Overcoming fear and finding passion

Landon Starnes had to step outside his comfort zone to compete as Lotta Pink in the Miss LifeWalk Pageant

lotta1
Landon Starnes as Lotta Pink

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Talk to Landon Starnes about his involvement with LifeWalk, the annual walkathon benefiting AIDS Arms and its partner agencies, and you’ll hear

Starnes repeat the words “passion” and “fear” a lot.

Starnes said he let fear rule him for too long. But in the end, there’s no doubt that “passion” wins out.

Starnes, who works as a hairdresser, said that he was diagnosed with HIV in October 1998. But he wasn’t prepared to deal with reality, and so for years, he said, “I ignored my diagnosis emotionally.”

But then some friends began to encourage him to confront his HIV status by getting involved in LifeWalk, specifically by joining the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk team.

Starnes said it took him awhile to get up to speed, and he was involved with LifeWalk just “off and on” for several years. But three years ago, he decided to really take the plunge and has been an active member of the Guys and Dolls team ever since.

This year, even that got ratcheted up a notch when Starnes finally gave in to his teammates’ cajoling and entered the Miss LifeWalk Pageant.

“My team had been asking me for two years to enter the pageant, but I declined every time. I was just scared to death to do drag,” Starnes explained. “But this year, I decided to accept the challenge, even though it scared me.”

The first challenge was to come up with a character, so “I started brainstorming about a character, about who I would be,” Starnes said. “I started thinking about things I, as a person, am passionate about. And I am passionate about the singer Pink.

“Her music gets to me in a way that no one else’s does,” Starned continued. “Her lyrics inspire me. I think, if I had to pick just one, my favorite Pink song is ‘Glitter in the Air.’ It says, ‘Have you ever wished for an endless night?’ ‘Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?’ It made me look into myself, literally. Last summer, while we were on a road trip, my friends and I stopped and actually threw a fistful of glitter in the air. It was silly and fun, and now it is a memory that will last forever.”

But there is one line in the song, Starnes said, that really touched him, one lyric that made him think and gave him the determination to set aside the fear that had held him back: “Have you ever looked fear in the face, and said, I just don’t care?”

It was, Starnes said, a spark that made his passion for LifeWalk and for doing something to help others blaze even brighter.

“I knew I wasn’t going to try to be Pink, but I love what she does. So I decided I would kind of pay tribute to her with my character,” Starnes said.

And so, Lotta Pink was born.

And lo and behold, Lotta Pink won the Miss LifeWalk title on her first try, helping Starnes bring in about $7,000 for LifeWalk this year, bringing his total over all his Guys and Dolls years to about $11,000.

Starnes said he and Lotta Pink obviously have a lot in common. “We share our passion for the cause, first of all, and second, we both want to step outside the box,” Starnes said. “I was afraid of doing drag. But my favorite quote is ‘Do it scared,’ so that’s what I did. I stepped outside the box and challenged myself, and in doing that, I learned that fears are just fears, nothing else.”

Starnes said that while his fears still remain to some degree, Lotta Pink “has no fear,” and she is helping him overcome his own.

“It’s easier when you can put on a wig and some makeup and kind of step outside yourself,” Starnes said. “Now, learning to step out without that disguise is what comes next!”

Knowing that what he does is all to help AIDS Arms and the clients the agency serves makes it even easier to put the fear aside, Starnes said.

“The Guys and Dolls team works all year, not just on the day of LifeWalk. And the people at AIDS Arms work all year trying to help other people. I love AIDS Arms, and I love what it stands for,” Starnes said. “The walk itself is symbolic, to me. It’s a short walk, yes, but just going through the movement of walking allows you to release your passion.

“Everybody who participates is there for their own reasons, but whatever the reason, they are passionate about it,” he continued. “That alone speaks volumes. The biggest thing that came out of all this for me was seeing how good people really are.”

Again, it all comes down to overcoming fear and fully realizing the passion.

“It’s so important for everyone to find their passion, whether it’s LifeWalk or something else,” Starnes said. “Finding my passion has lifted me to a whole new level of awareness, understanding and joy. It’s just such a positive energy when you are around all these people at LifeWalk who work so hard to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s helped me find a happiness I have never known before.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, at Lee Park. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 1 p.m. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Starvoice • 01.14.11

By Jack Ferti

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYmichelle_obama

Michelle Obama turns 47 on Monday. Face it, we love the First Lady for adding some major fabulosity to the White House. She knows how to work a gown and a hairdo like no other first lady in a long time. Of course, we get behind what she’s doing for the country, too, taking on childhood obesity and support of military families. She just looks great doing it.

……………………….

THIS WEEK

Mercury lining up with Pluto in Capricorn helps us to focus our minds, although it can feed obsession over details and plans. Be mindful of where you place your thoughts and prioritize with productivity.

……………………….

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You were made to overcome hard times. Even when you feel old and worn out, those are signs of your work and accomplishments. Don’t forget to rest and charge your batteries.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Your darkest fears and nightmares are keys to powerful revelations. Face down your demons. Filthy gossip is the best kind, but it’s a terrible distraction from necessary work.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
The future looks bleak, but your imagination will find ways to make it through. Ignore fair-weather friends and party queens. Talk with those you can count on through the toughest times.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
Figure out how to reach your goals in life, no matter how long it takes. You should have a major career peak in about seven years. The better it’s planned, the higher it will be.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Push your mind and imagination to their limits. Don’t be scared of big arguments or grand ideas or even a bit of controversy. Getting a little out of your comfort zone will be good for you.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Some of your darkest feelings come up like a geyser. Erotic passion and secret fears are at the top of the list. Have a close friend handy who can be trusted with your nastiest intimate secrets.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
It may feel like an argument with your partner could kill your relationship, but not airing those issues is worse. If single, being honest will scare away all but those who truly deserve you.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Every relationship takes work. Take up the tough issues now while it’s a little easier. You’ll be surprised at what problems can be resolved in the bedroom. It will at least help.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Honing your skills is fine, but don’t get worked up over something that’s supposed to be relaxing and fun. Even if you’re looking to go pro remember, it’s an entertainment, not an obsession.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You can unlock family secrets, but are you sure you want to know? Let sleeping dogs lie. If you find out you will learn why it’s a secret and why you must guard it just as carefully.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You can be trusted to keep a secret, and your friends see you as a father-confessor. Keeping their secrets and offering counsel may be an honor or a burden. It’s not obligatory.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
As bleak as your financial situation looks, there are answers. Figure them out, even if they seem out of reach. It will probably take a lot of time and effort, but don’t get discouraged. You can do it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas