Judd Winick’s life was changed in so many ways when he joined the cast of the third season of MTV’s The Real World in San Francisco. Among other things, two of his housemates ended up being important people in his life: Pam Ling, whom he married in 2001, and Pedro Zamora, who quickly became a close friend before he died of complications from AIDS, at the age of 22 on Nov. 11, 1994.
Winick, who’s now an artist and author, shared a touching remembrance to Zamora on Monday.
He recognized his friend as someone who broke barriers for people living with HIV and AIDS.
“By appearing on THE REAL WORLD in ‘94, he showed everyone what it was really like to be living with AIDS, to be living out, to love, to be loved by friends, supported by family — to have a full life,” Winick wrote. “And it seems crazy that this was a lesson that needed to be taught. But it did.”
He noted that Zamora was “a beacon of inspiration,” but that he was more than that, too. He was also “charming,” as well as “funny,” “sweet,” and “always laughing.”
“For us who knew him, we still miss our friend,” Winick wrote. “We long to know what life would be like for all of us if he was still here. Pam and I can’t tell you how much we would love for Pedro to know our children.”
Winick also shared photos of the cast, which included Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy, who married an MTV cast member herself, former Wisconsin representative-turned-CNN contributor Sean Duffy. (He was part of the Boston cast on the 1997 cycle of The Real World, and they met while filming the network’s 1998 season of Road Rules: All Stars.)
When Zamora died, hours after the finale of his season aired, President Bill Clinton praised him for educating people by going on the show. Viewers saw his relationship with partner Sean Sasser, his work in AIDS activism, and even his medical visits.
In 2014, Real World co-creator Jonathan Murray explained why Zamora was cast.
“From the beginning, The Real World was about diversity, and we always wanted to make the show as diverse as possible,” Murray told MTV News. “With Pedro, we brought an openly gay, HIV-positive man into households across America — something that had never been done before. When we cast Pedro, we knew he was someone special, but we had no idea the impact he would have on our society, our culture and putting a face on AIDS. We’re proud to have helped introduce him to the world, and we're proud that 20 years later, his impact is still being felt.”
Winick’s tribute to Zamora prompted an outpouring of love for the late AIDS activist.
“Oh Judd, I don’t think anyone could have said it better [than] you just did!” one commenter wrote. “Pedro was a glimmering light that we were blessed to have with us, if only for a short while. He was simply incredible and will never be forgotten.”
Another added, “The world lost such a bright light 25 yrs ago.”
Yet another person shared, “He inspired me to open my mind and my heart.”
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