Back in April of this year, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting the one-and-only Thomas Sanders, but I almost didn't. Truth be told, in the days leading up to the Tumblr-hosted event that the 27-year-old Vine and YouTube personality was the main attraction of, I had more than a bit of trepidation about attending, mostly due to not wanting to ruin the image of the effervescent Sanders that most of his Fanders, Thomas' fan base, are used to.
Luckily, Thomas turned out to be just as warm and kind as I hoped he would be, and even more so. We only spoke briefly due to the mad rush of faces that also attended that day, but in those few moments (and the three hugs we shared), he managed to make me feel like I truly mattered to him not just as a follower, but as a friend. As I walked away from that experience, I promised myself that I would always support him and do all that I could to make him proud of me, including, but not limited to, staying on the journalistic path that I had actually been thinking about walking away from before that day.
In an effort to return Sanders' favor of love and encouragement, I recently purchased a VIP ticket for his first-ever tour, "Ultimate Storytime with Thomas Sanders," which kicks off Friday (August 12) in Tampa, Florida. A full-on stage production with original tunes, a talented bunch of performers, and a healthy dose of positivity, "Ultimate Storytime" fully realizes a fantasy that the theater-loving Florida native has had for as long as he can remember.
That humbleness has served Thomas quite well on his rise to fame. Initially starting on the six-second app service in 2013, he has since amassed an astounding eight million followers, and shared screen time, via his Vine videos, with several major notables, including Leslie Odom Jr. from the groundbreaking Hamilton, Today show mainstay Al Roker, and even Broadway legend Adam Pascal, which came during the same week that the two performed together at the aforementioned Tumblr meet-up (yes, the same one I was a part of).He also does his best to ensure that no one walks away offended after viewing one of his hilarious Vines. Representation and inclusion are two important things that are seemingly never absent from his life or his creations, including "Ultimate Storytime."
"Representation is super important," he once stated about his LGBT-themed Vines on Tumblr. "I don't read [negative] comments on Vine, and the support for those Vines on Tumblr is so positive, any negativity derived from that representation hardly makes any impact on me. Frankly, if including LGBT characters in my content makes anyone angry, I don't want those viewers anyway."
When it comes to "Ultimate Storytime," Thomas says that those who are attending should expect the same kind of varied yet respectable focus that is commonplace in his Vine videos.
"We're all people, and I want this show to enforce that message," he remarked during his We the Unicorns sit-down, "that you can be who you wanna be, write your own story, and you don't need to fit somebody else's standards. It's important for them to feel valid, and loved and supported."
Here's to everyone continuing their stories and journeys with love and acceptance, dear Thomas. I'll see you on the 26th, my friend![Image via Thomas Sanders/Instagram]