From Estero to New York City: Grayson Golden’s story
Grayson Golden, a 20-year-old former FGCU student, has made his way to the Big Apple, and come face-to-face with the very people who’ve inspired him, while making artwork that’s gained celebrity status along the way.
Golden attended FGCU when he was just 16 years old, participating in the Accelerated Collegiate Program. The idea of never stepping foot into a high school again was enough to sway him, and get him over the discomfort of being a college freshman with a mouthful of braces.
Despite feeling a bit intellectually out of his league, he was thrilled about everything he was experiencing, from witnessing the frenzied Dunk City phenomenon, to making life-long friends with some of the region’s brightest minds.
During his attendance at FGCU, two very important things happened to Grayson. One helped to fuel the other. He came out as a gay man and he began pursuing the graphic arts.
Most people first come out to a close friend or family member, Golden first came out to one of the longest-running superstar icons of all time – and his personal idol – Cher.
“I had found her private Facebook, and once I confirmed it was her, I sent her a little message telling her about myself,” said Golden. “She sent back a nice little note with lots of X’s and O’s, and it built this amazing confidence in me that allowed me to love that side of myself. It also encouraged my love of all things entertainment.”
After coming out to his icon, he still kept it a secret for about a year. He got that extra boost of courage from a fellow FGCU student after a little light Facebook stalking, something young adults are no strangers to.
“On the first day at my second semester at FGCU, I got a small crush on this guy in one of my classes, who seemed so nice but so straight,” Golden said. “I looked briefly at his pictures and almost exited when I noticed a small emblem on his jacket in one of his pictures. I almost squealed for joy when I saw that it was the emblem for the Gay Straight Alliance.”
The next day in class Golden worked up the courage to ask him about the organization, and from then on he became one of Golden’s closest friends.
“There is nothing like the feeling of finally—after years of feeling like you’re alone—
realizing that there are so many people who are just like you, and all at the same school,” Golden said.
He eventually went on to serve as the Campus Outreach Officer for the Gay Straight Alliance at FGCU, the very club that helped him to come out to his friends and family. This wasn’t the first time coming out directly helped him to fulfill his dreams.
Not long after he came out to Cher, he turned to art to channel his die hard fandom, and began working on graphic design. His artwork and adoration didn’t go unnoticed.
“One day, I got a mysterious email with a brand new Cher song that had never been released,” Golden said. “It seemed that the intention of the email was for someone to purposefully leak the song. I made some artwork and put it in a video with this new song and posted it to YouTube. Next thing I knew the artwork was on Perez Hilton, MTV Spain, hundreds of websites with millions of views and to top it off there was a Barbara Walter’s 20/20 Interview on TV where she was interviewing Cher, and someone says to her ‘Let’s talk about your new album’ and they immediately flashed my artwork!”
The media coverage prompted his artwork to appear on her website as well as other jobs within her charities. Golden grasped hold of the opportunity and has since used those viral appearances to help land the jobs he’s doing now in New York City.
Recently, he was able to pay homage to the woman he’s described as his “god” in-person, an experience he describes as the moment of a lifetime.
“…I told her the story of how she changed my life and even sort of got me my first job,” Golden said. “She saw how nervous I was and decided to mess with me. When I started to walk away she held on to my hand and didn’t let go, as she just stood there dying laughing.”
The surreal moments aren’t ending anytime soon for Golden who more recently had this experience topped by meeting reality star turned supermodel, Kendall Jenner.
He was casted by MTV to be registered to vote on live television in Time Square. He was under the impression that it would be a random street person, not a Vogue cover model.
“I look up and I see a close-up of Kendall and I on a massive Times Square Billboard,” Golden said. “My heart sank to my stomach. All of a sudden the camera turns back to me, and the host starts asking me questions. I stuttered for a second but I got the words out and was just in this state of shock.”
As Golden reflects on the exciting places his work has taken him, which includes working for fashion designer and Project Runway host Zac Posen, and his art being featured by Fran Drescher of “The Nanny” and Comedienne Kathy Griffin, he admits that he’s drawn to jobs related to the LGBT community.
Working in the fashion industry, a world rich in LGBT culture, and among people he considers to be gay icons, has not only been an inspiration to him, but has also become the place where he feels at home.
Despite all the positive things that have happened to him after coming out, he doesn’t want people from FGCU to feel any pressure to do so as well.
“I wish someone had told me that there is no rush and no specific timeline for you to understand who you are,” Golden said. “Just because it’s Coming Out Day doesn’t mean you have to come out on that day. Understanding who you are is a process that we all will deal with for our entire lives. If you are LGBT, it is completely okay for you to take as much time as you need to tell people.”