On Friends, NKOTB, Meeting Jordan Knight, & The Power of Words

unnamedI haven’t posted in a week because some emotions are hard to put into words.  (Bear with me; this is a longer post than usual.) On Friday, I got the biggest surprise of my life because of my friend and fellow New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) fan, Barbi. Now, I am no stranger to surprises. In fact, I’ve had many but most of them have sounded like this, “I’m sorry to tell you there’s been an accident,” or “You have an illness that only happens to one in 100,000 people.” I’m sure many chronically ill people can relate. But the past month has been one of the happiest in my life.  After a five-year detour (due to illness), I’m finally getting my life back on track and getting closer to accomplishing the goals I had when I was twenty-four. So what happened last Friday night was really icing on the cake—really delicious, out of this world icing, that is. And I don’t even like cake.

Could It Be? It Can’t Be
Last Thursday I went to bed early because I had a 9 am test with a HuffPost producer in the morning. I woke up at 2:30 am. I wasn’t restless but giddy, happy, and nervous all at the same time. Still awake at 4 am, my thoughts wandered to the surprise Barbi had been planning for me that Friday. A month ago, she told me to keep September 26 free but she couldn’t tell me where we were going or any details. We became friends online a year ago through our mutual love of all things New Kids, especially Jordan Knight. Suddenly, I thought Are Nick & Knight in town this weekend? I googled his tour dates. Yes, Jordan was at the House of Blues Friday and Saturday. Could it be? No, it can’t be. But wait, what if Barbi got us tickets to meet Jordan through one of those special packages? (I’ve loved IMGNKOTB since I was a five-year old in 1989. I still remember the first time I saw Jordan rock that leather jacket in The Right Stuff video and his falsetto in I’ll Be Loving You Forever.) Then, I thought, OMG! What will I wear? At 5 am, I was trying on clothes—many of them too big. I finally settled on red skinny jeans but then I remembered that Jordan often wears red skinny jeans. No one rocks skinny jeans like Jordan. No one.  How awkward would it be if Jordan and I wore the same clothes? Finally, I settled on a green shirt and skinny jeans.

It Gets Better
Ellen, another NKOTB friend, picked me up at 1:30 pm. She also didn’t give me any details but I knew we were driving into the city. I had never met Ellen in person before so we spent the car ride getting to know each other. Finally, we arrived at the House of Blues so I knew that we were definitely watching the concert. Five hours before the show, there was already a long line of women who all identified as “Jordan girls.” (New Kids fans will arrive seven days early, unpack, and stay for thirty years if you let us.) Barbi and her boyfriend Jeff arrived. I was overcome with emotion that she would buy me concert tickets. (Focusing on my medical bills, I decided to skip the Nick & Knight tour and save up for the next NKOTB tour.) I embraced her. Jeff told me that he and Barbi read my blog together. I was overwhelmed by Barbi’s compassion. This was my first time seeing Barbi in person. I was already grateful for the concert tickets but then Barbi told me we would actually meet Jordan as she also got me the After Party Package! I asked her why she did all of this and she said, “It’s because of all you do for so many people.” Moved by Barbi’s thoughtfulness, I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t. Now that I knew we really were meeting Jordan, I couldn’t ruin my eyeliner.

A Group Effort
Aware of my cane, Barbi had put me on the ADA list. While she and Ellen took turns waiting in line, Jeff and I had a four-hour dinner at HOB’s restaurant. He told me how my blog inspires him. Jeff bravely shared some of his own struggles. Though they are very different than mine, we had a connection. He told me about all the things that almost went wrong leading up to Friday. Indeed, Jeff’s participation was key in Barbi’s well-executed surprise.

The disability section featured backless stools. After Jeff explained to the HOB staff that I couldn’t sit in a backless stool, they moved our seats. Our new seats were much closer to the stage; we had a great view! We also bonded with many other NKOTB fans; one of them is currently fighting cancer. Nick Carter and Jordan delivered a great show. After the show, the moment of truth came. The After Party started at 1 am at the Hard Rock Cafe. Unlike HOB, Hard Rock wasn’t disability accessible. Nick & Knight’s manager considered asking the guys to come down to the first floor but there were thousands of fans and it would have been pandemonium. To take the After Party pictures, I had to climb a long flight of stairs—the kind I haven’t climbed in years. (I stopped using stairs after getting Myasthenia Gravis because I don’t like falling down and having people step over my limp body. Without physical therapy, which I started this year, I’m not sure I could have climbed the stairs.) Jeff, Barbi, and Nick & Knight’s manager, Marcus D.L. Siskid, helped me climb the stairs. I worried I would become totally unglued upon seeing Jordan. Would I shriek? Would I lose my mind? Would I burst into tears and cry uncontrollably? I read an article a few years ago by a Chicago Tribune reporter who followed NKOTB around for a week; she marveled at how thirty and forty-something fans totally lost it upon meeting the New Kids. When Chicago’s Allstate Arena is filled with 18,000 fans, we scream like prepubescent girls who have just discovered the opposite sex.

Meeting Jordan and the Power of Words
The moment I saw Jordan, I’m not sure what I did. It was an out-of-body experience. He hugged me four times during the picture taking so at least I know I didn’t scare him! I probably reverted to my 1989 toothless, five-year old self and ran to him like an overwhelmed child. At one point, he tussled my hair. (Note: I think it’s rude when people touch my hair; this is the only time it’s okay.) But the thing that surprised me most—more than his perfect jet black hair or the fact that he looks exactly as he does on TV—is what he said when he saw me. I’m used to people saying, “What’s wrong with you?” Last week, I saw a Facebook post by a friend with muscular dystrophy (who is in a wheelchair) that said it’s not nice to ask people, “What’s wrong with you?” People have said this to me for four years and until that post and Jordan, I never thought anything of it. In fact, Jordan looked at my cane and said, “Oh no. I’m so sorry. What’s this for?” It wasn’t that something is wrong with me; my five illnesses are what are wrong. This may seem like a game of semantics but imagine what it’s like when someone gets asked, “What’s wrong with you?” for the hundredth time. After I told him I have an illness, he asked me what illness. I told him a little about Myasthenia Gravis. After hugging me (the first time?), he saw my Smurf-blue latex glove and asked me what it was for. I told him I couldn’t get any germs and that getting anything into a paper cut leads to infections. He nodded his head empathetically. unnamed-1 It was so surreal; I’m not even sure if I noticed how he cocked his head and leaned in when we took pictures. Apparently, I had the most photos of any fan; all photos are supposed to be group pictures—no solo shots. And yet I had solo pictures with Nick and Jordan. I was barely cognizant of the photographer’s camera going off. I was supposed to only have one minute with Jordan but I had four! What meeting Jordan showed me is the power of words: When a person speaks with tact and compassion, it can bring some happiness to a person with a disability. It also helps when it’s a New Kid on the Block saying it, but I digress. The bottom line is: words are powerful.

A New Kids on the Block Emergency: The Best Kind of Emergency
After meeting Jordan, I had four hours of sleep before attending a whole-day debate tournament. For those who don’t know, I am a high school debate coach. When I told the head coach and president of the debate association why I was so tired, he said, “Oh in that case. I’ll bring you extra cups of coffee and you only have to judge one round.” I typically judge two rounds; one round is 135 minutes!

Barbi, Jordan Knight, me, Nick Carter, Jeff
Barbi, Jordan Knight, me, Nick Carter, Jeff

Whenever other coaches would ask me why I was tired, people would explain that I had a “New Kids on the Block emergency.” Indeed, it was an emergency and also the time of my life, a gift from fantastic friends. (I officially dedicate this article, my longest post, to all my fellow Blockheads, especially Barbi, Ellen, and Jeff.)

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno

Related:  NKOTB Proves “The Right Stuff” Comes in All Sizes

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JessicaGimeno

Hi, I have five illnesses--bipolar disorder, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular autoimmune disease), polycystic ovarian syndrome, asthma, and psoriasis. Most of the organs in my body are affected. I'm dedicated to being a stylist for sick women. As someone who has experienced changes in my appearance due to my 12 meds (including Prednisone), I know how hard it can be when your face and body change overnight. (In fact, because of treatment, between 2008 to 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. While I lost the weight, there are permanent changes in my face and body, which I've grown to appreciate.) My blog will also help women deal with other issues like surviving chronic pain and fatigue. Healthy people can also use this blog as a window into what life with illness is like. Let this website be a place where we can draw strength from each other despite our illnesses and find solutions to our everyday challenges!

5 thoughts on “On Friends, NKOTB, Meeting Jordan Knight, & The Power of Words

  • October 2, 2014 at 10:09 pm
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    Yay!
    So awesome you got a special bonus solo pic, and that we got to do this together, Jessica!
    Now to get Jordan to see this….. 😉

    Reply
  • October 3, 2014 at 8:55 am
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    Jessica, I’ve been waiting to hear the story of your meeting with Jordan! Our guys are so empathic and loving to their fans and I’m so happy for you to get to experience your dream coming true. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more deserving fan, in my humble opinion! That’s the stuff memories are made of!!!! 🙂

    Reply
    • October 8, 2014 at 8:56 pm
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      Thanks, Kristen! Empathetic is the right word. I appreciate the kind words. That was one of the best days of my life for sure. It was so surreal; I was worried I would lose my mind when I met JK–scream, cry uncontrollably. If Joey and the other guys had been there, I might have. NKOTB love is pure ecstasy, right?

      Reply
  • October 8, 2014 at 8:42 pm
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    That was sweet of your friend and super awesome of the Jordan pic and meeting him!! I loved meeting him also !! He actually saw my button of me when I was in second grade. He was like is this you?? He said that’s awesome and thanked me for being a big fan!!

    Reply
    • October 8, 2014 at 8:46 pm
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      Hi Kara! Nice to meet you. It was the best surprise of my life. He’s very observant, isn’t he? I told him that I wish I had made a gift for him (some of my artwork) if I knew I was going to meet him. And he said, “No THANK YOU for coming!” Later, my friend Barbi told me that he thanked her for arranging the surprise. He said, “That was very nice of you.” Meeting him far exceeded any of my expectation. So you’re a Jordan girl? I’ve been 100% Jordan girl and 100% Joey girl since 1989.

      Reply

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