Equality Florida Institute will present two-time Olympian and four-time gold medalist, Greg Louganis, with its highest honor, The Voice for Equality Award at the organization’s 15th Annual Equality Florida Broward Gala on Sunday, November 12th at Hyatt Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale.
The Voice for Equality award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated sacrifice, courage and personal commitment to LGBT equality. Recent past recipients include Martina Navratilova, Jim Obergefell and Jazz Jennings.
Greg came out publicly as gay in 1994, and in 1995 revealed he had tested HIV positive before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, at which he won two gold medals. From then on, Greg has shared his story openly — in his 1995 autobiography “Breaking the Surface,” in countless public appearances and in the 2014 documentary “Back on Board.” He has become a spokesperson for living authentically, and an advocate for HIV-testing and for HIV medications that have allowed him to live a healthy life.
“It is especially timely that Greg is our Voice for Equality honoree this year, as Equality Florida recently launched its HIV Advocacy Program, with the goal of reducing HIV stigma through public education,” said Terry Gaw, event co-chair. “Sports figures are seen as role models, exemplifying what is possible, and their cautionary tales can carry additional significance. Greg has paved the way, inspiring others to live their lives fully and without shame.”
It was a pleasure to sit down with Mr. Louganis for this exclusive Hotspots interview:
When you retired from professional diving where did you think your life was going to take you?
I wasn’t sure. I had my degree in drama and minor in dance, and I was hoping for the best.
Starting in the 90’s you started acting. Do you have any future plans to act?
Yeah, I definitely want to continue to act; I love it. I am also writing a musical and have been very busy with that. I had the first industry read over the summer where I got great response and great input. The show is based on stories that people have shared with me and how my life has touched their lives.
You compete in Dog Agility Competitions. How did this come about?
It was kind of by accident. I started out with Great Danes and then I owned corgis and showed at Westminster. When I was dating Steve Kmetco he wanted a Jack Russell to travel around with him to film festivals, and we found one and trained her to go anywhere. She was very well behaved. Then Steve thought she had t much energy, so I kept her. We happened upon a park that had dog agility and she loved it, and she ended up being my superstar. She was ranked number one for two years in her breed. I really enjoy the agility competitions and think I will continue to do this for a long time to come.
You have also two written books. Any plans to write again?
Possibly, but in the future. Right now I am working on a bio pic of my life, and I am also working on an apparel line and an active wear line.
You were asked to be a mentor to the US team in the last two Olympics. Do you enjoy it?
I coached for a Nano second, and then Steve Foiley asked me to come back and be involved. We decided the greatest asset I could be is a mentor, and yes I love it!
How did you meet your husband Johnny?
We met on a dating site. I came up as a match for him, and he thought no way. Then he came up a match for me and I winked at him. We started chatting and after a while we had our first date and the rest is history.
Can you tell us about the proposal and the wedding?
I was doing the documentary “Back on Board” and I was in London for the 2012 Olympics. Johnny came with me. Both of us at separate times went to Cheryl (the director/producer) and told her that she shouldn’t be surprised if the documentary ended with a wedding, and it did. The wedding was beautiful.
What do you and your husband like to do for fun?
He travels with me when he can and often times I have down time so we can tour around and see the sights together. We also love going to the movies, hiking, and have brunch with friends. We have a pretty quiet life.
How excited were you to hear that you are being honored with the “Voice For Equality Award” at the Equality Florida’s Broward Gala and are you looking forward to spending time in South Florida?
I am truly humbled to be receiving this award from Equality Florida. It’s an organization that is doing incredible work. Just last year they raised $10 million for victims following the Pulse nightclub shooting. If what I do can help to reduce the stigma that prevents people from getting lifesaving HIV testing and treatment, then I’m happy.
I just do what I do, and most of the time I don’t think anybody is listening. So it’s amazing to realize that people think I am deserving to be honored.
I am also looking forward to meeting up with my coach and his wife in Florida, and spending some quality time with them. I love South Florida.
Equality Florida will also honor PNC Bank with the inaugural Florida Business for Equality award at the gala. The award recognizes a business that has impacted LGBT equality across Florida, through workplace practices and policies, community education and engagement, as well as volunteerism and other material support. “PNC’s involvement over the years has had a huge impact on our organization and the LGBT community all across the state,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s CEO. “This award shines a spotlight on their commitment and dedication to equality.”
This year marks Equality Florida’s 20th anniversary, and a highlight of the gala will be the annual State of the State address by Equality Florida’s co-founder and CEO, Nadine Smith. She will recount and celebrate the landmark milestones of the past year and present the course for the work yet to be accomplished. The evening, emcee’d by NBC Miami reporter Jaimie Guirola, will also include sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, delicious cocktails, a live auction, dancing and musical entertainment by Valerie Tyson and DJ Karin Ward, ensuring a truly memorable and fun evening for all.
The annual event, presented by PNC Bank for the fifth consecutive year, attracts more than 500 community, business, political and student leaders. The Gala takes place on Sunday, November 12, from 5:30-8:30 pm in The Crystal Ballroom at Hyatt Pier Sixty-Six, 2301 SE 17th St, Fort Lauderdale, 33301. Tickets are $175 and are tax deductible to the full extent allowed under the law. For tickets or further information on sponsorships, please go to equalityflorida.org/browardgala or contact Row Iliescu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-335-2102.