The German contestant spoke with us about his experience in Poland, recalls his experience facing the protestors in Poznan, his charity work and his plans for the future.
What led you to participate on the competition?
Caring for others has always been a big part of my life. I cancelled my first studies to stay with my family and have sacrificed a lot for that. Still the spirit of giving back and taking care for others lives within me.
So that’s why I do it – for you guys!
Can you describe to us the competition?
It consists of a set of challenges such as a photo shoot, an interview by the judges, a presentation of your campaign or project, discussions and workshops, social media appearances, a sports challenge and so on – it covers a broad spectrum of your public and personal life.
Who’s Mr Gay Europe?
It is mostly a representative for you guys.
An ambassador willing to listen to the needs of our community. Someone who is responsible for raising those needs to European leaders, politicians, and other influential people.
Mr Gay Europe is your voice to the big guys – delivering a message from Marathon to Athens like one young man did back in ancient times.
Which task did you enjoy the most?
Interacting with people. I love to get my hands dirty for the nitty gritty. I’m a creator and maker. I love to speak to people and have them listen to what we as a group have to say, but I’ll also be the first one in line to help build that community centre or carry signs and chant at rallies and demonstrations.
Some people in Poznan weren’t excited by the competition and you had some protesters in Poznan. At any point did you think that things could escalate further?
We were scared to death.
We were shocked at first at what was happening – everything around us was moving so quickly, they got us onto the bus and away from the situation. The Pride parade hadn’t even started at that point.
The situation was handled very well by Poznan police, they’d been protecting us all week.
In the end we had two thoughts – what have we done to these people to offend them? But also that this is why we do what we do and why Mr Gay Europe will never be a beauty pageant.
We are activists and fighters!
Did you feel safe during the rest of your stay in Poland?
At all times we had a police escort with us or following us around. I’m very happy that the authorities of Poznan were always by our side.
Do you feel the world is moving forward in terms of LGBTQ rights, or are we reaching a plateau phase now?
Overall, I do feel that we’re still moving forward.
In cities and countries where clear majorities have been accepting us, focus has shifted to problems within our community – bi-phobia, trans-phobia, pan-phobia. We’re also exploring different life choices compared to what heteronormative society has taught us about relationships – poly-amorous for some, monogamous for others, separated in sexual and romantic love for the next person. All that combined with the discussions of binary and non-binary gender roles, and the stereotypes about safer sex, can create a weird cocktail of misunderstanding and lack of information outside and within our community.
It’s a long list of topics – rather than issues – that I’d like to address and work on with each and every member of our community. Let’s get it on!
How did it feel to win Mr Gay Europe?
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the gayest of them all? Would you believe it’s me?
I didn’t, but now that I made it, it feels me with deep pride.
No one can take that achievement away from me – the honour of being chosen! Thank you so much to everyone for each and every vote, tweet and hashtag!
Do you think this title will help you reach a wider audience with your activism?
Indeed it already has.
I feel that there’s so little time in one day to do something that sometimes I don’t know where to start. The only thing that counts though is to do something!
Care for each other every day in everything you do. From the products you buy, to the people you vote for, and the ones you choose to be allies.
Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet – and I’m so ready to meet each and every one!
What are your plans for this year?
Change the world!
Well, let’s start with Germany and the other European countries. Then we’ll move on.
I want people to be interested in their future again – give back, invest some money in projects and charities you like and help them grow, care for each other! It makes the world a nicer place for all of us.
Come out to meet me at events and work with me on my campaign Silver Rainbow to overcome generational conflicts, and to create great living spaces and educational environments for our community.
LGBTQ nursing homes, shared living spaces, and projects like these generate good vibrations – can you feel it?
Next year’s competition will take place in Germany, your home-country. Any advice for next year’s contestants?
Get to know the host country and region. Everyone loves being appreciated and interest being shown in them.
Stay true to yourself, but present it in the best way!
Live the spirit of the European Union – united in diversity.
Life is about making the right choices for all of us – not for each and every one of us.
Any message you would like to leave to our readers?
Recycle your trash, stop buying plastic, vote on every level you can for the common good, and care for your elders – start by calling your grandparents right now!
We want to hear your opinion
Photography that embraces naked men
“Stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet…”
I caught up with photographer Anthony Patrick Manieri to talk about his ongoing series of work known as Arrested Movement.
Why do you think this project has captured the imagination of gay men around the world?
Because we’re all the same really, except we don’t all look alike. We usually just see what society deems to be the ‘perfect’ body types, flashed across TV and social media all the time.
This project encompasses a wide variety of men that are photographed equally and beautifully. I feel that the variety of men and body shapes being highlighted are recognisable to most men. We need to see diversity represented more in the media. That, and also the idea of male body positivity is refreshing in a world where the media seems to only push female body positivity. In this day and age, where depression and anxiety are extremely commonplace, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone in the struggle.
Why are men so keen to be photographed by you for this project?
Because we all want to fit in. We all want to be accepted, and here is a photographic series celebrating all men, all body types, and showcasing them artistically. I think men look at this and can relate and identify with some of the participating models, because they see themselves in the photos.
Most of the men you’ve photographed for this project appear to be first-time models, most likely being professionally photographed naked for the first time. Was that experience confronting for many of your models?
From what I’ve seen, and from what some of my assistants mentioned to me, for most of the men that participate there’s a definite shift in their overall energy levels from when they first arrive at the studio to when they’re done. One assistant asked me — “What is going on in the studio? Because when they arrive they’re quite scared, some even shake with nerves, but when they leave they glow and have this sense of empowerment.”
I make sure that the studio is private and a safe space for them to try and feel as comfortable as possible. I brief them, and coach them with suggestions of possible body movement. I also stop periodically to show the gentlemen their progression so far in the shoot.
Most men, after seeing themselves on the screen during the shoot, are delightfully impressed by how they look. They look at themselves in a positive light artistically, and not what they usually expect to see. I talk to them about how their hands are positioned, their facial expressions, pointing of their feet, and the overall lines of their bodies in the frame.
When you’re not quite happy with your body, putting yourself out there is brave. I watch some men almost lose themselves in the moment and in the music. I’m grateful that I get to witness such a personal moment of self-evolution. For others, they’re determined to take an amazing photo, so they push themselves so that their final image is strong and unique.
Should everyone tackle a naked photo shoot at some point in their lives?
I don’t know if that’s the answer. What people should do is take time to appreciate and accept themselves, to put themselves first. Fill their own cups before extinguishing their energy with others. Uniqueness is special. It’s okay to look different on the outside, because we’re all the same on the inside.
How is the project continuing to evolve?
I’m currently working on the design of the book — I’ll be releasing a Kickstarter page this Fall. I’m also looking at gallery spaces to have the first of many shows.
Are you still actively shooting guys for this project?
I’m still actively photographing men. If it were up to me, I’d be in a different city every weekend photographing.
Since I’m funding this myself, I need to take breaks between cities. Travelling, studio costs, and hotels add up quickly. There are a few cities in the US, Canada, and Mexico that I’d like to do before heading back to Europe. Beyond that, there’s talk of Australia, and possibly some cities in South America for 2019.
How can we help each other feel better about our bodies?
I think we really need to be kind to ourselves, and each other — daily. Judgement and self-judgement is such a human flaw, it’s like a vibrational plague. We should be detaching ourselves from our smart-phones and social media regularly. Yoga and meditation are great ways to feel centred and grounded, to be in tune with our higher self. Eating right always makes for a happier body and mind. We need to encourage and validate each other to be the best we can be.
What do the images that you’ve captured through this project tell us about gay men and their relationship with their bodies?
Gay culture is meant to be inclusive, and we celebrate that inclusiveness. Though within the gay community, there’s such a divide between men. We’re labelled and put in categories, therefore creating almost a hierarchy of what’s acceptable.
Body-image and self-esteem start in your own mind, not on Instagram. We need to literally stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. We need to make mental health a priority in the gay community.
I hope that when people see this project, they know their worth, they know that they’re beautiful, and that it’s okay to be different.
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