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Growing up in a small Portuguese village 20 years ago, I never heard homosexuality mentioned at home or school. It wasn’t discussed on TV either. The few times I did hear anything about being gay, it was in a negative, mocking way. I felt like an outcast; like I didn’t belong.
Throughout my whole childhood and adolescence, I was bullied for being different and not conforming to what society expected of me. The bullying I experienced was so traumatic, I’m still feeling the effects today.
When I was 23, I moved to the Netherlands to look for work. I eventually found a job at Medtronic, the world-renowned medical company. Medtronic supports diversity and inclusion, believing that when people of all walks of life and points of view come together, quality improves exponentially.
The company is committed not just to an inclusive working environment, but also to creating a world where LGBTQ people and their families feel accepted, safe and valued. I finally found a place where I belong and where I feel like I have a purpose.
What is Mister Senior Netherlands and how did I end up joining it?
In addition to my job with Medtronic, I’m also an actor and commercial model — and that’s why I wanted to join Mister Senior Netherlands.
Mister International Netherlands is a pageant, now in its fifth year. Unfortunately for me, Mister International Netherlands is only open to men under 30. At 35, I’m too old to compete, but this year the organization launched Mister Senior Netherlands for men over 30. I’m competing against men as old (or young!) as 70. And unlike other similar pageants, Mister Senior Netherlands is not a gay competition; it’s open to everyone regardless of sexual orientation.
The misconception about pageants
I often hear people say they think pageants are dumb. I hear that participants are just paying to hear how beautiful we are, that we’re selfish, that we have no goals or ambitions. But nothing could be further from the truth.
My experience as a Mister Senior Netherlands finalist puts the lie to that. My fellow participants are an extraordinary group of well-educated, intelligent men. We care about each other, and their ambitions inspire me to be a better person.
From the very first audition, we’re encouraged to stay true to who we are and show off our brains, kindness and inner beauty. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of representing this organization.
I admit, Mister Senior Netherlands is a way to build my modeling portfolio. But the most important part of it for me is to use the visibility that comes with appearing in the pageant to help change the world. I want to help people who faced the same struggles I did growing up.
This is also an opportunity to tackle ageism — a challenge many gay and bi men come up against. (And one we all will face someday, unless something changes.) I’m only 35, but I’ve often been told I was “too old” — even from people older than I am.
The most awkward incident happened about a year ago. A 20-something wanted to meet with me. But since I normally go for men who are a bit more mature, I wasn’t immediately interested. But he was so persistent I finally decided to give him a chance. But as soon as I agreed to meet him, he asked me for money. I asked him if he was an escort — no judgements, I just wanted to know what I was getting into. But he replied: “Oh, no, I’m not an escort! I’m only asking for money because you’re over 30.”
While I’m talking about ageism, because that’s what I experience the most, we need to talk about other prejudices on dating apps. We’ve all seen people who post things like “no Asians,” “no femmes,” “no fatties,” “masc4masc,” etc. I don’t know if apps are doing enough to respond to user discrimination, but by talking about these issues, we can raise awareness and hopefully change people’s minds.