Frankie Grande

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My journey with the Los Angeles LGBT Center began as most journeys do—at a drag show hosted by AIDS/LifeCycle. My current Cycle Rep Erik Zamora, whom I became friends with through a mutual friend, invited me to the event at Micky’s in West Hollywood and, honestly, I felt bad saying no so I decided to actually go—alone!— which, if you know me, is very, very rare for me to do. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I tell you that night changed my life. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence performed the most moving number I have ever seen as a tribute to the cyclists and volunteer roadies who we have lost to AIDS over the years. I began to weep…aggressively. One of the Sisters walked over to me and put their hand on my shoulder to comfort me. In that moment, I knew I was in. And not just like one toe in, but completely into the deep end of the pool.

I registered for that year’s ride right there. Erik asked if I wanted to be part of the sober team he founded, the Trudging Buddies. I said yes. I was only a few months sober at the time, but I knew if I was going to get through the week-long, 545- mile ride, I would need a lot of sober support. Thus, I began my three-year relationship with AIDS/LifeCycle as a Trudging Buddy…and I just celebrated my three-year sober birthday!

So, now that I was signed up for the ride, it was time to start asking questions: Where does all of the money go that I just committed to raising? And that’s where the incredible Lorri L. Jean comes in. She is the warmest, kindest, toughest, smartest woman I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Her hugs are so comforting. As soon as I walked into her office at the Center and received one of her hugs, I knew she was the chick I’d switch for—oh, and I would support any organization she led! To hear her talk about the Center, not only did I fall in love with her but also with the entire organization and all of the amazing work done there. Lorri toured me around the Youth Center, and I saw with my own eyes the wonderful work they do with LGBTQ+ youth. I pledged to raise as much money as possible for them. Every year since, I have made good on that promise by scoring a spot as one of AIDS/LifeCycle’s top fundraisers. I’ve raised more than $140,000 so far…and counting!

The Center’s work has only become more impressive. I was there at the community celebration of the Anita May Rosenstein Campus’ opening and the future Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing, which I look forward to moving into as soon as it is completed because I’m exhausted and ready to retire. Ha! (But seriously, I want in.) And I was there to speak on behalf of AIDS/LifeCycle at the Center’s 50th Anniversary Hearts of Gold concert at The Greek Theatre.

Most recently I was there for the Center when COVID-19 broke out and heard their cry for funds in order to keep their doors open amid the pandemic. I spearheaded Rainbowthon, a star-studded virtual fundraising idea of mine using my list of contacts and a plea for help. Everyone I asked to participate said yes—we raised almost $60,000 in less than three hours! I was overwhelmed. One of my favorite moments from that night was talking to AIDS/ LifeCycle Ride Director Tracy Evans live on the air during the fundraiser and seeing her beautiful, smiling face pop onto the screen covered in glitter and dressed to the nines—including a pink wig.

Which brings me to why I ride and give. I ride because I can. I ride to end AIDS so that the next generation doesn’t have to know as many people who have been lost to AIDS as I do. I ride to raise money for the Center. I ride so that LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness who arrive in Los Angeles, with nothing but a dream in their pockets, have a place to call home when the harsh reality of being homeless in L.A. sinks in. I ride so that my local LGBTQ+ friends can receive access to mental healthcare providers, doctors, medicine, counseling, and other help they so desperately need for free or at low-cost. I ride because I love it, because of the family I form on that road every year, because of the relationships I form on that last 545 miles. I ride to support my Trudging Buddies. I ride for love. I ride for you.

The Center truly helps people. I have witnessed it countless times with my eyes and felt it in my heart. The Center is a sanctuary, a safe haven for those of us who have lost our way or need that little extra push to get us back on the right path. The Center is the mother ship for our community. The Center saves lives, and I am so proud to be a part of it today, tomorrow, always.

To support dancer, performer, and influencer Grande on AIDS/LifeCycle 2021, scheduled for June 6–12, 2021, visit his fundraising page at bit.ly/frankieALC

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