Friends of the Academy Awards Gala–by Adam Sandel

Bay Area Reporter

2/19/2009

To the rescue! Film; Academy of Friends throws a superhero Oscar gala

by Adam Sandel

Divas, Villians and Superheros.

Superheroes, Villains & Divas

Look up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane – it’s hundreds of tuxedoed partygoers coming to the rescue of HIV/AIDS organizations at the Academy of Friends’ annual Oscar gala! This year’s ultimate A-List event on Sunday night at Fort Mason, A Night of Superheroes, Villains & Divas, promises to be especially exciting. In addition to supporting HIV/AIDS groups that are financially strapped in these tough times, gala attendees can cheer on two of the most uplifting Oscar nominees in years: Slumdog Millionaire and the gay community’s very own Milk.

In addition to enjoying Hollywood’s finest, and hunky Oscar host Hugh Jackman, gala guests will be treated to live performances by the dance sensations of Burn the Floor and that ultimate villain/diva from the cast of Wicked .

Also on hand will be Jack Mackenroth, the HIV-positive fashion designer and TV personality from Project Runway, who’s launched the national HIV/AIDS education campaign Living Positive by Design in partnership with Merck & Company.

Charming, talented, and ridiculously handsome, Mackenroth provides one of the best possible faces of HIV, and in the words of his former mentor Tim Gunn, he recently agreed to “talk to me.”

“I’ll be 20 years positive this August, right after my 40th birthday,” said Mackenroth. “I immediately needed support when it first happened, so I came out as positive to close friends, and then to my family in the mid-90s. I was doing well on the meds, and after a few years some of the fear dissipated.”

His appearance on season four of Project Runway was Mackenroth’s launching pad to national exposure. “I discussed being positive on the show, and it became a great opportunity for outreach. It wasn’t a big plan, I just wanted to live my life openly. Everyone who talks about it helps to alleviate the anxiety.”

Through the Living Positive by Design campaign, he hopes to help combat the stigma associated with HIV, and encourage people living with HIV to have a positive outlook on life while effectively managing their disease. “The goal is to get people to work with their doctors to get to an undetectable viral load, and to be proactive about their health.”

The public response, especially now that Project Runway is airing overseas, has been very, well, positive. “Once a day I get an e-mail or message on my Facebook or My Space page from people saying, ‘Thank you for being a positive role model.’ I expected a backlash, but there really has been none.”

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Mackenroth is no stranger to San Francisco, but this will be his first AOF Gala. In addition to sharing his Living Positive by Design promos, he says, “I’m looking forward to mingling, having fun, and commenting on the Oscar fashions.” And guys? I asked. He’s single.

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