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Former Nashville resident Dana Baker, 45, was recently featured on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. Topping out at 516 pounds, the social worker and
special education teacher now living in San Diego was also carrying a secret that only compounded his physical problems. During his appearance on the show, Baker acknowledged that he was gay.
Sharing his internal struggle with a national audience, not to mention his family and friends, freed Baker to pursue his weight loss goals. He's now lost over 20 inches and 200 pounds since he began his mission, an incredible transformation for a man who has dedicated his life to serving others through music. In his spare time, Baker has sung the National Anthem at various sporting events including Nashville Predators home games, and regularly performed at local churches.
In an interview with Out & About Newspaper, Baker describes his unlikely journey.
How has your coming-out process influenced your weight loss?
I've seen countless therapists and one of the many finally got it right. He said "You won't be able to move on with your life until you get this out and until you start talking about this." Then of course I was storming out of his office. I'm a very religious person, and from the get-go I said, "Lord if I get on the show, this is one thing I don't want to." I had no intentions of losing weight. I would try to overeat on purpose. And God said "No, I'm gonna bring this guy Chris into your life." So I battled God back and forth, and I believe he downloaded this into my mind. He said, "Remember when you were 15, 16, 17 years old and you were running to food. There are kids out there and they need to stop doing the same thing. I got sick and tired of the producer asking me about it. As soon as I said it , I didn't run to food anymore. I've received thousands of emails and people appreciate the honesty. It was a good thing. I'm still losing the weight, and I don't have anything to hide. I did what I believed God wanted me to do, and He has given me so many opportunities now.
What's the reaction among your family and friends since your appearance on the show?
They couldn't be happier for me. Three days before it aired, I showed them my audition tape. I told them that I needed everybody to come over to my sister's house, and that something is going to come out on this documentary that they needed to hear from me. I told them and the reaction was, "Yeah, we knew." (laughs) I told my dad in 1982 and he said what a good Christian man would say: "I love you anyway." My theater friends and other people knew, but between the church and the rest of the world, no one did.
What would you say to those who believe you can't be gay and Christian?
Being gay doesn't define me. I'm not a mistake; God doesn't make mistakes. I'm Christian and I'm living proof. I'm going through the same things. God made me different. So I want to get my story out to people and tell others there's nothing wrong with them. I'm gay, I'm Christian, and I'm going to heaven. I'm not trying to seek others' approval. My relationship with God is closer than ever. He's holding my hand and blessing me.
What sort of insight or advice could you give to people who are struggling with their own weight, whether that be because of issues with their physical or emotional health?
Running to the gym is not the answer. The first thing that you need to do is talk to a good therapist and talk it out, as many sessions as it takes. Otherwise you're going to continue to kill yourself with food. Food did exactly what it was supposed to---it numbed the pain, it didn't argue back with you. The second thing would be to go to a local OA (Overeaters Anonymous) meeting. There you can say what you want, and 9 times out of 10 there is someone who's going what you're going through. What's said there stays there, so you can get it all out of your system. And if you give yourself an hour a day to exercise, that will help. Join the local Y. I worked there and they helped me a lot, too.
What does the future hold for you as an out gay man?
What I'd like to do is what I'm doing now, which is getting out my story. I have speaking engagements come up: my manager Kathy Dixon is setting up some and GLAAD is wanting to book me for some speaking engagements. Not every obese person is gay. Maybe it's because they had a traumatic childhood or maybe a parent said something to them they can't forget.
I don't know what the future looks like in terms of a relationship. You know, I love my freedom and my football and my TV. But if I meet someone who's Christian, who loves children, and I really care about, then I do.
The cameras left March 4, but the true test of a man is what he does when no one's watching. But there are still a lot of people still watching me. I eat every three hours. I go to the pool four times a week. They gave me all the tools I need. I've learned so much about food and reading labels. I'm equipped to handle it. It's still a struggle. I know what I'm doing, and a lot of people are watching and keeping me focused. I look forward to living the rest of my life free. A college professor once told me "Begin with the end in mind," and that's what I live by.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.