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Philadelphia Gay News Apr. 18-24, 2014

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Guerra disclosed he was HIV-positive while competing on “Project Runway.” He said it was important to be transparent, both personally and on a professional level. “It was bound to happen,” he said. “I remember that day like it was last night. It really did change the course of my journey. Up to that point, I had used creative outlets as my lifeline. When I designed Positivity Print and applied it to one of my designs, it was an opportunity to talk about my work and speak to the truth that is always present in whatever I do. If I was going to deny myself being able to talk about my work on such a platform in such a way, I would have failed. I really worked so hard for so many years and woke up every day leading up to that point and then I was just not honoring everything that I am. So it was important to me and about loving myself and loving my work.” Guerra has continued to use his work to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Last year, he designed a T-shirt to raise funds for Dining Out for Life, which is still available for purchase. And, he noted, there is more that people can do to support the organization besides patronizing participating restaurants. “We’re going to continue with the shirt I designed last year with the salt-and-pepper shakers,” he said. “You can go to the website and sign up to be an ambassador in your city or your own community. I get so many people that know that I am an advocate for HIV and they ask me how they can help. This is a perfect opportunity to help out in your community and that is where it starts, with you participating and being in a restaurant and engaging the customers that are going out that night.” Another high-profile spokesperson for Dining Out for Life is film and TV star Pam Grier, who said she realized the importance of local organizations that help people with health issues when she went through her own battle with cancer. “I start with the perspective of, Has anyone ever been ill for a week? I don’t care if you are 20 years old or 80. You’re home alone and you know if you eat and have nutrition, you will get well,” she said. “When I was suffering from cancer in 1988 and my mom could only take so much time to come and cook for me and feed me and take care of me, when she wasn’t there I realized, How do other people who have life-threatening illness and are much sicker than I am, how do they make it and survive? Who takes care of them? Probably hundreds of thousands

of people don’t have that care or attention where someone will bring you meals daily so you can get well.” Grier added that her life has also been touched by the cause behind Dining Out for Life. “I had friends who had passed away from HIV and AIDS in the early 1990s and they were alone,” she said. “I had a hairdresser and he was ill. He didn’t tell me what he had. There was no food in his home and he didn’t go shopping and didn’t have friends who shopped for him. It didn’t dawn on me that he was suffering from an illness that prevented him from going out and it frightened people from coming over. I realized years later how important Dining Out for Life GUERRA is because not only does it provide nutrition for those living with HIV and AIDS but also for cancer patients.” Grier said she’s eager to use her status as a spokesperson to get the word out about the event, and that she wishes it could be held more frequently. “What I realized is, I can’t do it alone. I can only bang my drum and share information so far with people in the media. I knew that I had to be a part of Dining Out for Life. I was so glad that my initial interest snowballed into my fourth year of being asked to be a spokesperson. Unfortunately, it’s only one day a year. I wish it was every day. I think we have come a long way in opening our hearts and our eyes and care more for one another. Just to be a part of it while I’m here on this planet is amazing.” Grier has been a film star and icon since the 1970s but said she didn’t realize how massive her LGBT following was until she was cast as Kit Porter on “The L Word.” “When I was asked to join the cast for ‘The L Word,’ the fan mail increased tenfold, and globally. My image had reached women all over the world. My memoir [‘Foxy: My Life in Three Acts’] sold in many countries as well. People could go back and really find out where I stand, who I am and why. That’s when I realized that, if you last long enough, you might become an icon. I realized I can draw good, positive attention to organizations; I knew that I had lived long enough and aged gracefully in that I can still enhance people’s lives by what I do. And if you can’t enhance other people’s lives, then what are you?” ■ Dining Out for Life will be held April 24. For a complete list of participating restaurants and the location of participating food trucks, call 877-328-45433 or visit www.

PGN April 18 - 24, 2014  

"The Philadelphia Gay News covers news and entertainment serving the LGBT community in the greater Philadelphia region and beyond"

PGN April 18 - 24, 2014  

"The Philadelphia Gay News covers news and entertainment serving the LGBT community in the greater Philadelphia region and beyond"