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

DADT advocate Justin Elzie speaks at RCD

Being all he can be

Justin Elzie may be a happy man right now. As “don’t ask, don’t tell” comes to an end, his work wasn’t in vain. Named Marine of the Year in ‘93, he was discharged for coming out on national TV. He sued, won and has been advocating for LGBT rights in the military. He comes to Dallas to discuss his work in fighting for DADT’s repeal.

DEETS: Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan 2 p.m. RCDallas.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Light a Fire tonight at The Mac

Time to light a fire under people

When a group of friends came together to take a stance against bullying, Light a Fire was born. Now they hope to encourage many others to continue to raise awareness and educate on the issue. Fort Worth councilman Joel Burns guest speaks along with Dottie Griffith, Mike Rawlings and more at the Light a Fire inaugural event, with donations given to Youth First Texas.

DEETS: The MAC, 3120 McKinney Ave. 6:30 p.m. $25. The-Mac.org. Search “light a fire” on Facebook.

—  Rich Lopez

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Joan Rivers Speaks Up for Marriage Equality

The Human Rights Campaign is excited to launch its thirteenth video for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign with the addition of the iconic Joan Rivers. The new video and our entire campaign can be viewed online at www.hrc.org/NY4marriage. Joan Rivers joins other  prominent New Yorkers, from leaders and advocates, to actors and musicians who are letting America know that New York supports marriage equality.

“All New Yorkers believe in fairness,” said Rivers in video released today. “That is why we should support marriage equality, for goodness sakes!”

With this thirteenth installment Rivers joins Barbara Bush,  Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mayor Bloomberg, Whoopi Goldberg,  Fran Drescher, Moby, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Julianne Moore, designer Kenneth Cole and Broadway star Daphne Rubin-Vega to support marriage equality in the state. HRC plans to continue joining with prominent New Yorkers speaking out in support for marriage equality. Many more voices are to come in the days ahead, including: David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Ethan and Ryan Hawke and Christopher Meloni.

A January 2011 Siena Research Institute Poll found 57% of New Yorkers support marriage equality.  In another poll recently released by Quinnipiac University, New Yorkers support marriage equality by the highest margin ever in that poll (56% to 37% opposed).


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Watch: Chris Colfer Wins Golden Globe, Speaks Out Against Bullying

Colfer

Chris Colfer won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a TV series as gay teen Kurt Hummel, on Glee.

Said Colfer: "To all the amazing kids that watch our show, and the kids that our show celebrates that are constantly told 'no' by the people and the environments, by bullies at school that they can't be who they are or have what they want because of who they are, well (holds up award)…screw that kids!"

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

Other LGBT-related Globes of note: Annette Bening wins Best Actress in Musical or Comedy for The Kids Are All Right, Jane Lynch wins Best Supporting Actress in a TV series for Glee, Glee for Best Musical or Comedy TV series, The Kids Are All Right for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy…

Full list coming post-show.



Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

LIVE VIDEO: Obama Speaks In Tucson

UPDATE: The event is concluded. I’ll post video recaps as soon as they become available.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Daniel Hernandez Speaks At Memorial For Victims Of Tucson Shooting

Openly gay student intern Daniel Hernandez delivered a terrific and humble speech tonight at the memorial for the victims of the Tucson shooting. He may disavow all the accolades, but the president later said it for all of us: “Daniel, we’ve decided. You ARE a hero.”

(Via – AmericaBlog)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

President Obama Speaks In Tucson

Obama’s recognition of the heroes begins at 12:00.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin