Solange Knowles is the new face of The Body Shop and MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation Say “Yes, Yes, Yes” to Safe Sex campaign. The 22-year-old “Sol-Angel” is asking young people worldwide to say “Yes” to safe sex. ESSENCE.com had the chance to speak to the budding star and single mother at New York’s Meet at the Apartment where she talks candidly about why she is passionate about this cause, President Obama inspiring her to want to do more, and how she will one day handle having the sex talk with her son Daniel, 5.
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“Initially I thought this was a heavy and scary topic, but when I heard the statistics of how many thousands of your people are infected by the disease each day, as a mother and as an artist, I wanted to get involved. This campaign is not preachy or judgmental, which never gets through, especially to young people,” says Solange.
Beyoncé and Solange were thrust into the spotlight at an early age. With the pressures of Hollywood and working in an industry where sex sells, Solange explains how their parents approached the sex subject. “Growing up you have two sets of campaigns—abstain from sex or use a condom. Our parents gave us the ‘real deal Holyfield’ to put us in a position to make real decisions. The reality is young people are having sex,” says the young mother who got married and delivered her son Daniel at the tender age of 17.
“I was exposed to AIDS when I was 9 years old. My mom’s best friend growing up was diagnosed with AIDS and he basically raised me when my mom was launching her business. Although I didn’t understand at the time what HIV or AIDS was, I knew that’s what he passed away from. He was one of the key people who helped build the foundation of who I am and this is why I have a close attachment to this cause,” shares Solange.
With research showing more than 3,000 new HIV infections daily among young adults ages 15-24, the Staying Alive campaign is designed to target young people taking risks with their own health and that of their sexual partners. Do you practice safe sex?
“The Body Shop has a rich history of supporting important social and human causes. We felt it was imperative to encourage a discussion on safe sex even if it meant causing a bit of a commotion," says Shelley Simmons, director of values for The Body Shop America. "We hope this campaign educates consumers on the importance of safe sex and knowing your status.”
Get pretty with The Body Shop’s new Tantalising Lip Butter, $8, and let your pretty pout support a great cause. Approximately $5 from every purchase of the fruity lip butter will benefit the Staying Alive Foundation.
For many young people, talking about safe sex, STD testing and the number of sexual partners you have can be an awkward discussion. “You need to be scared of the disease and not scared about talking about it," says the star.
“You have to initiate the conversation about safe sex, it’s your life and it’s your responsibility,” says Solange. "Whether you talk about it with your partner before or right before, it just better be before [you choose to have sex],” shares Knowles.
Grammy-winning R&B hit maker Kelly Rowland was named the first MTV Staying Alive Foundation (SAF) Ambassador in March 2008. As the SAF Ambassador, Rowland lends her charisma and celebrity to raise the profile of the foundation, whose mission is to empower young people who are protecting themselves and their communities against HIV/AIDS.
In June 2008, Rowland and MTV Staying Alive Foundation took a trip to Africa to meet some of the inspirational Staying Alive grant winners in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
“I had a three-hour pow-wow with actress Jurnee Smollett about how we could start something on a grassroots level that could have a global impact, and she is actually an ambassador for four or five different organizations. Jurnee does a lot of work with the Obama administration, and now we have a leader who demonstrates the importance of serving," shares Solange.
“I’m in a position for the first time to really make an impact. I use Twitter and I’ve asked 75,000 of my Twitter friends what needs to be done so our voices can be heard,” says the Texas native.
We can’t say it enough: abstinence is clearly the best protection from STDs, but if you choose to have sex, condoms are a must.
Over the last two years MTV and The Body Shop have raised more than $2 million for the Staying Alive Foundation. This funding has provided grants to young people to work on HIV-prevention efforts amongst their peers at a grassroots level. To find out more about award recipients benefiting from campaign support, visit Staying-alive.org.