It's summertime and the POZ-TO monthly fundraiser is switching gears. We are proud to announce that we have a new party hostess…..the fabulous Miss Barbie Jo Bontemps!
Originally from Toronto but quite worldly in her travels, Barbie Jo speaks several languages and recently celebrated her first anniversary as a fixture on the Toronto nightlife scene. After competing last year in Crews & Tangos' Drag Race, Barbie Jo has returned as a contestant and we wish her well. But when she approached me about helping with our event, I was thrilled because I had been wanting to involve nightlife celebrities in this cause. So, I sat done with Miss Bontemps and asked a few questions to introduce her to our audience……
DJ Relentless: So, Barbie Jo......it looks like this is a good time of year for you with hosting a few events and being a contestant in Crews & Tangos' Drag Race. With so much on your plate, what made you decide to wanna throw your hat into the ring of philanthropy? And by that I mean becoming the new host for the POZ-TO fundraiser for Toronto PWA....
Barbie Jo: I have always wanted to be part of fundraising and educational opportunities in the LGBTQ2S/Rainbow community. Our world works as a macrocosm. After reading a couple books and essays that dealt directly with the "Gaia" hypothesis - that earth is an organism - I've begun to look at fellow humans in that same way.
We all struggle to survive and thrive in different ways and I felt that it was important for me to support those around me to feel as internally successful as I do. It's been said so many different ways but I truly believe that society really is only as strong as it's weakest member. I don't mean to say that people that are disenfranchised or subjected to difficulty are weak, simply that we should be encouraged as members of society to support and foster community within one another.
Well, that's great! We really appreciate you coming on as the new host. You know....one of the things that has been a major problem for our event is the stigma of the word POZ and being perceived as HIV+. Do you worry about people thinking that you are HIV+ by being involved in this event?
Not particularly. As I see it people will always believe what they want to believe. If someone were to ask me, I would simply reply "No, I'm not positive". I don't think supporting initiatives that better people's lives is something to be ashamed of or afraid of but rather something of which to be VERY proud.
You came by a couple months ago and help us with our midnight raffle. Did that experience make you want to get involved even more?
Totally! The evening was a lot of fun! It was nice to support the event in a way that I felt I could be truly useful! It was great to experience the night and contribute in a way that was exciting and engaging for the people that attended. Plus I couldn't believe the prizes! Some of those things I wanted to walk out with for myself!!
It's been my goal to get more people involved with this event whether they are HIV+ or not. I feel that the subject is and should be a concern for everyone in the community. Being an out HIV+ man in the community, I have watched a lot of young people and even not so young make mistakes because of the misconception that it's other people's problem, What would you say to that kind of thinking?
One of the most common things you hear from people that experience an "other person's" crisis is that they "never thought it could happen to them until it happened". It's hard to figure out how to address that kind of thinking. I think the more education and the more people in the community that have the strength to come out (again) is what really helps to alter that thinking. People don't understand what they don't know - so the more people can communicate with, be mentored by, and liaise with people who are HIV+ or who are allies of the community - the more change will be affected within our communities and others.
Amen, sister! I wish more people were as open about this subject. I guess that's why I am so excited to have you come host for us. I want you to be our main host, but I would also like to see other nightlife celebrities come in and co-host and show their support. Perhaps if bigger names lend their voice to the cause it will send a message that you don't have to be a member of the POZ Community to attend.
If you could give advice to a young person out there right now about dating, safe sex, getting tested or being aware of PWA and what they do what would you say?
My advice for dating and safe sex: remember your worth. If you need help remembering, I suggest an education full of Mary J Blige music.
My advice for getting tested: always know. As GI Joe always said: "knowing is half the battle".
As far as being aware of the PWA and other organizations in our community supporting people living with HIV/AIDs, LGBTQ2S Youth, and others - familiarize yourself with these organizations. Not only that, but also, if you feel comfortable, take the time to support them, to volunteer, to do something positive with your life. If you need a friend to encourage you, call me!
Well, thank so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today. I look forward to working with you on August 3rd!