La Toya Jackson: Sister Pledge

As a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, La Toya Jackson continues her late brother Michael’s commitment to AIDS Project Los Angeles. But which catty competitor’s side is she on — Star Jones or NeNe Leakes?

BY Brandon Voss

March 03 2011 5:55 PM ET

LATOYA JACKSON MAIN X390 (NBC) | ADVOCATE.COMHow have you been personally impacted by HIV and AIDS?
I’ve lost quite a few friends to the disease. I had a makeup artist — he actually did my makeup for my Playboy spread — and we were very close. I just couldn’t understand it in the beginning. He passed away, and then one of my dancers, who was also very close to my heart, passed away. Another friend, Bobby DeBarge, eventually died from the disease as well. It was very troubling to feel like I couldn’t do anything about it. But now I know that even though you can’t cure the disease in one moment, you can certainly do something to help by giving.

Do you feel that AIDS awareness has receded since the ’80s and ’90s?
Yes, and people need to be reminded that it’s still affecting millions. In the beginning that’s all we heard about, and people were terrified because we didn’t have enough knowledge. We forget the fact that it’s still out there, but it needs to be back at the forefront now so that people can be more aware and can donate more to AIDS-related causes. It’s a disease that’s not going away anytime soon.

When did you first feel the support of LGBT community?
When I first decided to sing. Well, my father said, “You’re going to do an album,” so I did an album. After that first album in 1980, that’s when I first felt the love from the gay community. They embraced me greatly, and I was flabbergasted, actually, because it was all so new. I’ve been overwhelmed by the undying devotion, which is really wonderful. I love it.

And you’ve returned the favor.
Well, that support comes from my heart, but it’s always good to give back. They embrace me, so I embrace them.

You got another stamp of approval from the gay community when you were asked to be a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race this season. How was that experience?
I love RuPaul to death. He’s been a friend for many years, and it’s wonderful to be around him. But I did think, Oh, my God, they’re all going to be so gorgeous, and their makeup is going to be so over-the-top. I’m going to look like Plain Jane!

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