But He Didn't Quit

When I hear the name Daniel Grier, one word, one theme, rings loudly and proudly. It’s Perseverance!

If you asked Daniel about his level of consistency, he’d probably rank himself low. He’d give you a laundry list of things that he feels he could do better or more frequently or in a more organized manner. And on some of those things, he’d be right. But like most humans, he’s his own worst critic. Sometimes unable to see the thing that makes him special; the thing that he IS consistent at; the thing that I’ve admiringly witnessed in him for the past four and a half years. Daniel is completely unwilling to quit. He has something inside of him that literally does not allow him to rest at average. He’s always on, always thinking, and always moving. To many people looking from the outside, he’s THE picture of accomplishment. But knowing him, I’m certain he’d tell you that he’s just getting started. Because that’s how his brain works.

Sometimes life deals you a difficult hand and you either accept it as a reason to quit or use it as motivation to move forward. I’m not sure if he’s conscious of it, but I’ve always known Daniel to choose the latter. So it’s no surprise to me that after receiving a life-changing HIV positive result 5 years ago, he is where he is today; doing the work of HIV prevention and education. If there’s one thing that I know about Daniel, it’s that he thinks deeply about legacy. He’s always said that he doesn’t want his life to be in vain. So with his diagnosis, he’s chosen to do the work of keeping others from having to endure the pain that he’s had to. Because that’s how his heart works. 

When we started Magic City Fashion Week, it made absolute sense to both he and I that the cause we would benefit would be HIV Awareness. After all, he had his own personal story of living and thriving with HIV, professional experience in the field of public health, and I had participated in fashion shows directly benefitting the same cause. But others, who didn’t know his status, couldn’t draw the connection. We had to do a lot of explaining about how powerful and therapeutic fashion is and how it can spread vital messaging. We knew this because for Daniel, fashion came at a time when he needed it the most. He went through the normal feelings of guilt, shame, doubt, and depression that come along with a positive diagnosis. He was not immune to stigma and fear. However, it was in those low moments that Splashed by DKG was born. At a time when his self-esteem was low and he was questioning his life, he created a reason to celebrate. “Fashion saved my life.” These are words that he’s said to me on more than one occasion. I know that in difficult times, two things have kept him going: his 9-year old son Aedan and Splashed by DKG. 

 At 23 years old, he was the first person to ever tell me that he was HIV positive. Looking back its’ hard to believe that after over two decades of being on earth, I was still ignorant when it came to HIV. It’s just something that most people don’t talk about until they HAVE to talk about it. And by then it’s too late. I’d like to think that my reaction was graceful, but it was clumsy at best. I’m forever thankful for how his disclosure to me has changed my life and way of thinking. I’m happy that I can now educate others and combat ignorance. I’ve had the opportunity to see Daniel through both good and bad times. I’ve seen and done things that I probably wouldn’t have done on my own because of him. The level of persistence from which he operates has been contagious. And now, on my own journey to creative entrepreneurship, I hope to carry on the lessons that I’ve learned from him about not giving up. A lot of times when people find out that someone has HIV, their mind instantly shifts to pity. But I can tell you that Daniel Grier is not one to be pitied at all. He’s actually to be modeled after. He’s a shining example of living and thriving through your circumstances, no matter what they may be. I can also tell you that as strong as he is, the decision to publicly disclose his status isn’t easy for him. Because there’s still ignorance and stigma when it comes to the topic. But I’m optimistic. I’m happy that the day has come where he can live freely and openly. Because quite honestly, you all have been getting the diet version for all of these years. The level of pride and excitement that I feel for him right now is beyond anything that I’ve ever could have imagined. 

 To Daniel: Now is the time to LIVE LOUDLY, BE BOLD, and show them the full version of you! 

Derek DeAndre