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Saving the World with a Speedo and a Smile

Kevin Carnell

Instagram star Kevin Carnell is leveraging his social media status to raise money for HIV.

Instagram star Kevin Carnell is more than his nearly 80,000 followers. The 25-year old activist has been dedicated to raising awareness for HIV and body positivity for years now by taking part of the AIDS/LifeCycle — wearing only a Speedo and a smile.

In 2015 and 2016, Carnell raised $10,000 for people living with HIV. And while it might seem like a lot of money for most people, for him it’s a small dent in what he feels is a greater calling.

“I am so grateful to have discovered the wonderful organization that is AIDS/LifeCycle,” Carnell says. “I came across the ride when I moved to New York City in 2014. I had a few friends at the time who had just completed it and I remember thinking these guys are so brave and incredibly selfless. It was inspiring to see the amount of money they’d raised and how much good they were providing to our community.”


Carnell decided to do the ride himself in 2015 and, he says, it was one of the “best decisions” he’d ever made. His cyclist representative, Jacob Ittycheria, was also supportive and proved to be a mentor at a time when Carnell was facing his own difficulties living in the city.

“I didn’t know if I could do it,” Carnell reflects. “If I could leverage my following on social media to donate, or if I could subject myself to the questioning that doing a ride like this brings about.”

Carnell admits, “When you do AIDS/LifeCycle and publicly promote the cause, you’re faced with the question of ‘When did you become positive?’ or ‘Is that why you’re riding?’ I am not positive, and if I were, there is nothing wrong with that. I have done this ride because I believe in the assistance this organization has provided and will continue to provide for those who need it most. I felt a sense of pride advocating for this organization because I wanted to be a part of the change. I wanted to say that I used my platform to impact my community.”

After competing in 2015 and 2016, Carnell made the decision not to ride in 2017 to focus on the next chapter of his busy life. However, he is “eyeing a return for 2018.”

No doubt, this year’s onlookers missed his smile — not to mention that Speedo!


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