“When opportunity presents itself, you run toward it.”

That was Jimmie Herrod’s response to Simon Cowell’s question during an episode of last season’s "America’s Got Talent." Cowell, the ornery television personality, asked Herrod what he was doing on stage. Herrod then proceeded to seize the opportunity, nailing a rendition of “Tomorrow” from the classic Broadway musical Annie.

“Unbelievable,” Cowell said after Herrod brought the house down and earned the show’s Golden Buzzer award from actress Sofía Vergara.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Herrod can certainly relate to the song’s line about being “stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely.” His performances on "America’s Got Talent" were often tailored to be uplifting, but Herrod said that is just one side of his story.

“I think people have many sides, one might be hopeful or inspiring, another might be moody, gloomy even, or introspective,” he said. “At the end of the day I just want to express real emotions, first and foremost, and sometimes that hopeful optimism is what we all could use more of.”

Herrod brings a dose of hopeful optimism with him to this weekend’s Latinos Salud Gala al Fresco. The 31-year-old singer from the music group Pink Martini is scheduled to perform Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Wilton Manors.

“The LGBTQ community is a truly special thing — I think the idea in some ways more than the reality of it,” Herrod said. “Growing up, knowing I was gay, and not having any community to turn to made life far more isolating, and that hope of one day having friends and family that would be supportive, was a small dream. Today, I have community and am fortunate to live in a time and place where I’m surrounded by that loving community idea made real.”

Herrod arrives in Florida at a time when the LGBT community is once again being used to score political points in Tallahassee. Several bills designed to roll back rights or even erase LGBT people altogether have advanced in the state legislature. One proposal in particular, HB 1557, has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Herrod, recalling his coming out process, said the bill is harmful and the wrong approach for schools to take.

“That bill, it reminds me of my youth,” said Herrod. “I was lucky to have a GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance] at my high school, led by an LGBT faculty member who was proudly out and reachable. Because of my upbringing I felt uncomfortable publicly expressing I was gay, largely because of how other kids would treat you, and my family’s disapproval. To think that a bill like this could exist today, suggests for people to go back in the closet, which promotes the phobic poison we’re trying to eradicate.”

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s Latinos Salud Gala al Fresco featuring performances by Jimmie Herrod and Soul Scratch. VIP ticket holders get a meet and greet photo opportunity with Herrod. Saturday evening’s cocktail party is from 7-10 p.m. and Sunday’s brunch gala celebration is from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LatinosSalud.org/Gala.


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