First Mr Gay China pageant unveils contestants

15:20, January 11, 2010      

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This is the question everyone will soon be asking, as both foreign and Chinese press caught their first glimpse of five of the eight Mr Gay China Pageant contestants Sunday afternoon at Lantung Bar and Bistro in Solana Mall.

Gayographic, Beijing's only gay PR and event management company, is organizing the landmark pageant that will be held this Friday evening at 8 pm on Friday at LAN Club. For Ben Zhang, co-founder and managing director of Gayographic, the message is clear.

"We hope to send out a message to the Chinese public that the gay community is here and it's healthy, sexy, trendy," he told METRO in an interview on Sunday.

Zhang explained that the inspiration to throw the first Mr Gay China Pageant on the Chinese mainland came from a friend of a friend, who was a producer for the Mr Gay Hong Kong Pageant. Recognizing the company's ability to hold such a bold event, the pieces soon fell into place. And as word began to spread, so did the pressure, as well as support and make it happen.

One contestant, 26 year-old Emilio Liu, told METRO he did not think it was possible at first: "When Ben first asked me about [the pageant] I accepted as a joke," he said. "I accepted because I never thought something like this would happen in China."

Zhang said he received a total of about 12 applications, and had asked some people like Liu because they were friends. The eight finalists, he said, are from all over China.

"Six are based in Beijing, but none are from Beijing," he said. "We've got contestants from Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Chongqing, Tianjin, Chengdu, Liaoning, and Harbin."

The winner will compete in the final competition in Oslo, Norway in February. The Worldwide Mr Gay Pageant includes 32 delegates worldwide. The pageant's objective, according to a press release from Gayographic about the event, is to use a "beauty competition" to raise the self-esteem and visibility of gay men internationally.

The Mr Gay China Pageant will consist of three rounds: the freestyle round, the fashion show, and the underwear questions and answer segment. According to Zhang, the freestyle round is in lieu of a talent segment because they did not want to discourage applicants from applying.

"For the freestyle part they can come and do whatever they want - sing, take off their clothes, dance," he explained, grinning.

The fashion show will have contestants select garments provided by a German fashion designer David Uble and strut their stuff on the catwalk. In each round, judges will eliminate two to three contestants until the final round, when the audience itself will then elect the first Mr Gay China.

There will be a panel of five judges for the competition, and according to Zhang are men, women, gay, straight and "represent all walks of life and a little bit of local flavor."

Few participants, however, were completely out to their friends and family.

For contestant Steven Zhang, 30, his father does not know that his son his gay, let alone competing in a national beauty pageant for gays.

"I think this will out me," he admitted, "whether I like it or not."

For David Wu, also 30, he is counting on the Mr Gay China Pageant being publicized in certain media channels that his family is not likely to read.

"I don't believe the Chinese language media will report the competition," he said, "So I'm not really worried about my parents finding out."

Emilio Liu told METRO that his mother and his friends know, but his father still does not know.

"If I said, 'Dad, I'm gay.' He'd be like, 'Gay? What is that?"
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