Educated, attractive, assertive and ambitious are just a few of the words used to describe Rae Lewis-Thornton. In 1986, during a routine blood drive visit at a Washington D.C. Red Cross, Rae received news of another word that would soon be used to describe her health and future. At the tender age of 23, Rae Lewis-Thornton was diagnosed HIV Positive.
Despite her present day status of having full-blown AIDS (ACQUIRED Immune-deficiency Syndrome), Rae Lewis-Thornton leads her own unending crusade to educate and challenge young and old audiences to take control of their own bodies, futures and health. Rae uses her life as an example that AIDS is a non-discriminatory disease. She challenges the most common myths and stereotypes surrounding who and how one can become infected with the HIV virus that most often results in AIDS and death. In doing this, she incorporates her own oratory skills, personal experiences and unyielding honesty to create and disseminate her critical and deadly message of her own day by day, personal destruction by AIDS.
Featured on the cover of the December 1994 Essence magazine, as well as numerous feature stories in Ebony, Jet, Emerge, O- The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day Magazine, Glamour, WOW, Poz, Lifelines and HIV Plus magazines, Chicago Tribune newspaper, Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, Washington Post, Dayton Daily News, to name a few. Rae has been featured on several national television documentaries, news shows, and television specials, such as Dateline, CNN, Black Entertainment Television, (BET) and the Montel Williams Show. Rae was featured on NIGHTLINE with Ted Koppel in news articles entitled, “Rae’s Story,” AIDS: The Next Wave and AIDS At Twenty Years. The Oprah Winfrey Show had her on to share her story. Rae served as a contributing editor for WBBM-TV, a CBS-owned and operated television station for an ongoing series of first person stories on living with AIDS. She received an Emmy Award for her series. Rae uses all forms of media to convey her message. In less than a year Rae Lewis-Thornton has made her mark in Social Media. She is the recipient of the British Academy Golden Tweet Award in Public Service for 2010 and The 2011 CBS Chicago Most Valuable Blogger in Medical, Health and Fitness. She uses Twitter effectively to continue her crusade to educate, reduce the spread of HIV, as well as to challenge stigma and shame around HIV/AIDS. She held the first HIV/AIDS Tweet-up in the US in July 2010 and is now taking her Tweet-up’s nationwide. In December 2010 Rae organized a Twitter Book Club, RLT Reads. Along with Twitter, she uses both of her Facebook pages as a daily platform to educate both on HIV/AIDS generally and her personal struggle of living and managing HIV/AIDS.
Prior to Rae’s motivational speaking career, she was on her way to a promising political organizing career. Having served as Senator Carol Mosley Braun’s 1992 Senatorial Campaign Advance Coordinator, Illinois State Youth Coordinator for the 1988 Dukakis Presidential Campaign and National Youth Director for Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 Presidential Campaigns, Rae was forced to retire in 1993 as a result of her health.
In 2009 Rae launched a line of bracelets, RLT Collection that she designs and make herself. Celebrities such as actress Sheryl Lee Ralph and Kim Coles, as well as, Judge Glenda Hatchett and Dionne Warwick wear RLT Collection.
Rae Lewis Thornton’s gift is to help people get passed their pain and live a healthy balanced life. For the past 19 years she’s done that through speaking, press interviews, tv, radio, print and most recently in her blog. In January 2012 she is expanding her work by giving people the opportunity to have her expertise one on one through life coaching RLT Inspiration. The areas of life coaching are confidence, balance and relationships. RLT Inspiration will utilize her life experience and her seminary training. She received a Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in 2003. She was licensed as minister over 12 years ago. Rae has done her PhD studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Rae graduated Manga Cum Laude graduate from Northeastern Illinois University. Rae is very proud to have received the 2011 Distinguished Alumnae Award from her alma-mater Northeastern as well as, deliver the 2011 Commencement Address. Rae has received literally hundreds of awards for her work in HIV/AIDS in the last eighteen years.