Jamar Rogers: Behind the Voice -- A POZ I AM Radio Transcript
Highlights From an Interview by Robert Breining and Jeromy Dunn
March 7, 2012
On Feb. 6, Jamar Rogers shared his HIV-positive status with millions as a prospective contestant on NBC's performance competition show The Voice. The soulful, exuberant Bronx resident and God's Love We Deliver volunteer amazed audiences with the ease of his disclosure, and the comfort with which he discussed his troubled past. Celebrities on the show, like Carson Daly and Cee Lo, took it all in stride -- chipping away at the stigma that so many in the viewing public likely hold when it comes to HIV.
On Feb. 12, Jamar joined TheBody.com blogger Robert Breining and his co-host Jeromy Dunn on POZ I AM Radio. In this inspiring interview, Jamar opens up about everything from his HIV diagnosis to family and relationships to being part of the cast of The Voice. There's even a special appearance by his ever-supportive mom, Danielle.
This article features highlights of the interview and is not a full transcript. For those listening along, the transcript begins at 13 minutes and 41 seconds into the audio recording.
On the Aftermath of His Audition on The Voice
Jeromy Dunn: Jamar, listening to that opening song; listening to your audition from The Voice; just listening to you and your energy: It's amazing. I mean, you must be on the moon right now.
Jamar Rogers: I really am, man. And you know, the very next day after -- Tuesday, right after the audition aired -- I was just walking around running some errands here on the block and a guy stopped me on the street. I would have never thought that this guy would ever stop to talk to me. And he hugged me and said that he, too, was in recovery, and he, too, was HIV positive. And he wanted to thank me for what I was doing.
Yeah, meeting Cee Lo has honestly been one of the highlights of my life, and it is really rad to be on national television. But I tell you what, Jeromy: What warms my heart are all the inbox messages I'm getting and the emails I'm getting from people have never told anyone they were HIV positive. They've never disclosed their status to anyone before. And I feel so honored to be the first person that they've decided to come clean with. That puts me over the moon.
Jeromy Dunn: I bet it does. And what an inspiration! I mean, you inspire me to go get voice lessons again. But I look at your picture and I look at you, and then this voice comes out of you. And it's like where is this coming from?
We'll get into your story soon, but I want to know about your process. When you get up onstage and you're in front of those cameras, what do you do to get yourself psyched up?
Jamar Rogers: Well, I get up really early the day that I usually have to perform. And this is just performances around New York, as well. I get up really early and I kind of just spend some alone time, talking to God.
I went through a 12-step program for a little bit and they really talk about connecting to whomever your higher power is. My higher power happens to be God. And I really wouldn't have the voice that I have, or be the man that I am today, if it hadn't been just spending my quiet time with Him and basically just saying -- this is going to sound really dramatic, but this is the truth -- "I'm willing to lay down my life for others," meaning, I've already found happiness. I've already found joy. I'm already completely at peace with myself. I would be so completely stingy to keep it all to myself.
But I feel I have an obligation to kind of bring joy to other people; to kind of bring peace to them; to let them know that wherever they are, whatever situation they're facing -- if it's HIV; if it's an abusive relationship; if it's an eating disorder -- you know, we can all get through this together. And so what I usually do when I'm in my quiet time: I just kind of think about the people I'm going to be singing to. And I begin to envision them. And I just ask God to speak to them through me.
That's all I really do. I wish I had, like, lucky charms. I basically just ask God to speak through me; and whomever he wants to reach, I'm just so blessed that he chooses me to be that.
I'm not the typical person that people would look at and say, "Oh, he's super-religious." And I don't subscribe to religion. But I do subscribe to having a deep, intimate relationship with God because He really does remind me of what my purpose is, and he reminds me of what other people are going through. He also lets me know that whenever I open my mouth to sing to them that He's going to use me, in some fashion. So that usually deals with all the nerves I have -- because I get really nervous. And then I just get up there, and I just have fun, man. I just have a good time. And I know that I'm doing what I'm born to do.
Jeromy Dunn: You know, there are so few people out there who are actually doing what they're born to do. So count yourself lucky. And thank you for blessing all of us with this incredible talent that you have. I'm really rooting for you.
Jamar Rogers: Thank you so much.
Robert Breining: Jamar, I mean, I remember when I saw you singing on Tuesday. I saw you on TV and I was, like, "I know I've seen this guy before. He looks familiar. Am I maybe friends with this guy on Facebook? Why would I be?" And then I looked for you on Facebook and saw that you were previously on another show, on American Idol, a couple times. I just remember that you were there.
You're just very memorable, the person that you are. And you came off as somebody that I'd met and that I'd known my whole life -- especially after going through meth addiction, and then finding out you were HIV positive. It connected with me so much because I traveled that road, and I know what it's like. And to see you rise above the ashes like you have . . . it's amazing.
Jamar Rogers: Wow, man. Well, you did it, too, bro. You did it, too. You know? So congratulations to you, man. You know, hearing somebody else's story that's so parallel to mine: It kind of gives you a sense that you're not alone, right? It makes you feel like, you know, if they did it, I can do it.
And really, what I'm trying to build with this show is just a sense of community. You know, whether I win or not, I really honestly feel like I've already won. I could lose this battle round and Cee Lo could send me home, and I would honestly still feel like I already won. I really do feel that way, just because I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. It's not just singing; I'm encouraging people. I feel like I'm a natural born encourager. And so, thank you. Thank you for blessing me. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. You know? I appreciate you, man.
Robert Breining: And I appreciate everything that you do.
On Being Diagnosed With HIV
Jeromy Dunn: Take me through the day, Jamar, when you found out that you were HIV positive. What was that day like?
Jamar Rogers: It wasn't as scary as you'd think it might have been. You have to understand, I was living extremely recklessly, I mean, extremely recklessly, for five solid years. Not only was I sharing needles; I was having lots of unprotected sex. I really was just all over the place. And God bless my ex-wife. She was one of the conduits that God used not only to get me off of meth, but she held my hand when I found out my status.
I did cry. But I felt the strangest sensation when I found out. It was almost an out-of-body experience. But I just felt this warmth. And I really felt like everything was going to be OK. Up until that moment, I hadn't wanted to live. I was struggling with some severe depression. I was obviously struggling with meth. And I did not have a desire to live.
Once I found out my status, I wanted to live more than ever. I had never wanted to live as badly as I wanted to live at that moment. And I decided right then and there that there were two things that were going to happen with me. One, I wasn't going to pass HIV on to anyone. I decided right then and there that wasn't going to happen. Two, I decided that I was going to live. And when you make the decision to live everything really does fall into place. You begin to pursue your passion. You begin to pursue the things that you're in love with, once you make that decision to actually live . . . not just to exist, but to live.
Robert Breining: Wow. That's so true.
Jeromy Dunn: Were you clean when you found out you were HIV positive?
Jamar Rogers: It was like a slow end. I was on my way out. My ex-wife and I had decided to leave Atlanta, because that was just familiar people, places and things to me. I couldn't get away from the meth, no matter how hard I tried. So we decided to move to Nowheresville, Wisconsin, where my mom was. I had found out I was positive right before that. So it was kind of all wrapped up in the same thing. Once I found out I was positive, it was like the nail in the coffin: I really am done with meth now, I realized; I really am done. It puts everything into perspective.
Robert Breining: It's like you put on a whole new pair of glasses to look at the world.
Jamar Rogers: Right. I believe in new beginnings. I really believe that you're never too far to start over again. You know? I made some serious screw-ups. I made some serious mistakes. And I hurt a lot of people along the way. But I really feel like I can go back and rectify those relationships, and I can start over; I can become a new man again. I can actually bring joy to people, as opposed to bringing pain and grief, and stealing their things.
Robert Breining: I used to be like that, too. I can totally relate to that: having this total blurry picture of how you are as a person -- to look at yourself and go, "Wow. I was really like that."
Jamar Rogers: Sometimes I really can't believe that I'm the same guy. I sometimes can't believe that.
Jeromy Dunn: Well, you know what they say: it's not the destination but the journey, right? So you're continuing down your journey; and that just happened to be part of the chapters where God probably put that stuff in front of you to see how you were going to overcome it, and tackle it.
Jamar Rogers: Right. I agree with you, man. One hundred percent.
Jeromy Dunn: When did you find out that you were HIV positive? When did that all happen?
Jamar Rogers: It will be seven years ago this April.
Jeromy Dunn: OK. And you moved to Wisconsin, to Nowheresville, Wisconsin. How did you get from Wisconsin to the Bronx?
Jamar Rogers: I lived a very normal existence for a few years in Milwaukee. I joined a church right away, which is where I met Danny Gokey, which is who I auditioned for American Idol with. I got a job at a bank and was just doing the family thing, and doing the sobriety thing, basically. I needed those few years just to get my head back on straight.
After my wife and I decided to divorce, I realized that there really wasn't anything in Milwaukee for me anymore. I had done American Idol; and you can't get a taste of that and then go back to just living a normal existence.
So I made the move to New York. I knew two people here. And I've been here for a few years. I absolutely love New York, because it was here that I really had to branch out on my own. I got to know myself in a brand-new way. But most important, I began to see the most incredible counselor, who began to make me OK with myself. The lessons that he taught me, just about loving myself and respecting myself . . . and he's the one that helped make me realize that I have a lot to offer to the world, and that I'm no good to anyone if I'm just in my room, living in a perpetual state of regret. You are no good to anyone, including yourself.
I took the bull by the horns and I started doing some volunteer work with a few organizations out here that work with people living with HIV/AIDS. And it actually began to decrease the stigma that I had, the prejudices that I was holding within myself. I began to see very real people, with very real emotions, that were living with the same thing that I was living with. It really began to change me.
So when I decided to do The Voice, I didn't decide right away to tell everyone that I was positive. But after a lot of prayer and a lot of thinking, and after seeing Mondo's story on Project Runway, I knew that it was my time to do this.
Jeromy Dunn: Well, that's great. And you're 25?
Jamar Rogers: Oh, no. But I really do appreciate that! I'll be 30 in March.
Jeromy Dunn: Where did I read that you were 25? I'm still the father in the room. You'll be 30 when? March what?
Jamar Rogers: March 1st!
This article was provided by TheBody.
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