NBC’s The Voice has been a big hit in the ratings this season, at times even eclipsing American Idol’s reign as the nation’s most-watched vocal music competition. One of the contestants on The Voice, Jamar Rogers, has won over America’s hearts, and is keeping viewers coming back for more.
Week-by-week, the 29-year-old Bronx native mesmerizes viewers, mainly with his raspy baritone voice, but also because of his remarkable backstory. During the auditioning process for the competition, Rogers revealed that he is HIV positive, and that he contracted the disease when he was 23-years-old.
WATCH JAMAR ROGERS AUDITION FOR ‘THE VOICE’ HERE
Rogers said that he contracted HIV about six years ago, when he was living in Atlanta and battling a longtime addiction to crystal meth. “I had been using pretty hardcore for about five years,” he admitted, “I had gotten down to 125 pounds. It was bad. None of my friends would let me live with them, because I was stealing from them. I literally was homeless. My whole family didn’t know where I was for like two years.”
Though he has been sober for six years, Rogers said that he has lived in fear that his troublesome past would ruin his shot at fame.
He auditioned for American Idol three years ago, but did not disclose his HIV status to producers. “I remember being completely petrified throughout that entire process that the producers would find out,” Rogers said during an interview with the New York Post, “Maybe my roommate would find out. I just lived with this massive cloud over my head.”
When Rogers appeared on The Voice he shared his intimate secret with nearly 20 million viewers, and since his audition aired in February, he has been bombarded with support from his fans.
“I can’t believe I was scared for so long,” he said. “Because people are so supportive, man, and I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe how cool people are being.”
Now that he is a breakout star with a very large platform, Rogers is using his voice to encourage and inspire people. The soulful crooner says he auditioned for The Voice because he wanted to start a national conversation, and change the face of HIV.
“We all look at Magic Johnson and we say, ‘Oh, he’s doing well.’ But who else do people with HIV have to look up to?” Rogers said. “I would actually love to go around to high schools and college campuses and talk to people and let them know that wherever they are right now, they’re not alone.”
Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC