Bullied and bashed but not broken

By Samantha Nader
Correspondent

Anthony Kalloniatis, known by his fans as ANT, took the stage on Tuesday, Feb. 19 with a smile plastered on his face and a witty comment on the tip of his tongue.
No one would ever think that this man had suffered from alcoholism, drug abuse, homelessness and an attempted suicide.

Instead, his audience saw what he had become through all of these experiences — a loud and proud gay man, exuding self-confidence as he stated that everyone in the room is “frickin beautiful.”
ANT didn’t always have this positive outlook on life, nor did he even feel comfortable in his own skin growing up, surrounded by his peers who bullied him and made his life a living hell.

“I went into hiding,” ANT said, citing the first time he considered suicide at the young age of 13, and the shame he felt having his stomach pumped after swallowing an entire bottle of sleeping pills.

After dropping out of high school and running away from home, ANT ended up living under a bridge in California with a small group of other homeless people. It was here that he met a woman who sometimes brought them all sandwiches, which he hated since she never put any condiments on them.

Comedian Anthony Kalloniatis speaks out against bullying. (Warren Fields / Staff Photographer)

It turned out that this “dry sandwich lady” would be the one person to turn everything around in ANT’s life.

She asked to hear this troubled young man’s story, and when he told her all that had happened to him, her response took him by surprise: “Why did you believe all those lies?”

If there is one thing that ANT wanted to impart to his audience, it was that everyone has “infinite power and infinite potential” and that no one should be allowed to take that away.

No one should ever have to feel weak, or think that they cannot be themselves. It is important to defend yourself, but it is also important to defend others.

No one ever spoke up on ANT’s behalf when he was young and lost, so he said that people need to “reach out, shout out, and help out” when they see others in need. Even in the face of homophobia, ANT is still as sassy as ever.

If someone says that there’s something wrong with him as a man, ANT reminds them of one of the greatest, most masculine warriors of all time, Achilles: “The man broke a heel and DIED. Gay!”

From his experiences, ANT discovered that “comedy comes from pain.”

Over the years, he has perfected this art form through becoming a star on “Last Comic Standing,” headlining in Las Vegas, and making numerous celebrity appearances as a comedian and an advocate not only for gay people, but for everyone out there who doesn’t feel like they belong.

As an inspiration, a comedian and a fabulous gay man, ANT is the epitome of everything he encourages others to be and so much more.