And what did he think the corporate reaction would be if he were to contract HIV? “Cirque would be behind me,” Arias said — and de Quevedo, interjecting her thoughts on the question, seemed to agree. “The key would be that you would be supported and the case would be properly examined, but you would feel supported and taken care of,” she said.
Thanks to Cusick, they both may well be right.
As for Cusick himself, life didn’t turn out the way he’d feared. “I actually thought that coming out so publicly with my HIV status — I thought I was not going to work again and follow my dream and perform,” Cusick says. “Gladly, I was wrong.”
An aerial dance troupe called Anti-Gravity heard about Cusick’s fight and hired him. He has also performed at Broadway Bares, an annual AIDS benefit, and at the Fire Island Dance Festival.
In the end, what started out as the worst day of his life became a turning point for Cusick — and also, apparently, for Cirque. Although the troupe offered him his job back after the settlement, Cusick turned it down because, he says, “I couldn’t be a supporting member of any company that held ignorance over learned judgment and revenue over people.”
Now, in addition to a comfortable bank account, a new job and speaking engagements, Cusick gained a sense of self-awareness he says was missing in his former days as a fun-loving showoff.
Cirque admitted its mistake and is promoting HIV awareness.
The fallout from this is an undramatic but satisfying revelation: The system worked. Science triumphed over ignorance. One man was able to bridge past and present, forcing a big corporation to evolve from outdated thought to 21st-century awareness.
“It’s surprising to know the strength you really do have inside yourself,” Cusick says, “when you’re pushed up against a rock.”