Since my diagnosis in 2009 I've encountered many other people whose lives have changed post diagnosis. Many of them were not changes for the good. Many had lost hope, given up on dreams, and just no longer had a drive to do the things that made them happy once before. I would like for every one of those people to know that YOUR STATUS DOES NOT DETERMINE YOUR DESTINY.
I've been singing all my life. I hear stories all the time from my grandmother of when I was younger how I would walk around singing to anyone that would listen. Most of the time I would be in the wrong key, pitchy, and anything else I could do wrong but she kept praising me and pushing me to do what I love. As time went on I began to find the proper keys, my breathing got better which helped with pitch problems, and then there was really no stopping me when it came to singing.
Then in 2011 I received a major blow to my confidence. My bestfriend and I had been asked to be on a major television program. The producers of the show contacted us through Facebook then proceeded to call once we had given out our numbers. They discussed what the roles were, told us they would provide transportation, lodging, food, and even childcare for my little ones. This is a very popular TV show so I was extremely hype about being asked to do this. My best friend and I had one condition. We wanted the opportunity to sing on the show. The ratings that are pulled in by this show would definitely provide the exposure we would need. The producers agreed with no hesitation. We were in!!!
The producer called me back later and began to go over a routine screening asking if I had any felonies, warrants, or health issues. I disclosed to her that I am HIV positive. She said ok and proceeded with the screening. Later that evening my bestfriend called me and said the producer called her and stated that if she wanted to be on the show that she would have to replace me. They didn't want to fly me out because I may be a health risk. I WAS COMPLETELY DESTROYED!!! There were so many things wrong with this situation. I could not believe that the producer called my bestfriend and told her this. Why hadn't she called and told me directly? If my bestfriend didn't already know I was positive she definitely knows now! And what does she mean I'm a "health risk"?!?!?! I felt as though I had completely ruined our chances at fame. All because I decided to disclose that I'm living with HIV.
Why didn't I keep my mouth shut?! What felt even worse was when others asked me the same question. There was a third person, a guy, who is also a friend of mine who was asked to participate as well. He saw how they declined me and decided not to disclose that he was also HIV positive to the producer. I was heated but now I had to do damage control. I started emailing the producer and asked her for the details of the conversation between her and my bestfriend ... she replied stating once again that I'm a health risk and they would not be pursuing me as an actor on the show. I emailed her back providing many documents suggesting otherwise. She never replied again. That friend that decided not to disclose went on to participate on the show and it aired January of 2012.
This was the first time since my diagnosis that I had ever felt the stigma of being HIV positive to that degree. A very painful experience. One that stays with me.
Summer 2012 The Voice auditions were happening in NY. I was determined to pursue my dream of singing and attend the auditions. The question was what would I say if they asked me about my health issues. I decided I would not tell them ... Although Jamar Rogers had been on The Voice and even disclosed on the show I still didn't feel comfortable. Even Jamar didn't tell the producers initially so I figured I wouldn't either. So I continued with auditions. I didn't make it on the show but it was a great experience.
January 31, 2013, I was given an AIDS diagnosis. I'm a 25-year-old single father living with AIDS. I still felt healthy, I still look healthy, and after antiretrovirals my CD4% went back above the bar for an AIDS diagnosis. Yet I will always be categorized as someone living with AIDS. This has not bothered me one bit. Now I am more determined to show the world that MY STATUS DOES NOT DETERMINE MY DESTINY!!
So I started taking vocal lessons and increasing my singing and learning who I am as an artist. This May The X Factor USA will be holding auditions here in Denver, CO, and I will definitely be there. This time I WILL disclose without fear of rejection. The world needs to be educated on HIV/AIDS and learn the correct ways of transmission. Simply being on a TV show is not a means of transmission.
Even if I don't make it past the auditions I want everyone reading this to never give up on your dream. Your status does not define who you are and it does not limit you on what you can achieve. Chase your dreams!!! When you want it more than you are afraid of it then you will reach success!!
A big Thank You to Jamar Rogers for his bravery!!! I would LOVE to have a conversation with him in the near future!!