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From Madonna to Hollywood: Coming Out and Learning to Thrive With HIV

From Madonna to Hollywood: Coming Out and Learning to Thrive With HIV

Carlton1

An actor and dancer in his youth, now an actor, producer, writer, and motivational guru, Wilborn was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, at the height of AIDS hysteria, a time when even the president wouldn’t utter the term “AIDS” because it supposedly didn’t apply to good, decent people.

“For me, it was a crazy living nightmare, in a weird way,” admits Wilborn. “Again, I was diagnosed when it first landed in the consciousness of America, and it was fire and brimstone.” He got the news while in Hawaii on tour with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. “I had been feeling a little uncomfortable and had gone to the doctor in Chicago,” he recalls. “Just, you know, saying, ‘I have a cold or the flu, I’m not quite sure.’ Then I go on tour and I’m in Hawaii and I check in with the doctor and his first thing he said is, ‘You should have a seat.’ And he said what he to this day—one of the best dance classes I’ve ever had. This other force was alive in me.”

Part of that force, Wilborn says now, is the relationship he has built with God. In 2000, still not out about his HIV status, he saw his life “really hit its serious rock bottom.” Work had dried up, so he got a job on a cruise ship as the dance captain and a performer. During the cruise, he bought a cross on a chain in Nassau, the Bahamas, because the kids were wearing them in hip-hop videos on MTV. Then a few months later he questioned the meaning of the cross. At the same time his sister sent him his childhood Bible, a relic he’d forgotten. A year later, Wilborn had developed a “real concentrated relationship with God,” and in 2004, he says, he was saved. (“What that means, to be saved,” he says, “is to accept and declare that Jesus Christ, for laymen’s term, is your template, is your model for how you go after life, and you surrender your life to this higher force that can take care of you better than you can take care of yourself.”) That moment began his “concentrated time with God that has turned my life into all that my life is now—and I love my life.”

 Carlton on CSI: Miami (left)

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