Educated, attractive, assertive and ambitious are just a few of the words used to describe Rae Lewis-Thornton. In 1986, during a routine blood drive visit at a Washington D.C. Red Cross, Rae received news of another word that would soon be used to describe her health and future. At the tender age of 23, Rae Lewis-Thornton was diagnosed HIV Positive.
Despite her present day status of having full-blown AIDS (ACQUIRED Immune-deficiency Syndrome), Rae Lewis-Thornton leads her own unending crusade to educate and challenge young and old audiences to take control of their own bodies, futures and health. Rae uses her life as an example that AIDS is a non-discriminatory disease. She challenges the most common myths and stereotypes surrounding who and how one can become infected with the HIV virus that most often results in AIDS and death. In doing this, she incorporates her own oratory skills, personal experiences and unyielding honesty to create and disseminate her critical and deadly message of her own day by day, personal destruction by AIDS.
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award winning AIDS Activist. She rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with HIV/AIDS in a cover story to Essence Magazine. In the past 22 years, she has traveled worldwide in an unending crusade in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Rae Lewis-Thornton has been featured in countless magazines such as, Glamour, O-The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, Essence, Jet, Ebony, Emerge, Black Excellence, Heart and Soul, WOE, Poz and The Crisis, as well as, many newspaper outlets, including The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-times, to name a few. She received her Emmy Award for an on-going series of first-person news reports on her life of Living With AIDS, for CBS-Chicago. She has been featured on national television and online shows including Huffington Post Live, TV One, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Nightline with Ted Kopel in a news article Rae’s Story, AIDS the next Wave and AIDS 25 years in review with Ted Kopel. She has also been on Dateline, Black Entertainment Television (BET), CNN and the Montel Williams Show and countless other news and radio shows around the world.
Prior to Rae’s motivational speaking career, she was on her way to a promising political organizing career. Having served as Senator Carol Mosley Braun’s 1992 Senatorial Campaign Advance Coordinator, Illinois State Youth Coordinator for the 1988 Dukakis Presidential Campaign and National Youth Director for Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 Presidential Campaigns, Rae was forced to retire in 1993 as a result of her health.
Rae has become a pioneer in using Social Media to educate and challenge stigma around HIV/AIDS and to promote issues around self-love. Her integrated use of Social Media has gained her national acclaim. She was featured on BET News, and in a cover story for the Chicago Tribune, which was picked up by the Associated Press on her savvy use of Social Media.
Rae has been asked to share her expertise in blogging and Social Media for Social Change. She has been asked twice to speak at BlogHer’s annual conference. In 2013 she was the closing keynote for HealthMinder and 2014 she was asked back to lead a Pathfinder, helping bloggers specifically blog for Social Change. She participated in Chicago Social Media Week on a panel with Chicago’s Commissioner of Health in 2012. She was asked in 2014 to speak at Walgreens Corporate office around HIV education and the use of Social Media.
Her award winning blog Diva Living With AIDS has had unprecedented success. (http://www.raelewisthornton.com) In 2014 she was named Top Ten Social Makers in HIV/AIDS by ShareCare, Dr. Mehmet Oz’s interactive online health and wellness website. She won the CBS Most Valuable Blogger Award in Health and Wellness in 2010 and the Black WEBlog Award in Health and Wellness in 2012. Her blog receives approximately 50,000 views monthly, with over a million views in just three years. Her blog is also syndicated on the Body.com, which is the largest HIV resource in the country, Poz Magazine.com one of the oldest HIV/AIDS Magazines in the country and BlackDocotrs.com. Rae also writes for ChicagoMoms.com about health and wellness. Her brands include, Tea With Rae --Tea Reviews with over 20 Companies around the world participating. She launched a Twitter Book Club RLT Reads in 2010 with up to a 100 participants. Rae can be found educating on Twitter daily @RaeLT and in 2010 she won the British Academy of Golden Tweet Award in Public Service.
Rae launched a line of fashion bracelets, RLT Collection in 2009. Her handcrafted original designs can be seen on the wrist of celebrities, such as Sheryl Lee Ralph, Phaedra Parks from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Kim Coles, Dionne Warwick, Jennifer Holliday, Santita Jackson, The Santita Jackson Show and Judge Greg Mathis. Her exclusive web-store is http://www.rltcollection.com
Rae Lewis-Thornton graduated Cum Laude from Northeastern Illinois University. She began her Masters in Political Science at the University of Illinois-Chicago, two classes from graduating; she developed full-blown AIDS and quit school because of her health. Ten years later, alive and moving forward in spite of AIDS, she attended McCormick Theological Seminary on a Merit Scholarship and earned a Master of Divinity Degree. She received the Author Hayes Fellowship in Church History from McCormick upon graduating. She worked on her PhD Student in Church History at the Lutheran School of Theology-Chicago. She is an ordained minster.
Rae has published two books, The Politics of Respectability and Amazing Grace Letters Along My Journey. She is currently editing her memoir; Unprotected and writing a one woman show that will be produced by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Rae Lewis-Thornton received the Distinguished Alumnae Award from her alma mater Northeastern Illinois University in 2011, as well as, countless other awards for her work around HIV/AIDS. In May 2012 she was asked by Mc Lyte to serve on the Advisory board for her Hip Hop Sisters Network. Rev. Rae Lewis-Thornton has lived with HIV for 31 years and AIDS for 22. She continues to use her life and story to enrich the lives of others.