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 Palm Center’s “Countup clock” – no military disaster since DADT ban lifted by fed court order

Ah yes, another appropriate poke in the eye of an administration and Pentagon that are making all sorts of specious excuses why the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military should be restored.

From the Palm Center, a new site “EnormousConsequences.com

At 2:00pm ET on Tuesday October 12, a federal Judge ordered the military to stop enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell”. The Pentagon has announced that it is complying with the order. On Wednesday October 13, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared that the suspension of the gay ban “has enormous consequences for our troops.”

The next day, the Pentagon stated that disruptions would occur in the short term: “Requiring the Department to cease all enforcement of DADT, immediately and worldwide, will cause significant disruptions to the force in the short term…” The Pentagon also suggested that it has not provided the troops with any training to prepare for the suspension of the ban: “…training programs cannot be provided instantaneously.” Research shows that two thirds of the troops know or suspect they know gay peers in their unit.

Above is a clock with the running total of hours during which gays have been allowed to serve openly, as well as a chart with the number of reported consequences of the new policy. The Palm Center has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for documentation on all negative consequences that result from the new policy.

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—  John Wright

Judge Walker Sets Aug. 18 as Date Stay is Lifted on Prop 8 Ruling

UPDATE: We now have official documents. The stay is in place until August 18, at which time couples can marry…

Walker Freedom to Marry tweeted earlier that Judge Walker had lifted the stay on his ruling striking down Proposition 8, and couples were free to marry in California, but made no mention of the delay.

The delay may give time for Prop 8 proponents to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit court of appeals.

Ari Ezra Waldman will be providing us some analysis in just a bit.

Said Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry in a statement (that was, perhaps, a bit hasty): 

“California is now the sixth state where same-sex couples share in the freedom to marry. As the Governor, the Attorney General, and Judge Walker have all concluded, there is no good reason to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage. Same-sex couples across California can once again share in the respect and personal significance of marriage, as well as the critical safety net of protections and responsibilities that marriage will bring to their families.

We are witnessing a growing consensus in America that loving and committed same-sex couples deserve the same respect and the same rights as everyone else. Americans on all sides of the aisle, from Laura Bush to Bill Clinton, have embraced the reality that the freedom to marry helps families, while hurting no one. As same-sex couples in California today celebrate their love, commitment, and equal protection under the law, a majority of Californians and a majority of Americans support their right to marry.”

Here's Walker's official ruling:

Final Stay Order


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—  John Wright