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+TALK: VIKTOR LUNA

The following is s transcript of the conversation between Karl Schmid and Project Runway’s Viktor Luna.

KARL
Passion for fashion, next. Hello there, welcome to +Talk on Plus Life where we’re all about turning positive into a plus. My guest today is a fashion champion. You know him from season nine and 13 of “Project Runway”. It’s Viktor Luna, hey Viktor.

VIKTOR
Thank you for having me.

KARL
I like that you seem to be a man who is using your passion for fashion in more ways than one. Of course, we know you seasons nine and 13 of “Project Runway”, what’s life like for you these days post all of that and just getting on with business?

VIKTOR
It’s been educational and it’s been a whirlwind. After coming out of “Project Runway”, I feel like a lot of people recognized me and all of that. So you have your 15 minutes of fame, but after that, I just started concentrating on becoming my own self, which is designing and also being an advocate for HIV, being a good boyfriend and being a good friend to people and just being a good citizen.

KARL
The world of fashion, which I always think of as art, and you are an artist. How has your HIV and you coming to terms with all of that influenced your style and your look?

VIKTOR
You know, it has pushed me to be a little bit more daring and more ambitious in what I do because obviously, as a person with HIV and learning that, I feel like I have a second chance of living and I wasn’t gonna take it for granted, I wanna take advantage of it. And so, that kind of reflects on my designs. I just wanna make things that are creative, that to me they speak and that are emotional. And I hope people get to see that when I do something because it comes from the heart and it comes from also being a survivor or surviving or living with HIV.

KARL
As people living with HIV, obviously our diagnosis and that horrible kind of moment we all go through and that’s all based on stigma, right? Like, no one should have to feel that way but we still kind of do, what was the turning point for you when you were able to take that moment and kind of turn it around and how did you do that?

VIKTOR
It was definitely support from friends. When I first got diagnosed, I thought it was a death sentence. I didn’t know how long I was gonna live. When I spoke to a friend who was also HIV positive, he gave me and encouraged me to live my life normal because that’s just how you live. There’s medication now that you can live longer, healthier, just like anybody. And as far as the stigma, I still go through that. I try not to put my head into how and what people are saying about me or anybody else, but I do try to take advantage of a situation like that to educate people, by letting them know the correct information. Because a lot of times, people try to bring you down in a way, or even if it’s ignorance, that it’s not malicious, they still don’t know. So I take that as an opportunity to educate people. Stigma still exists and it’s very much out there, but it’s my duty as a person in the public view that I can help and educate people.

KARL
Yeah, I love it. I read a quote in an interview you gave, you said, “When you hear about the virus, you automatically think of stigma but when you put a face to the person who has the virus, you see the potential of the future of living with HIV.” So it was through friends that helped you come to that recognition?

VIKTOR
Yeah, yeah, because I saw that they were living a happy, healthy life and I just needed to have that community and support around me and I still do. And that’s, I guess, a person that I’ve become to other people too.

KARL
Yeah, which is amazing. And then, you look at the trajectory of your career and the wonderful stuff you’ve done, you know, Shea Coulee from “Drag Race”, you’ve dressed Adam Rippon, you’ve some big heavy hitters out there in the community. How does that feel? Is that, I mean, a validation for you as an artist and as a designer, but it’s also gotta feel good that you being and living your authentic true self is being embraced by so many?

VIKTOR
Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty much a reflection of who you are, when you are happy and living healthy and living good, it attracts different kinds of people, and celebrities are just like you and me they’re just regular people. But I have the luck, I guess, or the opportunity to work with them and get to know them and I love that. I love bringing my energy and my creativity into their lives and see how they can also shine in their own way.

KARL
We know that the fashion community has been a staunch supporter of HIV and AIDS, right from really day one. Have you felt that support in your endeavors as you come up as a designer?

VIKTOR
Yeah, yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of activism through amfAR and I have also done magazines, interviews with People Magazine and I always get messages of encouragement and that I encourage them. And so, I think I get all the support and I know that if in one point I get to do an event or something, I know that a lot of the celebrities that I know, and even some of them that I don’t know, I’m sure a lot of them do support. I mean, it’s a great cause and it’s a great way of helping other people and a big community.

KARL
Well, and speaking of communities, we know that HIV rates are on the rise in black and brown communities and in Latino communities. So what’s the reaction been like for people sort of at home in your home community? Because it’s not always easy and there’s sort of now you become the teacher, I guess.

VIKTOR
Yes, there’s still a lot of, I guess, misinformation or none information I still get people that are either my friends or people that I don’t know who ask me questions and that they’re scared. I always give ’em encouragement as far as their life and tell them, you don’t have to live in fear because there is medicine, you could live a healthy life, just concentrate on you and being a good person and being a good son or father, whatever you are. But it’s nothing to fear anymore. And as far as the stigma, like I said, you just take the opportunity and teach people and help people how to understand the situation. But I know, and I can tell that, in my community, like Latinos and Browns and black, there’s not a lot of information out there for them. And once they get it, or they contract the virus, they definitely get scared and a lot of times they close down. That’s why I’m glad that I spoke out out loud and I’m public about it because I get people and I attract people with information that they wanna hear and they need to hear.

KARL
And you’ve also said how freeing that moment was for you, that weight off your shoulders. And we both know what it feels like to carry that weight and to be able to let it go, and you hope that you can, by doing so, have other people follow in your footsteps, right?

VIKTOR
Yeah, I mean, I might seem like my idea of saying it out loud at that time was scary, but I may be like a happy-go-lucky person, I don’t dwell or concentrate on people’s thoughts of me being HIV. I know that it exists and I know that the stigma is out there and people do probably either talk about me or whatever, but like I go day by day, like it’s a normal day. I have no conception of what people may be saying but that’s why I think as a person that cut free from the stigma, because I don’t feel it, it’s because I was out loud about it and I said it out loud and I think that made me feel like I was free.

KARL
I think you’re a hundred percent right. I think once you are able to sort of, as I said, live your truth and accept the HIV and almost embrace it and love it, that feeling of stigma kind of goes away, even if you are confronted with it, because it just washes over you. Viktor Luna, this has been a real treat. Thank you so much, congratulations on all your success. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll get to wear a Viktor Luna original to something.

VIKTOR
Oh, you will, you will, just call me.

KARL
Oh thanks, mate.

VIKTOR
All right, thank you so much, have a good one.

KARL
That is gonna do it for this episode of +Talk. If you want more information about what we’ve talked about today or other +Talk episodes, go to the website pluslifemedia.com. And remember, you can follow us across social media platforms, we are @PlusLifeMedia. Until next time, take care of yourself, each other. Bye-bye.

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