Atlanta native and gay “American Idol” finalist RJ Helton will headline AIDS Walk Atlanta next month, joining with a former Miss USA as thousands of people walk and jog around Piedmont Park to raise big bucks for HIV charities.
Helton, from Cumming, will perform during the opening ceremonies of the Oct. 20 event, AID Atlanta announced on Thursday. Nana Meriwether, Miss USA 2012, will serve as the event's spokesperson.
Helton finished in the Top 5 during the first season of “Idol” in 2002. Four years later, he came out as gay during a radio interview.
During the on-air interview, Flick asked Helton – who'd been in the top five on the first season of the hit FOX show – why he was no longer performing inspirational music.
Replied the singer, whose full name is Richard Jason Helton: “I can have a faith but can't be who I want to be. So a lot of it was just personal things I needed to overcome and just be proud of who I was. … Just because I am gay does not mean I can't love God.” (Helton's 2004 Christian music album Real Life sold more than 20,000 copies.)
“Well there you go,” said Flick. “Congratulations. “This is something that I wasn't sure you were going to talk about on the air today, so what made you decide to come out?”
Said Helton: “Today, this morning, three seconds ago … I've never even said that. It feels good.”
Expanding on that, Helton said, “It does feel great. It feels good. I'm just really comfortable with who I am now. I'm very proud of who I am.”
Helton sang composer Scott Alan's song “Blessing” during an emotional coming out performance in 2010, which you can watch below.
Meriwether will welcome the crowd during the opening ceremony.
“I am excited to be part of the AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K event in an effort to change the future of HIV/AIDS,” Meriwether says in a prepared statement. “HIV/AIDS affects so many lives, and I am happy to encourage others to raise critical funds for AIDS service organizations throughout the Atlanta area.”
The annual event attracts thousands of people hoping to raise nearly $1 million for several HIV non-profits.