I believe role models are individuals who have the courage to be real, to be vulnerable, to be themselves, and to share their journeys. For the past twenty years, the Backstreet Boys have been my role models. As you may know from reading Arianna’s Random Thoughts, I am a huge Backstreet Boys fan. They provided encouragement and love through the highs and lows of my life. For me and many other fans out there, they are “Larger than Life.” (Backstreet Boys fans will get this reference.)
The Backstreet Boys walked into my life at a time when I was low. I was in middle school and was being bullied and struggling with body-image issues. I went with my family to Toronto for Easter weekend to visit relatives. Well, the Backstreet Boys were performing in town; as luck would have it, we were staying in the same hotel. I had heard their music on the radio. I remember leaving the hotel room to head for the lobby and seeing Nick walk past, then heading to the elevator where I ended up in the elevator with Brian Littrell! I only smiled at them both. Their presence had helped lift me “from darkness to light” (another BSB lyric).
To me, and many others, they have had a huge influence. Hearing AJ speak openly about his struggle on Oprah in 2003 encouraged me to promote authenticity in relationships, to reach out when I need help, and to not be silent about my personal struggles. Before, I was scared to open up and to talk about my life, as I thought people would judge me badly. But through having larger-than-life role models like the Backstreet Boys admit they had mistakes, I was given the freedom to do the same. I really am thankful that Oprah opened a teenager’s eyes that day to the importance of digging deep in personal relationships: to love oneself, problems and all.
I had seen the Backstreet Boys on many talk shows after that, and could tell Nick was struggling with issues even though he was good at making it seem he had it all together. He appeared to be in a lot of pain and was suffering emotionally. It hurt to see him like this, but I knew there was nothing any of his fans could do. He had to help himself first.
Nick Carter has always been my favourite BSB, perhaps because we are both goofballs and eldest children who care greatly for their siblings. I remember being in the audience when Nick surprised Aaron at his solo concert in Ottawa in 1999. As Aaron was only 11 years-old, it was adorable seeing Nick support his brother that way; they clearly loved each other. To be honest though, in the last several years, I had been kind of disappointed in Nick. I could tell that something was up in his life from the reports involving his involvement with drugs and alcohol that I read in the news. It hurt to see him like this so I pulled away from the Backstreet Boys.
Now, I am not a believer in coincidences. From my experience, events that appear “random” usually have a deeper meaning and purpose for appearing in one’s life. In July 2012 while in the Olympic store at Heathrow Airport about to depart London after a long tour of Great Britain and Ireland, Kevin Richardson walked up beside me to look at the soccer balls. I had no idea what to say to him, even though he has been a role model for me as well. So, I gave him a huge smile. He was just as kind in person as he was in the BSB shows. When I saw him there, Kevin had left the band for several years and was now coming back. This encounter served as a reminder that celebrities are human too; we all struggle. It is important not to give up on people when they need you the most. The Backstreet Boys had been a shining light to me when I was in a dark place; I would help brighten their path and continue to support them.
I’m glad I persisted with the Backstreet Boys, as their new album (In A World Like This) is their best one yet – all of the Boys’ hearts shine through the songs’ beautiful lyrics. Also, I respect Nick. He has inspired me through his ups and downs. Nick has made me believe in him again, as he now believes in himself. If you need proof, you should read his new book, “Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It” (Bird Street Books). I read it over two nights – I couldn’t put it down. I was captivated by the journey of my favourite Backstreet Boy, although I really do love them all. I loved Howie's thoughtful foreword. Nick’s book combines three of my favourite things: psychology, speaking from the heart, and the Backstreet Boys! Reading his experiences had me in tears in parts, inspired me, and gave me hope! If I met Nick in person, I’d give him a High Five, a hug, and thank him for writing his book!
Life lessons can be learned anywhere. As I have said before numerous times and Nick actually repeats this in his book, you can’t help others until you have helped yourself first. I truly believe that by sharing your story you give others permission to do the same.
As Nick wrote in his book, “We need to encourage each other, cheer each other on, and steer each other back onto the positive path” (p. 202). It starts with one person speaking up. Thank you, Nick, Kevin, Brian, Howie, and AJ for being my role models, sharing your stories, and encouraging all of us to speak from the heart!
Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.
See you at the beach!