A Positive Outlook: Karim Odoms Shares His Success Pt 2
In Part One of Karim Odoms’ story, we learned how the celebrity stylist and Philly native worked his way from styling hair at the Aveda Institute in New York City to create O’Karim Studios, specializing in styling, hair color, extensions and cutting.
He attracted the attention of industry insiders like Laurie Ann Gibson, who tapped him to style for her show, "Born to Dance." He relocated to Los Angeles, and began working with stars including Tia Mowry, Lady Gaga, Queen Latifah, Alicia Silverstone and more.
Odoms now looks toward a sunny future. But it wasn’t always that way. In 2003, he was diagnosed positive for HIV. He went through some rough times, trying to escape through drugs and sex. Eventually, he came through the other side, building up his body, getting control of his T-cell count, and finding success in his career.
He shares his story and advice for other young MSM with EDGE in Part Two of this two-part story.
EDGE: What were some of the obstacles you faced in your career?
ODOMS: In terms of my career I’ve faced obstacles as far as getting excited for a job and a client and last minute finding out that it didn’t work out. That happens a lot in this business. I did overcome that with the job in Utah. It was a union gig and I at the time I was not able to do it because of that, but my client fought hard for me to come and it worked out in my favor.
In terms of living with HIV, I had my daughter before I was diagnosed but I someday would like another child so of course with the diagnosis I cannot have a son of my own. That’s okay; I will get around that obstacle in the future by adopting a son.
Obstacles in dating are solely based on rejection. As the epidemic continues to advance there are still a lot of people who have a negative diagnosis that are not open to dating someone HIV-positive. You get over that by understanding that what is for you will be and what is not won’t. Make peace with it and move forward.
EDGE: What inspired you to share your experiences with others?
ODOMS: There were a few things that inspired me to share my experiences. They include losing my best friend in 2008 to the virus. Also, when I came out and told my dad that I was positive , and he too revealed to me that he was also HIV-positive. He passed away a few years after -- not to the virus but to other complications.
I lost a lot of friends to HIV, and I saw how it affected their lives by not seeking medical support and treatment, or by not getting support from their friends and families because they kept it a secret. All of these things inspired me to want to be a voice for those who couldn’t or never had the opportunities and for the others who wanted to find their voice.
EDGE: How do you hope to make a difference in the lives of others?
ODOMS: I hope to make a difference by living my best life openly and freely and inspiring others to do the same. Defying odds, stigmas or social standards that you can indeed live and create your best life how you see fit to and not through the eyes or lens of anyone else. I want to make a difference not just in the lives of those living with HIV but to anyone who has dreams, visions, or ideas that they want to express. We were taught to believe that we have to be or do things a certain way, and that’s a lie. We can simply just be by being our most authentic, weird, crazy, different, adventurous self.
EDGE: What advice would you share with young gay men?
ODOMS: The best advice I could share is simple: protect yourself, be yourself, express yourself, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself not for being who you are or who you were created to be, but forgive yourself for all the lies, unkind things you’ve said about yourself or done to yourself through the hurt, pain or mistakes you made along the way! And most importantly, love yourself. It allows you to be more giving and receiving of love. Thy shall love thy fabulous Jeug’e!