Anthony L. Gilardi
"You will miss me when I'm gone...The Dream said to The Heart" -Anthony Gilardi
I remember sitting in a small apartment in Boston, thinking to myself that there has to be more to life. I felt alone, invisible, hopeless.
My addiction was taking over. Painkillers numbed my body, my heart, and my soul. That was the reality of my twenties. Fear kept me stuck in one place.
It was either move forward … or die.
I sold everything I had that was worth anything, put what was left in my truck, and drove away. At the time, I thought I was going to California to pursue my dream of being an actor … but my real destiny was yet to come.
Over ten years went by and there I was, a substitute teacher at an acting studio. I had been there for a few years when I had the exciting opportunity to teach my own class. I wanted to make my class special and unique so I started doing research … looking for things that I felt could inspire my students.
One day, while I was in a toy store looking for a gift for my newborn nephew, I came across a pop-up book that was about hippopotamuses. It said something… something that struck a nerve. Something I will never forget.
Hippos only move forward; they don’t move side to side or backwards. If anything gets in the way of a hippo … it gets stomped.
To me, that was a message that actors in this business could definitely identify with.
On February 5, 2011 I decided to bring that message to my new class. I was right, not only could my actors identify with that amazing fact, but the “Keep Moving Forward” attitude of the Hippo became our mantra.
The message was simple: Set a goal, see it, and move forward. Don’t move side to side. Don’t move backwards.
I taught my students that once they set that goal, they can’t be distracted by their surroundings or let their past dictate their future. If I had done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Inspiring those around me to never give up on what life has planned for you.
Our mantra caught on, and we soon started referring to ourselves as “Hippos.”
It became the new term for anyone that sets a goal, faces overwhelming odds, and does not let anything stop them from moving forward.
Inspired by how quickly this movement caught on, I created an acronym to further expand and define the message.
Humanity. Inspiration. Preparation. Perseverance. Originality.
That was the day that HIPPOLife was born.
The Hippos learned that art has no race, no gender, no age and does not discriminate based on where you come from or what you have gone through.
There was no luck, no magic, no coincidences, and no judgment. It was just human beings being able to tell stories in an artistic way. But it was more than art … it was healing, it was rehabilitating, it was life-saving.
Thinking back to the days when I was battling addiction, trying to overcome depression and anxiety, the only thing that saved me was storytelling. It was my only outlet.
I am here because art saved me.
Soon, my students came to me with stories of how HIPPOLife saved their lives too. It helped them fight suicidal thoughts, depression, anger, past abuse, and most importantly … it gave them a family. It gave them a home.
The primal need to feel human, not to be invisible, and to have a voice is something everyone can relate to.
In January 2013, I opened Anthony Gilardi Acting Studio with a simple goal: providing a safe home for actors and to teach the art of humanity.
When I was not in class teaching I was out doing volunteer work with inner city kids & teens, military veterans, former gang members and people with disabilities.
Besides the desire to learn acting, I realized they all had something else in common. They too felt alone, left out, not taken seriously and were dismissed by society.
These amazing people were not looking for sympathy. They just wanted to be seen. They wanted to be heard. It was then when I realized, not only does art have no race, no gender and no age…it also has no limitation.
The human beings I was meeting were underserved, yes, but they were also “Hippos.”
HIPPOLife was expanding…it was evolving.
Finally, in February 2016, exactly five years from the original date of its conception, the Hippos got our 501(c)(3) status and the HIPPOLife Non-Profit Organization was born.
Our mission: Rehabilitation and Social Awareness Through the Arts.
Giving the voiceless a voice, serving the underserved, and providing an opportunity to keep moving forward.
Because deep down inside…we are all Hippos!