Crazy Like a Fox
Actress Traci Dinwiddie May Poke Fun at Herself But When It Comes to Serious Fundraising She’s a Peach
by Dann Dulin
Her eyes are ablaze with jet engine white-hot flames while blood tears rapidly stream down her pained face. This could be the one intense moment that Traci Dinwiddie fans will remember about her career, thus far, portraying the blind psychic Pamela Barnes on TV’s sci-fi series, Supernatural.
Traci has had other profound scenes as an actor, as well, like her award-winning performance in the film, Elena Undone. Her voice also gave life to the animated character, Tanzi the lady Ninja, in the Web series, Zombies vs Ninjas. A versatile actress, she even played the legendary Country/Western singer, Patsy Cline, in the stage production of Always, Patsy Cline. Other television credits include Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, 90210, and Make It or Break It.
But Traci’s most challenging role may have been a cyclist for AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC) last summer. She raised over $107,000. That’s worth a repeat. She raised over $107,000! At the finish line many greeted her, including fans and friends, some from as far away as Australia. Traci’s also an active supporter of human and animal rights, and suicide prevention.
In between acting roles, she teaches yoga, trains on trapeze, writes for magazines, and drums West African rhythms. Traci also created #MoustacheMonday videos, where she sports a fake moustache in blog-style entries, sometimes dancing her ass off to assorted high-energy tunes.
Dinwiddie (her adopted father’s name) is of Scottish origin and the Alaskan-born, North Carolina-bred gal also claims Arab, German and Cherokee Indian as part of her heritage. The self-proclaimed, “part time badass and full-time fruitcake” had such an enlightening adventure with ALC that she’s gearing up to ride again in June. (You can contribute at: www.tofighthiv.org/goto/tracidinwiddie.) Traci affectionately calls her cyber friends who have wholly supported her throughout her ALC odyssey, “T-bugs.”
Dann Dulin: What’s your inspiration for those wonderful wacky videos, “Moustache Monday?”
Traci Dinwiddie: I used to get what my mom would call “the Sunday night blues.” Moustache Mondays are my way of making light-hearted play for a day that tends to bring so much anxiety. It’s just silly fun.
Yes, fascinating enough, Sunday nights always seem like a downer. When did you first hear about the epidemic?
I remember being in middle school and bullies made fun of it. “AIDS” was a scary word and often used as an insult. When I think of HIV/AIDS now, I think of friends, hope, and healing.
That’s a lovely thought, Traci. How has the epidemic affected you?
Honestly, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected in some way. I’ve lost many dear friends and I have many friends who are HIV-positive. It is simply a part of my life.
What motivated you to ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle?
I had known about it for a few years, but it seemed like all things pointed me toward taking it on for 2013. It’s a rather big commitment to make, and the timing seemed just right to begin my ALC journey. It was in support of the wonderful friends that I lost, for the many friends living beautiful, healthy lives thanks to The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s services, and for my sober sisters and brothers. My partner, Kristin, is the associate director at the AIDS/LifeCycle L.A. office, and I wanted to stand beside her with my complete support. It thrilled me to be able to use my teensy bit of celebrity to bring awareness to this often-forgotten issue. We don’t see AIDS in the news anymore, and there is still a stigma to deconstruct. I like a meaningful project as well as a damn good challenge. So, it was a perfect fit.
It’s people like you who, thankfully, blast ignorance! How long have you been sober?
Well, thank you. Fourteen.
Congratulations. What was your drug of choice?
If only I had a drug of choice! Of course, I had preferences, but not much of a choice. I juggled a lot of drugs in my desperation to feel different.
Any advice you could offer others who are currently using?
I don’t have advice, but I can say that my life is so much better being a clean and sober woman in the world. My feelings are treasured now. There was a time when I didn’t want to feel anything. Today, I’m able to sit with discomfort and ask for help when I need it. What a relief!
What a monumental accomplishment. Tell me about the AIDS/LifeCycle journey.
To prepare for a 545-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles over seven days, it was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. My winter and spring leading up to the event were filled with training rides, friend making, and fundraising. A whole new community of loving people brightened my world. I felt a joyous rush from gathering my “troops” in support of this cause. I grew as I learned how to ask for donations in an unapologetic manner and to ask beyond my comfort zone. The actual training allowed me to see gorgeous, sometimes hidden, parts of California that one could only see and appreciate from a bicycle. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new strength I found in my thighs!
I’ll bet at times they were throbbing! [Cracking an achy smile as her gleaming green eyes squint, Traci nods in complete agreement.] What was your training regimen like?
I trained from October to June and took longer rides every weekend, with a shorter mid-week ride.
And how rough did it get out there?
Well…I learned how to “clip out” [detaching the shoes from the bike pedal] for the first time in November, so, yes, it was a challenge. Had a few little spills on my bike early in my training. On my second time up Latigo Canyon, I didn’t have the proper winter/rain gear and got soaked and nearly froze my tush off. By the time I made it to the tippy top of the nine mile climb, I began to have an asthma attack. Of course, I made it through, however, I learned to always carry my inhaler with me and to invest in proper gear. All of this prepared me for the actual ride. I stayed dry, warm, and healthy. My body was strong and took to the journey with gusto.
What makes you care about all of this?
I watched one of my very best friends attempt to rebuild his life after losing his partner to AIDS nearly twenty years ago. It was heartbreaking. So much has changed now. People with HIV/AIDS can still live productive, happy, and healthy lives with all of the new medications available. This hope for new possibilities motivates me. Lives can be turned around for the better by simply giving to AIDS/LifeCycle.
Any last words, Traci?
I just want to encourage everyone to get tested—and talk about HIV/AIDS! The more aware we become, the less stigma it holds and thus, social healing is possible.
Dann Dulin is Senior Editor of A&U.