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Annie Lennox Makes HIV/AIDS a Fashion Statement in Style Files

"The world is so skewed and people have so little, and there you are [asking], 'And who are you wearing on the red carpet?' I don't want to be part of that."

By Courtney E. Smith

Annie Lennox does not care about fashion, but she does care about style. And, as she reveals in this episode of Radio.com’s Style Files, she will happily use clothing and fashion to make the world a better place.

Lennox is known for wearing t-shirts that say “HIV Positive” on them—she’s been donning them for years as a means of removing the stigma of admitting one’s status, which she says has been important to express in developing nations who are absolutely ravaged by HIV and AIDS.

“There’s something about wearing that t-shirt that makes that statement and says, ‘It’s okay if you’re HIV positive. You don’t have to be a pariah,'” Lennox explains. “And also that t-shirt was used as a campaigning tool in South Africa, constantly. The activists would go out and protest openly, and everybody would wear an HIV t-shirt, whether they were HIV positive or not.”

Her t-shirt activism is part of her work with the SING Campaign, which she founded in 2007, to help prevent the spread of HIV in South Africa and supports those currently living with HIV. It’s also solidly in line with her personal fashion philosophy, in which the most important factors are comfort and affordability.

“I have worn expensive clothes and I do have expensive clothes, but I just don’t want to make a statement about that,” Lennox said. “The world is so skewed and people have so little, and there you are [asking], ‘And who are you wearing on the red carpet?’ I don’t want to be part of that.”

It doesn’t mean Lennox won’t explore fashion as a tool in her performances or even to get across an iconographic message, like the leather mask she wears on the cover of the Eurythmics album Touch.

“It had a lot of sort of subliminal messaging about strength and femininity, about masks and hiding and about ambiguity of gender,” Lennox says in explanation of the highly recognizable photograph. “All these things are contained within a very identifiable piece of imagery. I think that is one strong piece of art.”

Lennox’s latest album, Nostalgia, is available now.

 

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