As far as I know, Rae Lewis Thornton has never worn her hair in a natural style. I’m honestly not sure, we’ve never discussed it. But despite our difference in hairstyles, Rae was a no brainer when it came time for me to bring back Afrobella of the Month. Because it isn’t about how she wears her hair, it’s about how she lives her life.
Rae Lewis Thornton lives her life out loud. As a woman — no, a DIVA living with AIDS for the past 24 years, she has learned how to speak her truth to its most powerful effect, how to maintain her dignity and walk in beauty despite the pain she may be feeling inside. She imparts wisdom and warmth wherever she goes, despite what she is going through. And as her signature statement “for real, for real” would indicate, Rae keeps it 100. And I love that about her.
In her astonishingly honest blog, Rae shares details of her life with this disease that truly illustrate the reality of AIDS. Her post My Worst Nightmare discusses dealing with Lipodystrophy, abnormal fat accumulation. In Miss Chanel parts one and two, she talks about another kind of worst nightmare. The nightmare of losing control of your bodily functions in public.
Rae first shared that story with me over a delicious Thai lunch at Tamarind here in Chicago, and seeing her demeanor as she relayed the dismaying details…watching the emotions play across the beautiful canvas of her face, brought a lump to my throat. But Rae remained strong and earnest, and that in turn inspired me. If she could remain so calm and eloquent while recounting the shame of such an experience…who was I to get ruffled and stressed for the minor blips that disrupt my day? Rae has a courage I can just barely begin to comprehend.
Rae recently wrote a post about another harsh reality of her life – diminishing income. So many of us can identify with that, but imagine being a woman with AIDS, who’s used to enjoying certain luxuries in life. Now Rae is taking public transportation and dealing with insufficent funds in her bank account. I told y’all, Rae lives her life out loud. She shares the stories so many of us don’t tell. I find so much inspiration in her honesty.
In the heyday of HIV/AIDS, she could earn quite a livable income from her speaking engagements. Now, “AIDS isn’t sexy anymore,” Rae explains. The speaking engagements aren’t as frequent or as lucrative as they used to be, and despite that Rae finds a way to keep it moving. She is dedicated to being a blogger, she is a licensed Baptist minister, and she continues making speaking appearances across the country. And when she isn’t working on those things she is constantly busy with her incredible bracelet line – The RLT Collection, which is just absolutely exquisite. Made with gemstones and crystals, the RLT Collection has an accessory for everyone. And every bracelet purchased supports Rae’s life, her work, her ministry, and truly helps to keep her going.
I love her stackable bracelets — ranging in price from $23 for the Faceted Black Glass to $75 for the yellow jade with fireball center that you see above, she’s got bracelets to take you from a day at the office to an evening out on the town.
Her wrap bracelets are coming next, and they’re going to be GORGEOUS.
Her Diva Collection of AIDS Awareness bracelets takes glamour to the next level. It’s a limited edition collection of designs featuring Rae’s signature red angelic crystal as a symbol of awareness. Her latest is the Hydeia Bracelet, a tribute to fellow activist Hydeia Broadbent. The next addition to the Diva Collection will be a birthday tribute to Rae herself — made of pearls, because they’re her favorite. She wants women to “wear this bracelet as a reminder to keep yourself protected from HIV/AIDS and to challenge the stigma associated with HIV.”
I had to ask Rae — you’ve revealed so much about yourself online, in your speeches, in your life’s work. Is there anything you’d like me to share about you?
She thought for a minute before responding. “When I think about my life — and even my collection is an example of this — I am NOT giving in. I continue to persevere in spite of. I work hard at living. Alot of the time we complain, but we don’t work hard at living. Take care of yourself. Invest in your life. Make yourself and your health a priority.”
Rae’s words resonated with me. And I hope they resonate with you.
In the future she’s working on many more bracelets, including a beautiful collection of recycled glass bracelets for summer, and her latest series of blog posts will take your breath away. Rae is currently sharing an ugly slice of reality so many of us would rather look away from — the the reality of having abusive parents and how that can affect your whole life. Please read, comment, share with your friends and loved ones. Rae Lewis Thornton is a living legend and her stories need to be told. She’s a warrior and a wise woman, a survivor to the core. And that she remains fresh dressed like a million bucks all the while, is ever more inspiring to a beauty-minded bella like myself.
This song reminds me of Rae’s spirit. Warriors Don’t Cry. They just keep it moving. For real, for real.
Let her know she is appreciated and loved, and an inspiration to Afrobellas everywhere!