Lauren Alaina Says She's a 'Lucky Girl' After Having Dinner with Fan with Autism: 'A Lot of Happy Crying'
"This is a real friendship now," the country star tells PEOPLE about Ryan. "We're buds"
Lauren Alaina had a dinner date she won't ever forget.
The country singer joined Ryan, a TikToker living with autism, and his sister Brittany for a virtual sushi dinner after Ryan shared his love for the country singer. (And Alaina had the time of her life!)
"It was as rewarding to me as it was to him," Alaina, 26, tells PEOPLE.
It all started in late December when Ryan's sister Brittany filmed a TikTok asking her brother which celebrity he'd love to have dinner with — and he instantly chose the Dancing with the Stars alum.
"I would say country music star Miss Lauren Alaina," he says in the initial video. "She's a Christian. She's a great singer... Plus she's super nice and she's also super sweet."
Just several days later Alaina left a comment on the siblings' post and dueted the clip sharing that she'd love to plan the date with Ryan.
"He talked more about my character than even the music, which really stood out to me, and meant so much to me," Alaina says. "I cried watching it. And then I cried watching his reaction and then I cried meeting him. It was just a lot of happy crying."
Fast forward two months after their initial video, Alaina recreated the initial video with a friend and asked, "Would you like to have dinner with me super soon?" Ryan and Alaina got to finally meet last week over sushi dinner, where they said grace and shared a sweet moment.
In a three-part TikTok Alaina posted, fans of both Ryan and Alaina got to watch some highlights from their dinner as Ryan hilariously shared his lactose intolerance — "I love cheese but it doesn't like me. Cheese hates me," Ryan says as Alaina cracks up — and Alaina slipped into an Elf costume (both her and Ryan's favorite movie!).
"I just really appreciated his reasoning behind loving me. It was so pure. He likes my music, and he's telling me the songs he likes, and that was really amazing too," Alaina says looking back. "The most important thing we all have about us is our character. With having autism, he is so honest, and he just says what he thinks. And for that to be his true perception of me, is just the highest compliment, because I know he genuinely means it."
Alaina and Ryan spent more than an hour on Zoom and have become "buds," she says. Alaina even plans to bring him onto her tour bus once the pandemic is over.
"He's very excited about that. So we've got plans for when I get back out on the road and it's safe for everyone, for him to come out and see the bus, and meet my team," says Alaina. "And this is a real friendship now. We're buds. And also Ryan likes to sing, so I told him if he wanted to, he could get up on stage and sing with me."
As for what it was like to make Ryan's day, Alaina reverses it saying, "I was just the lucky girl chosen to be a part of it."
"He's bringing life into a world that's filled with darkness and sadness right now, and that's really what I want to accomplish with my music. And to be able to have someone like Ryan, who's just so genuine and sincere, to help me do that, it's what the world needs right now," Alaina says.
Meeting with Ryan is just a continuation of a "huge passion" of Alaina's: working with people with intellectual disabilities. Alaina has been volunteering with the Special Olympics since she was 10 and grew up with a cousin with special needs.
"It was extra special to me because if someone could have done something like that for my cousin Ronnie like I was able to do with Ryan, it would have meant the world to him," she says. "I just love Ryan."
She adds: "The world needs more Ryans, for sure."
- George Clooney On Whether He'd Do an ER Reboot: 'It's Hard to Catch Lightning Again'
- George Clooney 'Laid Out the ABCs of Professionalism' on ER Set, Says Costar Noah Wyle
- Hell’s Kitchen Crowns Kori Sutton Its Winner: 'It Really is an Honor'
- George W. Bush Says He Wrote-In Condoleezza Rice in 2020 Election and Clarifies 'Nativist' Comment