The gay interview: Jordin Sparks

American Idol winner Jordin Sparks’ first feature film — Sparkle co-starring the late gay icon Whitney Houston — opens tomorrow, and earlier this month she spoke frankly with our celeb correspondent Chris Azzopardi about working with Whitney Houston, their affection for their gay fan bases and how her Christian background taught her to love, not hate.

Jordin sparkles

Whitney Houston’s starring role — the last before her tragic death earlier this year — isn’t the only reason Sparkle has “gay” written all over it: There’s the flamboyant style of the ’60s, an all-girl singing group and, well, the movie’s name.

Seated in a hotel suite outside Detroit, where the film was shot, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks lights up knowing how many of her gay fans will see her on the big screen in her movie debut.

Sparks’ return to Motown in early August was even more appropriate when Aretha Franklin, who sang on the soundtrack for the 1976 original film, showed up to walk the red carpet with the remake’s star. Even though she lost a nail, the 22-year-old said having the Queen of Soul there was “absolutely incredible.”

About the finger fiasco: “I was freaking out because I looked at the picture of Aretha and me and the nail is gone.” That’s not a problem today, however. “I made sure I glued these suckers on like nobody’s business!”

After the jump, ever so bubbly Sparks chats about Whitney’s mutual adoration for the gay community, addressed “mean” rumors of her anti-gay upbringing and recalled her first time at a drag club — in Dallas!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

THE NOONER: Arlington pastor who believes Antichrist is gay endorses Perry’s day of prayer

Your lunchtime quickie from Instant Tea:

• Dwight McKissic, Arlington pastor who says the Antichrist will be gay, endorses Rick Perry’s day of prayer.

• Transgender woman fatally shot in Washington, D.C.

• Ghana minister orders arrest of all gays.

• Gay “barbarians” glitter-bomb Marcus Bachmann’s “ex-gay” clinic.

• Students sue Minnesota school district over policy requiring staff to remain neutral on sexual orientation.

—  John Wright

Was Gingrich glitter-bomb an embarrassment to the gay rights movement or just plain fabulous?

As you’ve quite possibly heard, anti-gay GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was glitter-bombed by a gay activist Tuesday, during a book-signing prior to a fundraiser for the right-wing Minneapolis Family Council. Watch video of the incident from the AP below.

Clayton M. McCleskey, a contributing writer for the Dallas Morning News, writes on the newspaper’s Opinion Blog that he thinks the incident was “an embarrassment to the gay community and to the gay rights movement”:

If gay rights activists take issue with Gingrich’s less-than-enlightened stance on gay rights, then there are many ways for them to raise the issue. Taking a bag of glitter and dumping it on Gingrich’s head is not one of them. That was a cheap shot. If the goal is to show that gays should be treated like the normal folks they are, is it all that productive to bring glitter into the debate?

According to Andrew Belonsky at Death+Taxes, the glitter bomb was not only productive, it was “fabulous”:

ACT-UP’s members enacted the most sensational and compelling of all gay protests: in 1987, they sprawled out at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway to demand more access to newly developed AIDS drugs, and that same year hung their famous “Silence Equals Death” banner in front of Ronald Reagan’s White House. Seventeen years later, ten nude ACT-UP activists protests the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Though some of the group’s protests were grim, they all effectively employed a blithe spirit, catapulting them onto front pages around the nation, and the world. So too has Erickson’s stunt, which will hopefully inspire more imaginative and playful protests that capture the nation’s attention.

What do you think?

—  John Wright