GlobalGrind’s financial coach, Lynn Richardson, had a 5-hour sister-girl visit with Rae Lewis Thornton, the Emmy award winning AIDs/HIV Activist, the internationally renowned motivational speaker and ordained minister, and the unknown beauty who graced a 1994 cover of Essence Magazine with the headline, “I’m young, I’m educated, I’m drug-free, and I’m dying of AIDS”, and here’s what she had to say.
GG: People often say life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond. You responded boldly to your HIVs/AIDs diagnosis at a time when AIDs was like the plague and you made and lost a lot of money along the way. How did you do it?
Rae: When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, I was on my way to becoming a major force in the political arena. I worked with the likes of Donna Brazille, Alexis Herman, and Dorothy Height . . . so I had no doubt that I would be successful. But at the age of 23, after a ‘relationship’ with a well-known personality whose name I have not publicly revealed to this day, I was diagnosed with HIV. So one time when I was speaking at an event . . . I got on stage, said what I had to say, told the women in the audience how many phone numbers had been slipped to me by their husbands, partners, and dates . . . then I said ‘And I have AIDS’ . . . and I walked off the stage. Susan Taylor gave me her card, and the rest is history. Within a year of appearing on the cover of Essence magazine, I was doing anywhere from 5 to 15 speaking engagements a month on HIV/AIDs awareness and I was making anywhere from $2500 to $3500 each time. . . but I had no sense of a future back then. The life expectancy when I transitioned from HIV to AIDs in 1992 was three years, so in my mind, I didn’t need money for the future – my money was for the present. I spoke on college campuses and I would say to the freshmen ‘by the time you graduate, I’ll be dead.” So I had a good time with my money, and so did my husband. In fact, when I DIDN’T die, his ass had the nerve to cop an attitude because his plan b was to start his speaking career by telling everyone how he took care of me up through my death! Times were tough. I shit on myself in restaurants, and cleaned myself up. My dress size was a zero, my T-cell count got down to an 8 out of 1,000, and my viral load when up to over 400,000 . . . I was staring death in the face. But sometime around 1998, the medications got better, my T-cell count and my life expectancy went up, but my money went down, and after nine-eleven, the speaking engagements completely dried up. I was in the hospital one time for three months straight, very sick, and the money was going out faster than I could bring it in to pay my medical bills and support my extravagant lifestyle.
Stay Tuned for More from Rae Lewis Thornton on Next Week’s Wisdom Wednesday . . .
Rae’s website www.raelewisthornton.com
Lynn’s website: www.lynnrichardson.com/Work_With_Lynn.html