Ask & Tell
BY Bob Adams
October 31 2008 12:00 AM ET
Sherri Lewis of the weekly podcast 'Straight Girl in a Queer World' is no stranger to the public eye. As lead singer of the '80s pop band Get Wet, Lewis (whose stage name is Sherri Beachfront) appeared in one of the first music videos on MTV with the Top 40 hit 'Just So Lonely.' But she may be best known for putting a human face on the issue of heterosexual women with HIV after her diagnosis in 1987, a time when AIDS was still considered a 'gay disease.' Lewis, 54, remains a pioneer in the movement, having embraced digital media to reach a new generation with HIV information.
What was it like'when most HIVers were gay men'to be an HIV-positive woman?
You surely felt like the odd man out and a little like a freak. But the good news was that being unique gave me a distinct voice and platform very early on.
What kind of support did you find in the gay community?
Gay men have always loved and cared for me'and dressed me up! [Laughs] The gay community taught me a lot about love and compassion, caring for each other, and being of service. But I also think I helped teach gay men that HIV didn't affect only them and that they have to sometimes look outside their community.
And you're still teaching people today through your weekly podcast 'Straight Girl in a Queer World.' How did that project come about?
I was the keynote speaker at the Ribbon of Hope Awards in 2006, which was televised on the Here! TV cable network. The Here! folks wanted to take things a step further, so we created the podcast. [Editor's note: HIV Plus and Here! TV are both owned by Regent Media.]
What's a typical podcast like?
I try to make it informative'but fun too. So it could cover a vast array of topics, from making porn safe to the gay rodeo to substance abuse to music. Some of the guests have included Greg Louganis, Jasmine Guy, and Sheryl Lee Ralph, who coordinates the 'Divas Simply Singing' AIDS fund-raiser.
After you interviewed Ralph, she had a special surprise for you?
She asked me to be the first HIV-positive diva and to sing with them this year! Can you believe it? It was like someone nominated me for an Oscar! And I got to be onstage with Patti LaBelle. Patti LaBelle! It doesn't get much better than that.