By Rae Lewis-Thornton
April 4, 2012
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
Over the years I've allowed cameras into my life. Mainly as a way to educate and challenge stigma around HIV/AIDS.
Nope it's not fun, but rather intrusive. I do it because I believe it's important to use every tool available to educate around HIV/AIDS.
I want people to understand that those of us living with HIV/AIDS are "normal" too. I also want people to understand that HIV is no cake walk. Yes, we can treat you, but this is not the best life for you; Therefore, protect yourself because HIV is real and does not discriminate. Just so you know, all the press that I do is free. Every magazine cover, news article and television interview. No one pays for what they consider, "news." So I truly do this from my heart. I see every single interview as a part of my ministry.
Back last spring, I had three Northwestern University students approach me about their class project; Dan Q.Tham, Yonnie Yang and Ashley Yates, asked if they could follow me and do a story short documentary for their class.
I said yes because they are future journalists and should be encouraged to report about the issues around HIV/AIDS. When we started the project, they didn't have an angle, but as they shot footage on me, they decided to focus on an area of my life that no one has ever done, my glam! I've often been asked if I've always had this flair for the finer things in life, or did it come with my quasi fame. Truly, this has been me since for as long as I can remember. I did a blog a while back on The Making of a Diva... Click Here To Read!
Their focus on Diva made me a a bit nervous because I didn't want people to get the wrong impression and miss my message. But they actually were able to capture my life in a very creative way. I even let them shoot footage of me at the hair salon, which I've never done.
On one particular day they were scheduled to shoot footage after a doctors appointment. That day I had an unexpected biopsy on my vulva. I did not want to do it, but they insisted. In the end, while I was a crab puff to put it lightly, I think it was an important part of the story.
People see the glam, but almost never see me on those days when I'm not doing good. This was a great documentary and I'm glad that I allowed them into my life. It was a side of me that is rarely seen, but a part of me nonetheless.
Two weeks ago this short documentary Diva premiered at The Talking Pictures Film Festival at Northwestern University and was a great success.
I want to share it with you today: Diva!
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on TheBody.com about Rae's social media activities.
Speaking engagements: Inquire about booking Rae to speak at your organization or event!
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