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

Miss LifeWalk pageant nets $18K

Buoyed by the phenomenal fundraising of Miss LifeWalk 2011 winner Lotta Pink — who came in to the pageant with sponsors and $7,000 already raised — the final tally for the event was $18,000. Lotta took not only the top title, but also Miss Money Bags for her pre-show fundraising.

LifeWalk, which raises money for AIDS Arms, Inc.,is a 3.2 miles fun walk through the Turtle Creek area. It takes place this year on Oct. 2.

Check out our coverage of the pageant here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTO: Miss LifeWalk winner crowned

LOTTA TALENT | Lotta Pink is crowned Miss LifeWalk 2011 during the highlight of the annual pageant, held Sunday, July 17, at The Round-Up Saloon. Heather Thomas was first runner-up, and Mowlawn Rouge was second runner-up. The pageant, produced by the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk Team, raised $18,000, which will go toward the annual LifeWalk event, set this year for Oct. 2 in Lee Park. Hosts for the pageant were Ima Lush and Victoria Weston, and Ivanna Whataburger made a special appearance. Lotta Pink also won the Miss Spirit of LifeWalk award, the Miss Money Bags award, the evening wear competition and the talent competition. Mowlawn Rouge was named Miss Congeniality.

—  John Wright

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Lotta Pink wins Miss LifeWalk

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM MISS LIFEWALK

I was asked to be one of the five judges at the Miss LifeWalk 2011 contest, which took place Sunday night at the Round-Up. It’s the first time I’ve judged a drag show, but the talent was evident — not only from the contestants, but from the other entertainers. Jenna Skyy gave a rousing performance (before she sat down alongside me to judge, with Dr. Bill Henderson, John Loza and Dallas Voice Ultimate Diva! Stacey McKinney), while Iona Trailer camped it up hilariously. One of the remarkable discoveries was former Voice of Pride Jason Huff, who donned a dress and gave a roaring church-revival-esque performance late in the show.

The crowd responded. Money was free-flowing for all three contestants, with Lotta Pink — who bested runners-up Heather Thomas and Mowlawn Rouge — in total money raised (before she even entered the club, she came with $7,000 in benefits for the LifeWalk). Lotta won the whole she-bang, largely as a result of having elaborate choreography (including dancing boys, pictured) during the talent portion.

Keeping everything going were co-hosts Ima Lush and Victoria Weston (who sang without lip-synching).

(Watch some reader video of Lotta Pink performing Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” after the jump.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones