Exclusive: Pulse Survivor Brandon Wolf on Life After Tragedy & Smiling Throughout it All
Brandon Wolf, whether he sees it this way or not, is a hero.to me and thousands of people in and out of the LGBTQ community. He is a survivor of the horrific tragedy at Pulse nightclub, which happened nearly two years ago and took the lives of 49 people and wounded 58 others.
Something that is truly remarkable about Brandon is that he has taken what happened that night and has turned something positive out of it, as hard as that really is to believe. It's hard to believe, at least in my eyes, because I can't imagine going through something like that and then focus on spreading positivity in the world. But that's Brandon, and it is CLEARLY what makes him awesome.
Brandon has a new mission now The Dru Project, dedicated to one of the victims, Christopher Andrew Leinonen (or Drew for short). Their mission is to spread love across the nation and encourage each and every high school in our country to have a GSA alliance as well as offering scholarships to students who truly exemplify Drew's spirit for inclusion and unity. How amazing is that?
I caught up with the Oregon native earlier this week, to discuss where his life is nearly two years later, his plans for gay pride, love for Adam Rippon and Troye Sivan, and how he finds ways to smile and stay upbeat each and every day.
This June will make it two years since the unbelievably tragic events happened at Pulse. Can you believe this much time has gone by?
Wow, has it been two years already? To be honest, there are days where it feels like yesterday. And other days where it feels like a foggy memory. But in general, it's hard to believe that so much time has already passed since Pulse. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of my friends and joy that was robbed from this world when they left it.
Does your mind shift each and everyday when it comes to your thoughts from that night... and everything after?
Thoughts about the night of Pulse hit me at random. A flashback is most often triggered by sounds or sights. There are songs that immediately bring me back to that night as soon as they play. But I think it's important to acknowledge those thoughts and memories; to not just focus on all the positive change that has come to our community, but also to be reverent to grief and loss.
So much good has come out of something that was beyond terrible. Does a particular thought, person or memory stand out more than anything when it comes to the positives in all of this?
Without a doubt, my best friend Drew is the root of every positive outcome for me. Although we lost him that night, his spirit has endured. He never allowed anyone in his circle to doubt themselves or question their worth. He taught all of us that we can be anything we want...so long as we believe in ourselves. He taught us that there is one force in the world that can overcome anything: unconditional love. And, for me, that is the enduring message of the Pulse shooting. That despite the fear and self-loathing the shooter wanted us to be left with, love and acceptance triumphs. When I think of all the best things in the world, I think of Drew. And the beautiful legacy he left behind.
Tell us more about The Dru Project and why people should get involved in such a worthy cause.
The Dru Project was created by a group of friends sitting around Drew's kitchen table. We knew we wanted to honor him and keep the best parts of him alive. And when we got down to it, we knew exactly what to do. As a teenager, Drew won a humanitarian award for starting the first Gay Straight Alliance program at Seminole High School here in Florida. What better way to do him justice than to keep that momentum going? The Dru Project launches GSAs in public schools, gives financial grants to existing programs, advocates for inclusive school curriculum, and gifts college scholarships to future leaders in our community. Young people are our hope for a better world, and I know that if he were here, Drew would be fighting for them right alongside us.
Are you planning on doing anything special again with gay pride rapidly approaching?
Pride season is my absolute favorite! If I could be a traveling pride mascot, I think I'd be in heaven. The big event for me this time around is The Dru Project's 2nd Memorial Party on June 10. Last year, we gathered 300 of our best supporters and celebrated Drew's life while cementing his legacy. We gave away almost $10k in college scholarships and set out our plans for year 2. I cannot wait to share with everyone the exciting things we have planned in 2018!
Onto lighter things, are you dating anyone? If you aren't, what's your type, if you have one (pick me, please!)
Haha no, not dating anyone. I'm married to my mission of making the world a better place! My type? That's a tough question for me to answer. I am so fascinated by all types of people. But I can tell you that two things will get me every time: eyes and heart. A pair of beautiful eyes attached to someone with a kind, generous heart...sign me up!
Speed round: favorite TV show? Favorite snack? Current celebrity crush?
Fav TV Show: Tough one, but right now...Stranger Things.
Fav snack: My summer body says carrots & hummus, but my soul says frozen yogurt!
Celebrity crush: Troye Sivan, will you marry me?
Finally, what makes you smile and stay upbeat each and every single day?
What makes me smile and stay upbeat is knowing just how bright our future is as a community. We have come so far and achieved so much. A great recent reminder of that was Adam Rippon taking the ice at the Winter Olympics. He reminded us that it doesn't matter who we are or where we come from; we can be anything we believe.
For more information on The Dru Project and how you can get involved, click here.