It was exactly one year ago tomorrow -- Aug. 15, 2012 -- that I became "the bar mitzvah boy." A few days prior, on Aug. 10, I'd posted the now-famous video of me vogueing at my 1992 bar mitzvah to YouTube.
Five days later, the Perez Hilton got hold of the video and posted it to his blog, calling it "the greatest video on the Internet."
The journey that I embarked on that day one was one of truly epic proportions. The video was featured all over national and international media. I began talking to producers from The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Anderson Cooper Live about making an appearance. I was doing phone interviews with various newspapers and magazines. The following day I flew to New York and appeared on Today and HuffPost Live, and on Monday I was on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The following month I sang with Madonna at her concert, and a month later I was on Ellen, where I was finally introduced to Madonna herself.
In the course of three whirlwind months, so many of the dreams of 13-year-old Shaun Sperling came true.
Recently, with the one-year anniversary of this occasion fast approaching, I had been reflecting on the experience quite a bit. And then yesterday my Facebook page and Twitter account blew up with posts about a new bar mitzvah boy, Sam Horowitz. The timing could not be more perfect. The video of Sam's bar mitzvah -- complete with a high-budget set, a troupe of talented and sexy dancers, tight choreography, a sharp outfit, and a look of pure joy and exhilaration on Sam's face -- is truly awe-inspiring.
I know exactly how he felt at that moment, and I know exactly how he feels now.
Going viral was one of the greatest times of my life. But I soon realized that the experience was not limited to my extended 15 minutes of fame or even meeting Madonna. The true experience was everything that has happened since going viral, which is still beyond complete comprehension for me.
I won't lie: Initially, when the ride started to slow down and my name stopped appearing in the press and I stopped getting 100 Facebook friend requests a day and I returned to relatively normal days, I was depressed. But when the inevitable letdown passed, my world truly began to open up. Living out my 13-year-old self's dreams reminded me that I had so many dreams that were still unrealized. I started creating new dreams and goals that I'd never thought possible before, and I began to understand the choices that I had made over the intervening 21 years that had derailed me from realizing my greatest potential. The best way I can put it is that going viral opened my eyes and brought me closer to my authentic self. And in turn, it has allowed me to share the message of authenticity with the world. For that I will be forever grateful.
I couldn't be prouder to watch Sam's performance. Although this may be self-righteous, I wonder if he saw my video and was somehow inspired by it to express himself the way he did. It doesn't really matter, though. What matters in the end is that with this rite of passage, Sam is expressing himself exactly the way he was meant to, and for that he will inspire others in ways that he will never truly know. The beauty for Sam is that he doesn't have to wait 20 years to learn the lessons that I am learning now.
If I could speak to Sam, I would tell him to enjoy this ride and appreciate every moment and opportunity he is given, because this experience is truly a gift. I would also tell him to ignore the cynics -- and they are everywhere, from people he already knows (and is close to) to people he will meet along the way to people who post ignorant comments on YouTube and every other news source that posts his video. Finally, I would tell him that there is no greater gift than being able to express yourself freely. To everyone else, I would advise you to be grateful to your family, friends, and anybody else who allows you to be you, and continue to pay that forward wherever you go in life.
I hope I can keep the title of "the original bar mitzvah boy," but I am so proud to pass the torch to the new boy in town.
Mazel tov, Sam!