Lance Smith

Lance Smith

 New York City, New York, USA
BandSpoken Word

The DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? speakers are young people living with HIV or AIDS. The DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? lecture is encouraging young people to know their status, end discrimination against those living with the disease and share what they learn with someone they know--all without using fear.

Biography

Lance Smith grew up in a small Oklahoma town with a family that was constantly in turmoil. He was creative as a child and had big dreams of being an actor but his parents drank heavily and often Lance was left to take care of them instead of following his aspirations. Lance lacked the structure at home that he needed and in turn he hung out with the wrong crowds in an effort to find the support he needed.

At the age of 14 Lance started experimenting with drugs and sex. He felt discouraged and defeated and masked his feelings of inadequacy with destructive behavior towards himself and those around him. Lance enrolled in theater, AP classes and spent his spare time in a variety of student organizations. While managing his busy academic life, Lance’s addictive behavior increased and led him down a dangerous path. Unlike his peers, Lance didn’t have the conversations on sex and life from his parents or the school and with very little tools to deal with difficult situations, he was unable to see a promising future.

During high school Lance he had the opportunity to travel to New York City. The city was alive with people, noise and diversity and he felt like he belonged. Following his New York City trip and after a dangerous overdose of drugs, Lance came to the conclusion that he needed to make drastic changes in his life. He stopped using drugs, was able to concentrate on school and graduated with a full scholarship to the University of Central Oklahoma.

In college, Lance felt the freedom and the sense of belonging that he had always longed for. He found a group of peers he could relate to and felt accepted. Lance embraced his dream of the theater performing in college productions. Lance found his life had turned around and that his hard work and determination was giving him a life he had only imaged. Unfortunately the stability was short lived and with the pressure of school, activities and his new-found freedom, the bad habits of the past came back into his life. He once again fell into the destructive lifestyle that claimed a majority of his high school years. He lost his scholarship and found himself back at home and in recovery.

Two weeks after arriving home, Lance received news that would change his life forever. On an ordinary summer afternoon Lance answered the phone and was told by the woman from the state health department that he needed to immediately follow up on an appointment. A sense of panic overcame Lance as he remembered the HIV test he took two weeks earlier. Lance asked the woman to share the news over the phone. She did, telling him he was HIV positive. Lance was overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. The thoughts of getting sick and dying filled his mind. Lance immediately went to his family and found the support and love which he desperately needed. Lance left home and found himself wandering around the country feeling lost, alone, ending up in Hollywood living in a half-way house for homeless youth.

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles he learned the news that his mother died from alcohol poisoning. From the death of his mother he found his purpose and value of what he had been through. Lance knew that he had been through his struggles, accomplishments and pain so that he could share his story with others. Lance now lives in New York City and has turned his pain from the past into the strength for today. Lance travels the country speaking with students, sharing his story and sharing the message that by embracing our experiences and celebrating our realities, we can empower others to make healthy choices.

2011-12

Discography

The DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? lecture includes:
- an informative HIV and AIDS 101.
- the speaker sharing their story of being diagnosed and living with the disease.
- time for questions and answers creating a dialogue with the students.

Hope's Voice provides each school with:
- DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? handouts.
- the GET FEEDBACK report collected from surveys distributed at the event.
- a glossy and eye-catching electronic DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? promotional kit.
- the opportunity to order DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? t-shirts (at discounted rate) for the programming board.

2011-12