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7 Questions With Jade Elektra

The artist, DJ and activist talks about art, activism and HIV…

Recently we sat down with Toronto-based recording artist, drag entertainer, DJ and community advocate Jade Elektra at Legacy 2.0 – a fundraising event presented by ViiV Healthcare and the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research – to hear her thoughts on art, activism and HIV advocacy. Here’s what she had to say.

Tell us about yourself: who is Jade Elektra?
I guess I’d have to say that I’m a combination of all the strong women in my life: my mother and grandmother. I’m a singer, actor, producer, recording artist and, most importantly, a voice for the HIV+ community.

You were recently featured on the cover of HIV Plus Magazine. What did that opportunity mean to you?
It was so unexpected. I did the interview and thought it would be a small piece after [I got] the chance to perform “Undetectable” as the finale at the 2019 United States Conference on AIDS in Washington, DC. I had no idea that they were going to put me on the cover! That has definitely raised my profile and has helped my philanthropy work. The entire experience has reaffirmed my belief that visibility is so important.

For many years, you’ve been an outspoken advocate for different communities. How did you first get involved with the HIV activism?
It started back when I lived in New York City. I started volunteering my DJ services for GMHC – the world’s first organization for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy –which led me to start volunteering for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an LGBTQ youth support program. I’ve always believed that it is important to work with and mentor our youth.

Why is it important for you to incorporate activism into your music and your art?
I look around and see so many drag performers clamouring for the spotlight. I don’t see nearly enough of them using their talents to make an impact on the problems we’re facing, to make a change in the world. I love putting messages in my music with the hope that the messages will live on after I’m gone. It’s about creating a legacy of empowerment for the next generation.

HIV treatment has come a long way in the past three decades, including the U=U movement. How has HIV treatment innovation impacted you and your career?
Well, to go from being afraid to take the meds back in the 1990s because of AZT to finally going on meds in 2005, I would say that the innovations in treatment have changed my life completely. I’m 52 and the healthiest I’ve ever been, and this gives me the opportunity to do something good for my community.

Small steps lead to bigger ones and I’ve been slowly building a brand of activism here in Canada. I’m not RuPaul’s Drag Race-level famous, but I have carved out a space for HIV+ performers to showcase their talents and communicate messages because of my own treatment journey.

What’s next for Jade Elektra?
There’s a lot on the horizon. “Undetectable” is going to be a single with remixes in the coming year. My events – like MINGLE, which is my monthly social event to fight stigma and depression and raise funds for local AIDS service organizations – are definitely going to get bigger in 2020. I’m excited to have presented the seventh POZ-TO Awards just last month at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. In short: I’m looking forward to what’s next!

What advice would you give to others looking to be a part of this movement and contribute to creating meaningful change in their community?
Find something that you are passionate about, and start there. We all can make a difference but it has to start where you are. Go volunteer at a local organization. Educate someone in your life. The feeling of helping others can transform you into the kind of person who will influence others.

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