Proud but also spiritual and unpretentious, Kevin Sessums has done everything.
He has successfully climbed the Mt Kilimanjaro and traveled the Way of Saint James as part of his spiritual journey. He held the position of executive editor of the Interview by Andy Warhol during the heyday of the magazine. For her numerous celebrity profiles, including 27 cover material for Vanity Fair, he interviewed everyone, from Madonna to Hugh Jackman, helping to define the influence of culture / celebrity. He attended the Oscars, but was also broken and almost homeless.
For all his successes, Sessums has faced numerous challenges, including the death of both parents at an early age; a solitary childhood, in which he spent feeling largely alienated from others, partly because of his sexuality; was a victim of sexual abuse at 13 years; and being diagnosed as HIV-positive more or less around the time he separated from "Vanity Fair ".
While your Vanity Fair has secured a high profile, freelance career for several publications, including The Daily Beast, his use of drugs (mainly crystal meth) reached dangerous levels. His addiction eventually led Sessums to a bleak spot, both personally and professionally, but also served as a catalyst for recovering his sobriety and rebuilding his life.
Now the editor-in-chief of Glossy FourTwoNine, LGBT-oriented publication, Sessums is also the author of two bestselling, critically acclaimed memoir: The Lambda Award Winner, Mississippi Sissy in 2007, and recently published, "I Left It On The Mountain: A Memoir ".
Sessums recently spoke with HIV Equal about their serological status, current celebrity culture, the possibility of performing on stage in the announced adaptation to the Mississippi Sissy, and the positive use of anger to facilitate the healing of personal ills.
HIV Equal: Today's culture is more accepting of the LGBT community, and there is less stigma surrounding HIV. However, in what areas do you feel that society still has to face and accept the facts in order to continue the quest for healing?
KS: I think that HIV brings out, at its most basic level, the fear of mortality, so I'm not sure if full acceptance of HIV will happen to those who are not HIV positive. We are talking about old and deep feelings about death that finally have nothing to do with HIV itself. Mix up the complicated feelings - even I would say that the unique feelings inherent in each person regarding sex and I'm not sure acceptance is going to happen. I would rather talk about something concrete - like a cure - than something abstract as acceptance.
You write in I left it on the mountain that his decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro was motivated as a way to forgive himself for becoming infected with HIV, which is part of his emotional healing process. You explain that a letter you received from Tom Cruise referring to your HIV status as a "disease" irritated you, but you used that anger as a motivating force to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Do you feel that anger can be a healing force?
Only if we overcome it and not live in it. Anger has to be the fuel that burns out and takes us to another place - like rocket fuel. She (anger) can not be an end in itself. That said, anger fueled both from genesis to ACTION, to genius and to success. So I can see the beauty in a "pure" kind of anger as well.
You also wrote about having to cry for your HIV-negative self. Is this a continuous bereavement process, or a process that reaches some point of completion or purpose?
I will always miss my dead parents. I always miss my dead grandparents who raised me. Myself, always on some level, I feel the loss of the active addict, once I was, and now that I am a recovery of one, I miss it. So I'm always going to lose my HIV-negative self.
You have been very open about your HIV status after being diagnosed. Do you feel this as a process of “leaving”? Is it a necessary part of your healing process?
It was a part of mine. I can not tell anyone about how they should find a way to heal themselves.
Have celebrities already asked for your advice on publicly disclosing your HIV status? Celebrities afraid to reveal their serostatus publicly? Do not advertisers discourage their clients from publicly discussing their HIV + status?
I had never been in charge of such advice. Look, a lot of famous people are ruled by fear - to use the word again - so I'm not sure we should expect celebrity bravery. They are afraid of losing their reputation or ruining their success, especially the financial success on which not only they but others depend. I understand the fear. Everyone has to make their own decisions about being public about private medical issues and being part of a large public community.
His career has always been in some way related to the entertainment industry, perceived by many as glamorous. However, how exciting and glamorous has your work been? Does the public have a misconception about this?
I have a very blue necklace, working attitude on my work. I always refer to it as driving a truck. I'm a truck driver. I get behind the wheel and haul my glamorous cargo to, in the deadline, throw it away, and get behind the wheel again. I'm a long haul trucker.
You started your career by pursuing acting. Are there any plans for projects in action at this time? Moises Kaufman is n, the process of adaptation, Mississippi Sissy to the stage?
I'm in the process of adapting Mississippi Sissy on a theatrical night. At this time, the plans are workshop at the New York Theater Workshop are in decline. I intend to be in it now. But let's see how this "panes" to my exterior.
You've evolved from being interested in celebrities, when you were young, to interviewing celebrities, and to now being a celebrity. Being famous even, has this changed how you see fame, advertising, or how do you interact with the celebrities that you interview and deal well with?
I always thought of myself as an adjacent celebrity — not a celebrity of me. But “I left it on the mountain " and I made the celebrity list for the Times, one of the top sellers in New York. So I think it qualifies me as a celebrity in some way. It was the first time I had really thought of myself this way - making this specific list. I was between Derek Jeter and Jerry Lee Lewis - which has always been my fantasy, think about it.
You're very honest and straightforward, you still seem harder on yourself. Are you your most critical critic?
No. Have you read any of my comments on Amazon?
What qualities do you find attractive in a romantic partner? Would you ever consider getting married?
I almost gave up on this part of my life. I haven't had a date in years. I haven't had sex for a long time. The older I get, I think the only thing I'm looking for - other than one that turns me on - is kindness. Physically? I like guys I would describe as geeky but dirty.
"I left her on the mountain" seems, at times, almost a cautionary tale, but also of hope and renewal. You survived a little. What else do you expect to accomplish, what are your goals at this time?
My goals are simple at this point. Waking up each day and unconditional surrender to the will of God. I pray to remain sober for another day. And to react the same way, no matter what happens to me, good or bad, and that is a graceful and humble reaction.
(Photo Credit: Matt Edge)
Translated by Claudio Souza in 01 of July of 2015, with revision of Mara Macedo