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La Toya Jackson Won $65,000 on Apprentice for AIDS Project Los Angeles

By SheWired Editors

April 22, 2011

On NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, La Toya Jackson competed to raise funds for a cause close to her and her brother Michael’s heart, AIDS Project Los Angeles.

In a recent episode, La Toya won and donated $65,000 to APLA. The organization said the much-needed funds were a blessing in the wake of government cuts on their funding. "A gift of this size would allow us to buy enough food to serve every client at all nine of our food pantries for a month," communication director Gabriel McGowan said, "with funds left over for our many other HIV prevention and care programs."

Ready to release her long-delayed 11th studio album, Startin’ Over, La Toya sat down with writer Brandon Voss to talk about her work for APLA and honoring her brother’s legacy.

Here are a few insightful highlights from the HIVPlus interview:

Why did you choose AIDS Project Los Angeles as your charity organization on Celebrity Apprentice?
My brother is in the Guinness Book of World Records for giving over $400 million to charities around the world, and AIDS Project Los Angeles was one that was very close to his heart. When I was approached to do Celebrity Apprentice, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to bring some awareness to APLA.

Of all the charities that Michael was involved with, why was APLA so special to him?
Well, there are a lot of different charities, and no one charity is better than the others. But there are young kids out there suffering from AIDS, innocent kids who didn’t ask for this and who don’t have a voice, so Michael knew how important it was to find a cure. I remember going to the hospital to see these poor little babies that weren’t any bigger than my hand because they had AIDS.

How will the money you raise on Celebrity Apprentice be used to help people?
Some will be donated toward the effort to find a cure. Some will go to buy groceries and things for those who can no longer leave their homes—I often go deliver groceries to people. But more than anything, the money raised will go toward giving people medicine to keep them well. The medicine is very expensive, especially when you don’t have insurance.

How 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.

Read more about La Toya Jackson’s work for APLA, her music, and her brother’s memory in this new interview onHIvPLus.com now.