“My best friend Jay and I grew up together, from when we were toddlers. We were inseparable, and both turned out to be gay! We came out to each other; he was my brother. We went to the same secondary school, the same sixth form and then college where he studied hairdressing and I studied makeup. We dreamed of setting up a queer salon for the LGBTQ+ Community. We clubbed every weekend on Old Compton Street, raved it up in Heaven and really embraced being young and gay. He was the definition of a best friend and we always had each other’s backs. It was a beautiful friendship.
About seven years ago, we were celebrating the lead up to World AIDS Day. And in our community, getting tested during this time was a really big thing; banners and info guides in every club, plus reps from the Terrence Higgins Trust would do community outreach. So getting tested was the norm; I always went with Jay to get tested and to show my support. I knew that he wasn’t always safe because he’d beat himself up about it and I’d give him a scolding, but this particular time he was really nervous.
We got tested and found out that Jay had contracted HIV. We were 21 at the time. I will never forget the silence in that room; Jay gripped my hand so hard I could have cried. Just typing this has me in tears, just thinking back to his face. He didn’t breathe once. The doctor went into full information mode, offering guidance and a counselling service and telling him that he could still live a full and healthy life. But Jay couldn’t open his eyes and, when he did, he sobbed. I held him and cried with my best friend for what felt like hours while this white noise coming from the doctor’s mouth didn’t seem real. Jay was never the same after that day; he lost his position at work and stopped replying to messages.
I called and called and sent him countless links to support groups, but he was a 21-year-old man who’s world had just crumbled. I went from speaking to and seeing Jay four times a week, to once every two weeks if that. He wouldn’t let anyone in and completely closed himself off. He lost his job after spiralling out of control, showing up late or not showing up at all. He got even worse and started playing with ‘party’ drugs more and more. He was living at his parents’ house and never told them what he was going through and, I made him the promise that I wouldn’t either. I wish now, looking back, that I had.
On July 6th 2012, my best friend was found, just 23 years old, passed away having taken an overdose. I found a message on my phone that had been sent in the early hours from Jay saying he’s sorry and that he can’t do this, love you girl. I knew that I’d lost my best friend. HIV didn’t kill Jay; the stigma and the idea of HIV killed this beautiful man. Five years on, I am still heartbroken and always will be over him.
I applied for a job with M·A·C because of VIVA GLAM. It was important for me that I help raise awareness and fight to help others in this day and age. I accepted Jay, and his family would have accepted him, but he couldn’t accept himself. M·A·C are championing the way people see HIV & AIDS; VIVA GLAM is everything; it’s Jay. I Glam for Life, I glam for Jay.”
Michael Brooks, Retail Artist for M·A·C Cosmetics in Selfridges Oxford Street, London
“I have been with the brand for four years and one of the core values of M·A·C Cosmetics is one that is dear to me, VIVA GLAM.
Growing up as a queer man of colour, I did not know the impact that a cosmetics company could have on a community that is surrounded by so much stigma. HIV and AIDS are not spoken of enough, but the way in which M·A·C approaches this community of people is astounding. I would say that the reason VIVA GLAM is close to my heart is that it draws attention to people affected by these conditions, and has made major strides in not only finding a cure, but assisting people living with it in their daily lives. I am fortunate enough to have never been affected by HIV and AIDS, however, historically speaking these conditions have been associated exclusively with gay men. I feel passionately that M·A·C continues to shed light on the conversation that it is not a disease associated with homosexuality, but men, women and children of all ages, races, genders and identities globally. To me, M·A·C has always pushed equal representation, and celebrates everyone for who they are. So to represent a community of people who have been shunned and turned away from by the world for so long, just as queer people have been, is honourable. M·A·C liberates me as a gay man, and as a person of colour, and pushes me to take pride in who I am. Therefore I will always do my part to liberate and celebrate those affected by such a vicious and sometimes life-ending condition.
I stand for our cause because everyone needs to be aware of how people around the world are affected by it, and how we can work together to change lives. It's more than just lipstick. I am thankful that this year marks 25 years of legwork, awareness, positivity and change. Here's to many more!”
“I first heard about VIVA GLAM as a customer and it has piqued my interest ever since.
After I got the job at M·A·C, I learned more about the M·A·C AIDS Fund and knew it was something that I desperately wanted to be a part of. I started to work towards becoming the VIVA GLAM ambassador for my store and motivating the team to work hard to push the lipsticks. Unfortunately about a month after my first update, my father passed away. The cause of his death was unknown to us and we later discovered that he had passed away as a result of HIV.
My father didn’t know that he had the disease. He wasn’t educated enough on the risks, and the symptoms were unknown to him. It started with pneumonia two years before his passing and he deteriorated after that dramatically. He was forever getting infections and built up a high immunity to antibiotics. He was admitted to hospital, given treatment for the infections, and for the weight loss, he was put on nebulisers, had a PICC line fitted into his chest and was then released from hospital a month before his death. If the stigma behind this disease didn’t exist, if there was more help and information readily available, my dad might still be here today. I now work in a different store and I’m on my way to becoming that store’s VIVA GLAM Ambassador. I work with a fantastic team who know my story and treat it like their own on VIVA GLAM Fridays. Together we are selling lipsticks that save lives. Together we are breaking the stigma.
My dad was a firefighter. He was a personal trainer. He was the healthiest man I knew. And he died of HIV. He had blood in his veins and so he could contract the disease the same way you or I can.”
Mackenzie M. Da Assuncao
“My personal story of VIVA GLAM comes more from the sigma that surrounds it. As a proud trans woman, I have seen the struggle my fellow brothers and sisters of the LGBT+ community have been through and how much M·A·C Cosmetics means to so many of them; a company that accepts you no matter your age, race or gender. M·A·C is a safe place for so many people across so many different lifestyles and places. VIVA GLAM brings people from so many different communities and lifestyles together to help defeat the stigma of HIV and AIDS. VIVA GLAM to me means community, family and unity.”
“During the early ‘90s, I moved from the Midlands to London and started a new life. I met so many friends; friends that helped shape my future. I met one person who became like a mentor to me; he took care of me and ensured I had somewhere to live in those early years. Our friendship was so close that he became like an actual brother. A number of years down the line, he became ill and was diagnosed with HIV. However it was a late diagnosis and, soon after, he had to be hospitalized. At that time HIV/ AIDS was still in its early stages of awareness in the UK and they didn’t know what to do with him, so they put him into a care home and left him there. I visited him and watched him deteriorate quickly; soon after he died of an AIDS related illness.
All through this period he had little support and taking medicine at that time was an assault on the body. I felt helpless in supporting him. I had nowhere to turn and ask for help myself; I didn’t have a voice and I felt like I’d let my friend down. He will always be in my heart and I thank him for taking me under his wing.
Joining M·A·C gave me a sense of purpose; I worked on my artistic talents, joined in the fight against HIV/AIDS by selling VIVA GLAM lipsticks, I became more involved and was able to work with artists across the country in raising awareness of VIVA GLAM and the work done around the world. I feel that M·A·C has given me that voice to ensure we don’t let people feel isolated in their communities. To speak out and make a difference. I may not have been able to support my friend like I wanted to, however if I can make a small difference today and support men, women and children affected by HIV, then I will be a happier person.”
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