Tell me more about how Positively Beautiful came about.
I was actually on the (Make-up Art) Cosmetics Web site (maccosmetics.com), and MAC Cosmetics is huge. They're owned by Estée Lauder now, but, to the best of my knowledge, it was started by two partners in Canada. They just started making makeup in their kitchen, and the next thing you know, Boy George and Christina Aguilera are in Hollywood with it on. One of the partners died of AIDS, and from what I understand--I don't know if this is exactly true--the other partner decided to sell it to Estée Lauder, under the premise that a large portion of their money goes to HIV and AIDS. MAC has certain cosmetics so that, for example, 100 percent of whatever lipstick sells goes to helping people who are HIV positive. They've raised $80 million or something crazy like that over the past few years, just basically for organizations that focus on people who are living with AIDS--and not administration or anything like that.
So it just goes to people who are living with AIDS, but not necessarily to AIDS research?
No, not for research. It's just for programs, like food programs--Meals on Wheels programs, that sort of thing. I was just kind of seeing what they did, what kind of programs they had. And I saw this thing that said "Good Spirits Day," and I'm like, "Oh, that sounds happy." (Laughs.) So I clicked on it, and they have this program where they give people makeovers--basically HIV-positive men, women and trans--and help them with some of the side effects of the medication. For example, HIV medications change all the fat on your face. ... A lot of times, you'll get a big, fat hump right in the back of your neck. I never know for sure, but if I'm walking down the street, and someone's been on HIV medication a long time, I can tell. I know that it's happened, because one of the places I work with is one of the main providers for people who are HIV positive, and I've seen people on the street before, and then I see them in the clinic. HIV medications leave a distinctive mark if you know what you're looking for.
So MAC gives makeovers that specifically focus on erasing that look. It's like a side effect of these medications that the doctors can't fix. ... I'm not positive; I just happened to get caught up with treating people who are, (and) my premise is that these men (and) women now are living with HIV. And the whole thing is they're living with it. They're not just trying to survive; they're not just trying to make it through the next day. They're living with HIV--long, healthy, productive lives, as long as they take their medication correctly. So, if they're going to do that, then they need to feel confident and good about themselves. Everybody says beauty isn't skin deep, but it's part of the equation. If you feel good about yourself, then you don't feel like you have a big "HIV" stamped to your forehead. ... If you can live as a woman, instead of as an HIV-positive woman, then you're just somebody who's living with a condition--like if you have a sore back, or you have any other sort of ailment. You move on.
Along with numerous other businesses, you're being sponsored by the salon that female illusionist Ajia Simone co-owns (see T Q&A, March 25, 2004). What's it like working with her?
I contacted her, and she's like, "Girl, oh no, no, no! You don't just need my help; you can have my salon. We're going to close it on Monday, and all the ladies will get cut, colored and styled." I'm like, "Whoa! Colored, too?" And she said, "I'm not having any ghetto-ass roots leave my salon!" ... She's so amazing.