The History of Mr Gay World
Eric Butter and Dean Nelson embarked on a mission to create a global competition that would inspire and empower gay men to come together in a public performance that would show the world that being gay encompasses a broad spectrum. The mission to demonstrate that both inward beauty and physical appearance are equally important as is leadership and confidence. It was our hope that by bringing these men together they would share their experiences to open both each others’ as well as the public’s eyes that in many regions on our planet being gay is a challenge and a fight for basic human rights.
Both Eric Butter and the then Vice Chair of Mr Gay Europe, Tore Aasheim, were invited to Vancouver to discuss how we could bring this global vision to the International Producers and ensure that the Mr Gay World board had a united and global view.
Mr Gay Europe initiated the Dublin Summit bringing Eric Butter (Australia), Dean Nelson (Canada), Tore Aasheim (Norway), Brian Merriman (Ireland) and Noemi Alberto (Philippines) together to discuss the structure, vision and mission of Mr Gay World and to form the first international board of directors in Dublin, Ireland. The new board officially awarded the first host city to Whistler, Canada during their annual WinterPRIDE celebrations.
The first Mr Gay World Competition took place during the annual WinterPRIDE celebrations in the award winning mountain resort of Whistler, Canada welcoming 24 delegates. Only twenty of those competed which resulted in Ireland’s Max Krzyanowski winning the title. Mark Tewksbury (Canadian Olympian) and Charlie David (US/Canadian Actor/Producer) emceed the Grand Finale at the Westin Whistler Resort Ballroom to a sold out audience. Special guest performances by Canadian Pop recording artists Destineak and Vancouver’s drag diva Ms. Willie Taylor.
The second Mr Gay World Competition took place in Oslo, Norway welcoming 23 delegates including Chinese National Xiaodai (Andrew) Muyi. The significance of having Andrew compete demonstrated to the people of China that they are not alone in their quest to be accepted. Andrew, who is Muslim, came from a dominant Muslim region of Xinjiang and explained in an interview with the Chinese Global Times ,“Organizing gay events in Xinjiang is much harder than in Beijing, because it is against religion.” Hanne Krogh, winner of the Eurovision song contest 1985, presented the Eric Butter Philanthropy award to HRH Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway for her dedication in HIV/AIDS-related work as well as youth empowerment. Emcee Will Fennell (Australia TV personality) named Charl van der Berg (South Africa) the title of Mr Gay World 2010.
The third Mr Gay World Competition took place in Manila, Philippines. This year the MGW team brought the competition to the people of Manila where all the delegates volunteered their time to give back to a Manila slum restoration project – Gawad Kalinga to the Unilab GK Village Arkong Bato in Brgy Kapitolyo, Pasing City, Philippines. Each of the delegates brought books and toys to be donated to the village. The MGW team then went to work to renovate a new learning centre for the children. This was an important task as it gave the care workers as well as community officials an opportunity to see another aspect of gay men helping to overcome stereotypes of what they may think how gay men look and act. Filipino TV celebrity Boy Abunda, at Club Mwah in Mandaluyong City, was presented with the Eric Butter Philanthropy Award for his work in promoting a strong and positive role model for the Philippines’ LGBT community. Celebrity judge and 1969 Miss Universe, Gloria Diaz, was among the judges that determined South Africa’s Francois Nel would bring home the MGW title to African soil for the second consecutive year.
Hosted by Mr Gay South Africa, Mr Gay World announces new Board of Directors at the Johannesburg Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa welcoming two new board members including Coenie Kukkuk (South Africa) Director for Africa and the Middle East, and Alfredo Ferreyra (Argentina) Director for South America / Caribbean – Latin America. Returning members are Eric Butter (Australia) – President, Dean Nelson (Canada) – Vice President Operations + Director for North America and Oceania, Noemi Alberto (Philippines) – Vice President Outreach + Director for Asia, Tore Aasheim (Norway) – Director for Europe.
The fourth Mr Gay World Competition took place in Johannesburg, South Africa welcoming 24 registered participants to the Rainbow Nation. This was the first time that a major international gay event had been staged on African soil and caused much debate and public discussion within Africa and around the world – fulfilling one of the primary goals of the organization. For the first time, MGW had a huge highway billboard sign on one of the busiest motorways in Africa promoting the annual competition and raising the profile of LGBT Human Rights. It was also the first time the competition was able to host black Africans in the competition where these men literally put their lives on the line to raise awareness of LGBT human rights in their respective countries of Ethiopia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean had extraordinary pressures, from both his family and President Robert Mugabe, and had to withdraw from the competition in order to avoid “embarrassing the country.” The Ethiopian also faced similar challenges but stayed to compete which forced him to become a refugee and lose his family. If he were to return to Ethiopia he would face impending death for being publicly gay. Emcees Cathy Specific and Soli Philander navigated a sold out audience at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City, South Africa, recounting the incredible journey these men have been on while in South Africa. This included an outreach program to a Nkosi’s Haven – a South African NGO offering holistic care and support for destitute HIV/AIDS infected mothers, their children, and resulting AIDS orphans (infected or not). Dean Nelson (Canada) presented Coenie Kukkuk with the Eric Butter Philanthropy Award for his tireless work in creating a safer more inclusive environment for Africa’s LGBTI community and raising the profile and disparity in LGBTI Human Rights. The judges determined it would be Mr Gay New Zealand – Andreas (Andy) Derleth who would take home the title of Mr Gay World to Oceania, with South Africa again scoring well with Lance Weyer from the Eastern Cape placing second.
During the worldOutgames 2013 in Antwerp, Belgium, the organisation geared up to host the fifth annual Mr Gay World Competition in Antwerp, Belgium July 31st – August 5th welcoming the largest delegation to date from around the world eager to be the next Mr. Gay World™. Again, a New Zealander won – Christopher Olwage, walking away with five category wins. The Eric Butter Philanthropy Award was awarded to the well-known NoH8-campaign for their very visual and social media viral campaign of advocating against hate. It would be the first time a delegate from the Caribbean win the Sports challenge, with Aruba making the grade. In another first, a black African, Ricardo Amunjera would make the Top 5 placing as 3rd runner-up. Ricardo returned in 2015 to be a judge at Mr Gay World 2015.
The next stop in Mr. Gay World’s journey around the world would take it to Rome, Italy with the producers this year being the Gay Village in Rome. This is also the first time the winner would be crowned outdoors – on the large stage at the open arena of Gay Village. The Gay Village is unique – creating a space for LGBT people every Thursday to Saturday during the summer in Rome. A strong contingent from Asia would participate, with delegates from Cambodia and Indonesia joining Mr Gay World for the first time with their counterparts from India, Philippines and Hong Kong. Italian politician and human rights activist, Imma Battaglia, took home the Eric Butter Philanthropy Award for her achievements in organising the first Rome Pride march as well as her decades-long fight for LGBT rights in Italy. India won three categories, but it would be the United Kingdom’s Stuart Hatton Jr. taking the title for the UK for the first time. Stuart would later launch his “So What” campaign on social media, attracting worldwide attention.
South Africa would become the only country to have hosted Mr. Gay World twice, with the competition returning to the African continent, this time taking place in two cities, Cape Town and Knysna, with the Grand Finale taking place in Knysna on the 2nd of May. It would also be the first time that delegates would join a street parade, namely the annual Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival parade on the day of the final, with the Pink Loerie also the host and producer run by John-Louis O’Neil and Karin Sephton. Mr. Gay World also welcomed new directors Ivan Denis and Bram Bierkens (Belgium) for Europe and Juan Martin Boll (Argentina) and Nano Garcia for Latin America, and Dieter Sapper from Austria as CEO with Noemi Alberto (Philippines) returning for Asia. Coenie Kukkuk (South Africa) would continue as Director for Africa and the Middle East as well as Managing Director for 2015. A host of countries would make their debut at Mr. Gay World in 2015, including Cuba, Dominican Republic, Zambia, Uruguay and Malta participating for the first time.