Up until very recently, Sheryl Lee Ralph believed this would be the last year putting on her star-studded DIVAS Simply Singing! signature AIDS benefit concert. Ralph, an actress and singer of legendary stature known for her enterprising role as Deena Jones in the original Dreamgirls Broadway cast and countless other film and television credits, has dedicated the last 25 years of her life to shining the spotlight on HIV and AIDS. She knows now that it’s far from time for the curtains to close. A diva’s work is never done.
In 1990, Ralph founded the DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed) Foundation and married her passion for helping others in need with her incredible artistic gifts. Now in 2015, the 58-year-old activist believes her work is even more necessary.
“We can see sex. We can sell sex. But we can’t talk about it in a healthy, informative way? It’s alright to be a freak in the sheets, but you can’t be a healthy sexual person? Something’s wrong about that.”
Bold and unapologetic, Ralph’s take-no-mess approach has served her well in the fight to save lives, particularly the many Black lives that are most affected. Partnering with companies like OraSure, Ralph continues to champion the message by any means necessary that early testing and knowing your status is a game changer.
BlackDoctor.org recently spoke with Sheryl Lee Ralph about being one of Hollywood’s biggest voices in the HIV/AIDS conversation for over two decades.
BDO: What inspired you to create the Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware (DIVA) Foundation?
Ralph: You know, it started for me as an original company member of Dreamgirls on Broadway and to me I always say that that was one of the greatest times in my life and it was parallel to one of the worst and that was when I started to see friends and cast members get sick and die of this mysterious disease. And with them being sick and in their greatest time of need, I saw how horrible people could be to one another and they were mistreated, they were left to die alone and it was a horrible death and I said this can’t happen. As human beings, we’ve got to be able to do better for and by each other. And so I just started getting in the fight, becoming aware, getting information. And there were many others who were losing friends as well and I just tried to pull it all together to make sure that we did something that helped our friends and that’s where the inspiration came from. There was a need for people to care.