I am thrilled, humbled, honored, and amazed! My image will be featured on the iconic Wheaties box!
I say "finally" because many of my best friends and supporters, and honestly millions, whom I've never met, have been waiting for this honor for over 30 years, since I won my first Olympic gold medals. And I say, "honor" because I feel it honors not so much me, but all those who have overcome tough odds, or who have been passed over because of homophobia or HIV stigma or the stigma that comes with depression or financial difficulties. I could go on and on.
I've been through a lot, and yet have managed to do something with the hand I was dealt. That's what I hope this means to people who have followed me. That it's never too late. There are tough challenges in life, but times change and circumstances change and you never know when you're finally going to end up on a Wheaties box.
The 30-year wait is not at all something bad for me. It's something to celebrate. It's about never giving up hope and being surprised and delighted by life when you were just about to give in.
In my diving days I honestly did not give this honor much thought. It wasn't until I was on book tour in 1995 with my Co-Author, Eric Marcus when fans were coming to my signings with make shift "Wheaties Boxes" for me to sign.
Then sometime after, I was with the Director Cheryl Furjanic and crew when we were at the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and they had a display of the Aquatic Athletes and their respective "Wheaties Boxes", when it kind of hit me... that I was not among them.
Then when Back on Board aired on HBO, thank you Michael Lombardo for believing in us! With the aid of the producing team of Will Sweeney and Cheryl Furjanic, we had a broader audience beyond the wonderful film festivals; the movement to get me on the box really took off.
The messages mirrored the responses back in 1995 when Breaking the Surface hit the stands in bookstores. People were sharing with me such personal stories of courage, strength, hope, empowerment and pride. They would say things like, "You saved my life", "You gave me courage to be who I was meant to be", "You gave me the strength to be my authentic self to my family and friends", "You have given me hope! That I might live a productive life", and "You gave me inspiration to forgive... myself and others". These individual messages of support and appreciation mean more to me than one can ever imagine, and so I think this Wheaties box image isn't really just of me. It's of all those wonderful and courageous people that find me a symbol of their struggles and triumphs. I'm really so happy for all of them, that this is happening now!
I am truly honored, blessed and humbled beyond expression. Words are finite, but imagination is infinite. You can only imagine my joy receiving such powerful messages from strangers, and this is something I can now give back to them.
A year or so ago the campaign was started by someone I didn't know, Julie Sondgerath, on Change.org. We received 43,823 signatures on her petition to get me on the Wheaties box.
I wrote a Blog Post, op-ed letter after doing a bit of research on General Mills, and found this company was rated very high with HRC, a human rights group, and had a very active and commendable "diversity" program in place. I was very impressed.
So, I want to thank all of the above and the 43,823 signatures and supporters who signed, "liked" and "shared"! And of course I want to thank General Mills. I am in tears with pride. This honor of #WheatiesLEGENDS and @Wheaties and to be along side my role models, friend's and people I hold in high esteem in sports: Edwin Moses who inspired me to fight for the underdog off the fields of play, and Janet Evans who I watch grow up into the amazing woman she is today, taking the lead in getting the Olympics back here for #LA24. It's just perfect timing.
Some might think there should be bitterness about the long wait that I was excluded all that time for being gay, HIV positive, an activist, but what's past is past, and things happen for a reason. If you feel bitter, stop yourself before it enslaves you. Today I have the tremendous honor of being on my own "Wheaties" box. It means so much more to me than it would have "back in the day," because in 1995, I came out as an openly gay man living with HIV/AIDS, and at that time, I was a bit overwhelmed and honestly terrified by so many of my own perceived flaws -- and I say "perceived" only now, because today I see those events as the gems of my life. It's been a journey to learn empathy, strength, forgiveness and respect. The Wheaties box is more about those achievements than it is about my athletic wins.
I want to give the most special shout out to my loving husband, Johnny Chaillot-Louganis, who has been so supportive, yet, keeping his own identity and helping me stay grounded in living life on life's terms, no matter the situation. The love that he gives me and that so many have given me is really the fuel that got me to this good place.
I can only say again, that I really am humbled and blessed. Thank you one and all. You enrich my life and give me strength when I feel I am not "enough". I am enough, in this moment in time. I am right where I should be! And look out world; there are great things to come. My work as an artist, an activist and as a philanthropist making good things happen around the world has just begun. At 50 something, I'm just getting started. I'm still a kid who just broke his first record and got his picture on the Wheaties box. The other kids eating cereal with me in the morning are coming with me on an even greater journey.
With gratitude I am beaming with pride that I feel accepted, not just as an athlete and my past accomplishments, but also as a whole person, imperfect, gracious and proud.
Namaste, Greg Louganis