Madonna’s Bar Mitzvah Boy


As previously noted, I have a strong affection for Vogue Boys. And the boys who dance to Madonna at their B’nai Mitzvah, well, they own a bit of my heart. You may have seen this guy when his video went viral a while back. His name is Shaun Sperling, and from the time he vogued his way through his own Bar Mitzvah, and years later into our hearts, he’s been advocating a life lived with true authenticity.


Look around, everywhere you turn there’s heartache,
It’s everywhere that you go.
You try everything you can to escape
the pain of life that you know.
When all else fails and you long to be
Something better than you are today,
I know a place where you can get away…

Sometimes the hardest thing to be is yourself. Yet it’s the only thing we should ever be. Mr. Sperling was aware of that at a young age, and today works to make sure that the message gets through to everyone. It takes balls to be so unabashedly who you are, without apology or explanation or excuses. It takes guts. It takes courage. It takes everything I didn’t have, not in any real way. Mine was all apathy and illusion, a desperate disguise, a fervent hope to not be discovered. Sperling had, at least judging from the video, a supportive cast of friends and family who clearly supported and loved him. How else can we so beautifully shine?

Mr. Sperling’s YOUniversity work celebrates “authenticity, self-respect, compassion, acceptance, and making your dreams come true”, and while it may sound a little Oprah-like, it’s not without merit. Sperling is living proof of this. Having appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show (with none other than Madonna herself), the Today Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Huffington Post Live, he and his viral Vogue video have showcased a gay teenager who went on to do great things. (Attorney, writer, civil rights advocate, performer, and professional speaker are just a few of the hats he wears so jauntily.)

In the end, it still comes down to that video. A boy walked into his Bar Mitzvah, dressed in a baggy suit, to the cheers of his family and friends. He removes the jacket to reveal Madonna on his back, and the opening beat to ‘Vogue’ kicks in. The rest is all carefully-choreographed showmanship, deliciously proud attitude, and vicious Bar Mitzvah chutzpah – a coming-out party of defiant fabulousness. According to Shaun, “the best ingredient for living a successful life is knowing who you are.” The boy who danced on that video two decades ago knew who he was. The man he became knows even more. It’s not always an easy thing to discover, and the world doesn’t always make overtly welcoming gestures, but if you can stay true to who you are, if you can find out who you were meant to be, there are those out there willing to support and love you for it. Shaun is one of them.

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