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This last Saturday night wasn’t not only the Eurovision final, it was also the election of “Mr. Bear 2018”, the annual event organized by the association Les Ours de Paris (The Bears of Paris), the culmination of five days of anti-bodyshaming festivities, with social events, picnics and cruise on Seine River.
“At one point you have to stop wanting to love yourself despite being too big, too small, too hairy, too fat, too feminine … Let’s accept ourselves and be loved for what we are — we’re fat, we’re fools, we are fat fags,” Nicolas, the president of the association, proclaimed when he went on stage.
This year, the competition moved from the Depot sex club to Les Étoiles, a club near the East Railway Station. Unlike last year, the afterparty wasn’t held in a cruising area, but it still had a warm atmosphere with more than 450 people present: bears, admirers, lots of hair, some guys in harness and others in more casual outfits.
Oh, and of course there were also the “Mr. Bear” contestants from around the world, from Sitges to Florida. On the dance floor, there was something to scream “woof!” at, at 120 beats per second.
But back to the competition. The eight finalists had several chances to prove themselves and convince the jury and audience. Fortunately, we are spared the questions of general culture and just focus on the essentials: their bodies, hair and charisma. We regret that the finalists were very white, but oh well.
Somewhat similar to the catwalk on RuPaul’s Drag Race, each Mr. Bear 2018 contestant appeared in a fashion either connected to their job, a personal passion or a personality trait. Each one had a few minutes to convince us that they were more of less assured of their worthiness.
Some of the more comfortable contestants embraced the crowd of eyes, throwing quick winks or smiles on the fly. It was easy to guess the crowd’s favorites thanks to the clamor they received.
During the second part, the candidates strutted around onstage in glittery boxer-briefs, while holding balloons — Kylie Minogue played while each candidates got introduced by Franck, Mr. Bear 2017, who would leave his honorary scarf to one of them. Finally, all the contestants forms a line onstage and ripped off their t-shirts and launched them into the audience, much to the hysterical public’s delight.
At the end of these two parts, the attendees in the smoking area and dance floor discussed their thoughts on who should win as organizers alerted the judges who hadn’t voted yet in the jars devoted to this purpose. When the final moment arrives, everyone was on the lookout.
Cyriac, the handsome bearded man who had not hesitated to write his phone number on his t-shirt, was elected second runner-up. Hermann, who was discovered wearing a basketball uniform, takes the place of first runner-up. As for Julien, who hid a delightful fetish fighter outfit under his apron, he received the honor of being crowned Mr. Bear 2018.
We couldn’t help but go find the winner in the crowd to collect his impressions.
“It was an extraordinary thing,” Julien says. “I think all ‘the big fags’ need to do a pageant like this for the adventure. When we’re on stage, we feel so many things, so much happiness … And then, of eight strangers who competed, we became eight friends, strong bonds were created between us and between the members of the association.”
He continued, “For me, it was important to participate in this competition. Today, I’m 40. I remember when I was 20, this type of event didn’t exist … Being fat and gay, it wasn’t necessarily visible in society. There were no other models than that of men who were athletic, gay and hairless.”
We learned that Julien is a Parisian chef by profession — a gourmet gourmet. (Love it.) He’s already taking his new role to heart.
He says, “During the Pride March, I will be with the Bears of Paris to proudly carry the flag, all hair outdoors! And, throughout the year, wherever I am, I’ll help and support those who don’t feel good about their bodies.”
A small important detail: Julien is currently single. So take notice, newbies!
Here’s a gallery of photos of the Mr. Bear 2018 competition:
Photos by Jean Ranobrac