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The Aloha Spirit

by Steve Desroches

Esera Tuaolo sits in the Landing Bistro and Bar at the Pilgrim House on the first day of summer that actually feels like summer. It’s sunny and hot and the light fills the room. Tuaolo should be resting his voice as later that night, he opens his show, a cabaret-style concert by this singer originally from Hawaii and formerly a defensive tackle in the NFL for almost a decade. He’s a huge presence in the room, not only because he’s six-foot-two with a shoulder span of two men and big, meaty hands—one featuring a gold NFC Championship ring from when he went all the way to Super Bowl XXXIII with the Atlanta Falcons in 1999. He has a bright smile, which he flashes easily, as he gives a warm “aloha” to everyone coming in and out of the room. For being in town a matter of weeks to learn the lay of the land and to get his show ready, everybody seems to know him. He’s a friend to everyone.

It is of course entirely possible he’s recognized not just from his days in the NFL, but for all the attention he received when he came out and began to tackle homophobia in sports and the importance of diversity and acceptance, something that continues to be a big part of his life’s work. But he gained a whole new level of fame after his appearance on the hit NBC show The Voice last year, advancing all the way to midseason. Tuaolo says music has always been in his life growing up in a Polynesian family where music is such a part of that culture. He sang with his family, and then in the locker room, so much so, he frequently sang the National Anthem before games, sometimes in his uniform and shoulder pads, and then, at the prompting of his 17-year-old daughter, he auditioned for The Voice. All of this gives Tuaolo, nicknamed “Mr. Aloha,” the chance to share the Aloha Spirit with audiences, that special aspect of Hawaiian culture that is the hallmark of the multicultural island chain and 50th state.

“I see it here in Provincetown,” says Tuaolo. “I’m walking down the street and people give me a hug. The Aloha Spirit is accepting of everyone. Hawaii is a paradise. If you come and you act like you own the place it won’t be, but if you’re humble and want to learn about the culture, you’ll be welcomed. Aloha means hello and love, peace, but it can also mean goodbye, which is what people will mean if you’re not part of that spirit.”

His face erupts into a huge smile and he chuckles at the thought, and then delivers another “aloha” to several staff members of the Pilgrim House who, while working hard, flash wide smiles back. He smiles even more. Since coming out as a gay man in 2002, Tuaolo has used the platform the NFL gave him to promote equality and understanding—the Aloha Spirit—something he says sadly was not an option while he was in the NFL, during which time he played in 111 games, 46 of which he started and was the recipient of the Morris Trophy and that massive championship ring. He’s quick to present his stats because, while the critique of his performance while he played reflected his accomplishments, after he came out, some began to diminish his performance as a player now that people knew he was gay. To date he is one of seven men who played in the NFL to come out as gay, none of whom did so while active players. Four others came out prior, but never made it to a game in the regular season, and he knows of gay or bisexual players currently in the NFL, who remain in the closet due to the intense homophobia and pressure they face.

He wrote Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL, his 2006 book that tells his story, and he later founded the Hate is Wrong nonprofit organization to foster diversity and combat bullying among youth. While a closeted NFL player he addressed any acts or words of discrimination he witnessed, including homophobia, by saying “hate in any form is wrong.” At the Super Bowl this past February in Minneapolis, where he now lives, he threw the first NFL-sponsored Super Bowl Inclusion Party, bringing the LGBT+ community and the NFL together, while raising money for local charities. Just last month Tuaolo and his cousin, Olympic diver and gold medalist Greg Louganis, participated in the first Summit for LGBT Inclusion in Sports, hosted by the Minnesota Vikings. His commitment to creating change is evident through his actions, and he notes that it was music that got him through those tough times when he felt so alone.

“Music is a beautiful thing,” says Tuaolo. “All those years of depression and all those years in the closet, all that anxiety. Music saved the day. I’d get home after a horrible day and put on some music and that saved the day.”

Portions of the proceeds from the sales of his merchandise, available both after his shows and at Kenneth Scott clothing store at 368 Commercial Street, will go toward his Hate Is Wrong organization. He’s grateful to begin his summer-long run in Provincetown, the first of many, he hopes, as he’s been bitten by the charm and magic of the town. And as he’s gone to see many other shows in town to get a vibe for their craft and performance style and how he may fit into the large scene, he’s eager to get started and show Provincetown what he’s got, especially as he turns 50 this July 11, during Bear Week.

“If they want to get to know me as a person and as a singer they get that,” says Tuaolo. “They’ll laugh and cry and leave feeling good and empowered. I’m Mr. Aloha. The light and the love will shine through.”

Esera “Mr. Aloha” Tuaolo performs at the Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown, through September 2. For specific dates, times, and tickets ($30 general /$40 VIP), go to the box office, call 508.487.6424, or visit For more information on Tuaolo’s organization Hate is Wrong, visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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