Reality television turned out to be more than just a passing fad; one of its stars currently holds the most powerful position in the world.
But before The Apprentice or even Big Brother, there was The Real World which took place with a different cast in a different city around the world every year. It followed the same formula time after time and when it hit New Orleans the token gay castmember was Danny Roberts.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Roberts revealed that he is HIV positive, and it forced him to challenge the stigmas even he held against people with the disease.
“I spent so long battling and beating myself up for my own misconceptions and bigotry,” he says. “It is difficult to admit the negative feelings you had about a set of people and state of being based on made-up stories.”
He says that he was diagnosed in 2011, over a decade after appearing in the show. He woke up in a pool of his own blood one day, terrified he called the doctor who told him his status; the results of a recent blood test.
“My first reaction was shock. Then I was angry, then lots of denial… Those early years were very difficult and very lonely,” he recalls. “You don’t know whom to turn to have conversation and people don’t know what to say. It’s not something that people have experience with,” he says. “There’s also the potential likelihood of massive judgments about what behaviors led to this and what kind of people this happens to.”
Although undetectable, the disease drains his energy he says.
One of his New Orleans co-stars, Kelley Limp has been his biggest source of support and strength.
“She’s my life sister,” Roberts says. “She was one of the first people I turned to and talked to. She has been strong and helped me through this.”
Now living in New York with his adopted daughter, Roberts doesn't want anyone's sympathy.
"The last thing I ever want is pity. I just want people to know and be aware. I knew so little myself so I get it.”
He adds. “I’ve been on such a journey to overcome that. In a way, this has really been like my second coming out.”