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Visibility Matters

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A few months ago, when ABC TV’s Karl Schmid came out on the cover of Plus (below), we lauded him as one of the first TV reporters to speak out about living with HIV. Knowing that hundreds of thousands of people watch him on the telly each week meant that he has an enormous audience — and viewers now feel like they “know” someone with HIV.

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We got fan mail for Karl, of course, but he turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. A month after his issue came out, he encouraged his friend to reach out as well. That friend, the man ready to come out about living with HIV, is this issue’s cover star: famed entertainment journalist and long-time E! News correspondent, Marc Malkin (and his husband Fabian Quezada-Malkin, one of the most sought-after hair colorists in Beverly Hills).

Last year, as Marc announced he was leaving E! after more than a decade, The Hollywood Reporter called him “one of the most beloved figures of the Hollywood red carpet and events scene.” By then, Malkin said he’d covered “over 100 film festivals, nearly a gazillion red carpets and award shows, and countless features and stories along the way.” Long before he was a television fixture, he was an out gay media stalwart, working everywhere from Premier magazine to US Weekly (and he got his start at Bay Windows, an LGBT weekly in Boston).

Why does this matter? Because E! is a global pop culture pioneer and the seventh most-watched TV entertainment network among people under 35. E! News, in fact, reaches millions of millennials — more than any other entertainment news competitor. That’s millions of young people who look up to Marc, who now not only know that it’s OK to be gay and quirky (he’s both), to marry an immigrant, to fight for LGBT rights, and have a great career — but also to do so while living with HIV.

Both poz, Marc and Fabian are long-term survivors who are healthy and so fit they rode their bikes nearly 600 miles for AIDS Life/Cycle. They’re handsome, smart, and funny. Though they came to HIV differently (Fabian was poz, undocumented, and homeless at 17), their relationship has made both men stronger. That’s the kind of role models we all need.

But Marc has used his visibility not just to model, but also to talk honestly about addiction and what he calls the community’s new epidemic: crystal meth. “We must, as a community, face the realities of crystal meth in stronger ways. I don’t have the answers, but like being HIV-positive, crystal meth use is often, if not usually, kept a secret. I kept my use a secret for years. It wasn’t until I confided in some of my closest friends about what was going on that I finally started reaching out for help.”

Coming out poz is getting easier, and it should. Coming out about being a meth addict, any kind of substance abuser, or someone with alcohol use disorder is an act of sheer bravery still today. It should not be. Watching Marc Malkin and his husband make screen doors where there were previously only walls, still gives me chills.

These copilots are on a steady course, and I hope it gives you all the feels. It did for me.

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