FeaturesQueer in Galveston

From City Lights to Island Bliss

Lucio Nieto’s move to Galveston sparked a journey of creative growth and self-discovery.

Lucio Nieto (Photo by Natasha Norregaard)

Moving from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles to the quiet tranquility of Galveston was quite the transition, but actor Lucio Nieto’s journey to living on the Island has taken him on a path toward self-love and acceptance—messages that he says anyone can latch onto.

“I am focusing on learning how to love more,” he says. “I am ready to learn healthy love, and be an example for it. Not just talking about it, but actually doing it. I’m learning how to remove everything that once got in my way and putting my intention on true, authentic love.”

Hailing from New York City and Los Angeles, where he was heavily involved in the art and theater scenes, the openly gay actor had moved to the Island during the height of COVID-19, and it was only meant to be a temporary stay.

“By the time I moved to Galveston during COVID, the industry had completely shut down,” he recalls. “TV shows that were filming halted production. Movies that were going to start were no longer going forward. I was out of work. Around that time, my mom had moved from Dallas to Galveston for a job offer to work on the Island downtown. One day, I called her and was very transparent and honest about what was going on. She showed me her apartment online, and said that I was welcome to visit whenever I wanted. Four years later, I haven’t left!”

Working as a server at Gaido’s, Nieto says he feels a passion for giving people the best service possible, while also leaving them feeling more positive and inspired by life in the process.

“I feel like this is my performance hall,” he explains. “You know, as a server, I’m really there to give guests the best possible experience. I realized that it’s such a powerful place to be within our community, and it’s teaching me a lot about how I can really be able to offer my gifts in a way that is going to teach me humility, focus, discipline, and what it is to actually listen to the needs of those who are simply wanting a meal. Because in the grand picture of things, as my artistry begins to develop and as I begin to perform and create, especially here on the Island, it’s only going to amplify my belief that we all need the resources to be able to heal.”

When he’s not busy serving the needs of his restaurant customers, Nieto makes sure he continues to give back to those on the Island by going back to his theater roots and performing at gay bars such as Robert’s Lafitte and in community-theater musicals such La Cage Aux Folles last spring at Galveston’s ETC Theatre.

“My first time performing as a solo headliner singer was at Robert’s Lafitte, the oldest gay bar in Texas,” he notes. “I was there every week for six months. Performing for our community has been such a fulfilling experience for me. Galveston has really proven itself to be something that I needed, but that I never knew I wanted. It was almost as if I needed to let go of all those things that I created in order to rediscover why those dreams are important, and why those dreams are still continuing on for me in Galveston.”

Nieto has also been exploring his musical roots by composing and producing music videos—most recently a cover of  “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. “That song has been received so well by those who have listened to the record or watched the music video,” he says. “This cover has such a special place in my heart because that film inspired me to become an actor. I’ve been writing a lot more music since I arrived in Galveston. That serves as another creative outlet, and has gifted me with my own form of therapy.”

Galveston is a natural place for artistic people to thrive, and Nieto says he feels like an unofficial ambassador to the Island’s many charms and emotional-healing properties.

(Photo by Lonnie Windham)

“You know, I truly believe Galveston is a vortex,” he notes. “I believe it’s an uncharted vortex. The truth of it is, when you’re surrounded by nature, you’re more in line with your vessel than you can be when you’re surrounded by a bunch of tall buildings in cities. I mean, if we look at what’s happening with Los Angeles, so many people are fleeing the big city to places like Galveston so they can be closer to water. Water is the natural element of cleansing, restoration, and healing. So when you’re surrounding yourself with water, that’s the flow of creative energy in life.”

Island living has indeed given Nieto a new lease on life, allowing him to explore who he is and what he wants from life—in the form of a meditation practice and an exploration of spirituality. The last few years have been hard for many people, and Nieto suggests all of us can benefit greatly from meditation and a greater sense of self-reflection.

“Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean ‘close your eyes, breathe deeply, chant and bang on a bunch of drums,’” he says. “Meditation is a deep focus. That’s all meditation is. There’s such an element of spirituality in nature here on the Island. This is a space where it is safe for me to reinvent if needed, to remember, to be reminded, to grow.”

In particular, Nieto encourages the gay community to take the time to regularly meditate and find a strong support system, because it’s important to drown out all the homophobia and hatred sweeping the country.

“The people who are living in the dark are only afraid of the light, so shine brighter!” —Lucio Nieto

“The people who are living in the dark are only afraid of the light, so shine brighter!” he emphasizes. “We are so vast and expansive that if we feed into the anxiety and we believe it to be true, then we’re going to perpetuate it. Just keep shining. Be with your community who makes you feel safe. Put on some really good music. Tell yourself how beautiful you are. Imagine yourself in white light. Visualize feeling safe. Visualize yourself in golden energy. Visualize yourself being a king or a queen. Visualize yourself having a team of angels around you. Do whatever you can. Tell yourself, ‘I’m safe, I’m protected, I’m loved, I’m divine.’”

As Nieto sees it, leaving California and living a more peaceful life in Galveston has prepared him for the next step in his life: love.

“I’m now ready for the healthiest forms of love,” he says. “That’s what I’m ready for. That’s the thing I’m calling it, and when I do that, it’s going to affect my jobs. It’s going to affect my finances. It’s going to affect my creativity. It’s going to affect everything. So baby, I’m ready for unconditional love! I am excited to find my divine partner, being openly gay with a man, doing my best to love and to change the world. That’s the journey I’m on.”

Keep up with Lucio Nieto on Instagram @reikiminister.

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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