight has not been released. However, he had been hospitalized in September, according to AJC. He was ill with intestinal issues, TMZ reported.
TMZ reported, “We’re told he’d been getting treatment for intestinal issues when he passed at around 7:30 AM.”
He had extensively shared his struggles with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) recently, writing that he suffered chronic abdominal pain, a “leaky gut,” extreme fatigue, and exhaustion. Knight wrote that he had struggled with IBS for five years. You can read screenshots of some of his posts, in which he chronicled his health problems, at the YBF blog. The posts are no longer on his Facebook page.
“For the past 5 years, I’ve been suffering from IBS (Intestinal Bowel Syndrome),” he wrote. “This year really taken a toll on my health…badly.” He then listed the health problems the syndrome had caused him. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term.” Generally, though, IBS is a treatable ailment that people don’t die from.
IBS generally “does not carry mortality or cancer risk,” said Dr. David Levinthal, director of the neurogastroenterology and motility center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, to the Today Show. “It’s a very common disorder that can cause diarrhea, constipation and frequent abdominal pain.” He said that chronic malnutrition (which Knight described in his posts) could be a sign of Crohn’s disease, although he wasn’t commenting specifically on Knight.
Indeed, Knight was looking extremely frail in his final runway show. You can see video of it here. Here’s one of the last photos of him:
He also looked very thin on Father’s Day.
ObviousMag broke the news, reporting, “American Fashion Designer, and Project Runway alum, Mychael Knight has passed away. He was 39 years old. Mychael died at 7:25 am EST outside of Atlanta, GA on October 17, 2017, surrounded by his loving family and friends. His family asks that their privacy is respected during this time of grieving.”
In a statement to ObviousMag, Knight’s family called his death “untimely” and said that they were still processing it.
“We are still processing the untimely death of our son, brother, friend, and uncle. Mychael meant everything to us and we loved him dearly. He was generous and so full of life. This is how we choose to remember his legacy,” the Knight family wrote, according to the publication.
According to AJC, “Knight, an Alabama native who was born in Germany, studied at Georgia Southern University and worked on the local fashion scene before trying out for Project Runway. He didn’t make it the first time, but in 2006, he was granted a slot on Season 3 and quickly became a fan favorite.”
He placed fourth in Season 3 and “went on to launch several fashion collections including ‘Kitty & Dick’ which he previewed in Atlanta at a 2008 runway show,” reported the newspaper.
Although he didn’t win the season, many fans embraced him. Social media filled with expressions of grief over his death.
“Knight was famous in the fashion world after his successful run on season 3 of ‘Runway’ … going on to launch his own lines of clothing and lingerie. He also once designed for Starbucks, and even created his own fragrance brand, MajK,” TMZ reported, adding, “Knight placed fourth during his season on ‘Runway,’ and won the Fan Favorite Award as well.”
On Facebook, Knight’s last post was about a fashion show in September. He described himself as “Son. Brother. Uncle. Friend. Fashion Designer. A Black Man.” The Facebook page says that Knight was living in Los Angeles and was the owner of Mychael Knight, Inc.
Recent photos of him with family also show him looking very thin lately, but the posts about his health are no longer up. In August, he was urging fans to come to a fashion show and after party for it. He had also recently posted about family. On Mother’s Day, he wrote, “You are absolutely THE ONE! Celebrating you for all the love, support, & nurturing you give me and our family. #HappyMothersDay Pamela Williams-Knight! Love You To Life ✨💙”