Former Project Runway star and fashion designer Chris March died of a heart attack Friday. He was 56. March was a fan favorite contestant for his larger-than-life personality, and his wildly outstanding wig creations earned him his own collection at Target. He appeared on Project Runway All Stars, before getting his on series on Bravo, Mad Fashion, and famously designed outfits for Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Meryl Streep.
Born in Alameda, California, on February 25, 1963, following his memorable appearances on Bravo’s reality competition series, he survived a near-fatal accident in 2017, a fall on his head for which he never fully recovered. After going to the hospital, March was put in a medically induced coma, in which he remained for two months. After “miraculously” waking up, he discovered that he was paralyzed in both legs from the knees down, and had lost the ability to move his right hand and arm. With the help of his friends and family, he powered through intensive physical therapy to try and get back to living a normal life.
Here’s what you need to know about Chris March….
1. He Lost ‘Project Runway’ Season 4 to Christian Siriano
As finalist on Season 4, March was able to present his entire collection on the Bravo series. The season premiered in November 2007, and while he had a great showing, he eventually lost the top prize to winner Christian Siriano, which says a lot about the level of competition that season.
March returned to the series to compete in All Stars, and went on to have a very successful career in fashion. He’s designed looks for major superstars and performers such as Madonna, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga. Chris memorably appeared numerous times on Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York City, where he helped Sonja Morgan pick out costumes. One his most notable runway looks, Meryl Streep’s dress for the Academy Awards in 2010, where she was nominated for her starring role in the film, Julia and Julia.
2. Chris’s Family was Informed He Would Die After His 2017 Accident
A year after the accident, March opened up about his health in a statement to EW: “I woke up and called 911 and somehow got to the hospital. My blood sugar was over 500. My kidneys started failing, my right lung collapsed, and they had to give me a tracheotomy and put me on a ventilator…. my gall bladder was infected. I had a wound on my right leg. My body went septic. I came close to death many times—they called my family and they were told if they wanted to say goodbye to come right away,” but out of nowhere, he suddenly woke up.
3. A GoFundMe was Started to Help March’s Medical Expenses
In March 2019, he updated Bravo TV on his recovery journey, explaining why Nelson Carabello started GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses. Up until 11 days ago, money was still being donated to help March out, and nearly $60,000 had been donated to assist with his ongoing physical therapy and residence in an assisted living facility in Northern California. While large in size and personality while on reality TV, throughout his difficult recovery, March had lost 160 pounds.
The designer said, “The biggest [setback recently] being that my medical insurance went up over 500 [percent] at the beginning of 2019. I am also in need of leg braces, specialized physical therapy, a hearing aid, and a new living arrangement. Where I am now is unbearable and makes me anxious and depressed every day. I have considered suicide many times. I have tried my best to make strides. There is a long road of physical therapy ahead of me. In December I was awarded disability, but California gives 95 [percent] of it to this facility, which leaves me with $52 per month. In the face of all my setbacks, I try to remain positive—the leg braces are an exciting new tool on my road to recovery. I am trying to get my tracheotomy removed, and I try my best to effect positive change in this facility for myself and all the residents here. I try to add humor, glamour, and a little glitter to my world.”
4. Chris Compared His Recovery to Dorothy Trying to Get Home in ‘The Wizard of Oz’
March was grateful for his friend and family’s support, continued physical therapy, and was able to occasionally get outside in a wheelchair. He compared his journey to getting better to the distance Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz needed to travel to get home.
“This has been a long and extremely difficult journey, physically and emotionally,” he admitted. “And I have a long way to go, just like Dorothy. I could not have survived without my family and friends. I deeply appreciate everyone who has donated to the Go Fund Me page. I have good days and bad days and the worst days you can imagine, but I still have my brain, and for that miracle I am forever grateful. Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and encouragement.”
Chris Enjoyed Performing in Drag
Not only was Chris known as a reality TV star, he was beloved as an entertainer. He performed in Marc Huestis’ drag show back in 1997, and his friend posted his condolences on Facebook. Huestis wrote, “Please make it stop! Just heard Chris March has passed away from a heart attack. He was a great talent, and as the man that got away, we in SF were always proud of his success. Here’s a snippet of young Chris at Christmas with Christina Crawford Castro gig. I was just in conversation with him last week about Arturo Galster, whom he loved deeply and flew into town for his memorial. Now they are together, yucking it up (I hope.)”
Chris was famous his over-the-top costuming, and his wig designs were bar none. As news of his passing spread, heartwarming anecdotes and beautiful tribute messages poured filled his Facebook page.