Continuing our exploration of the gay side of South Africa, our local correspondent offers his unique insider’s perspective on the recent stages of the Mr. Gay SA competition. Click here for the interview with Conraad’s Hubby and competition finalist, Karl-Heinz Michel
From l to r: Mr Mardi Gras (Dustin Carr); Miss Mardi Gras (Megan Carreira); 1st Runner-up (Karl-Heinz Michel); & Finalist for Mr White Jocks & Mr Glamour 2010 (Conraad Jonas).
For us, it all started at Pink Loerie – the prestigious gay event held in Knysna, Southa Africa, every April/ May. I had the privilege to attend this fun-filled week with my fellow titleholders of Legends Nightclub. We were not only amongst the VIPs, but performed at or took part in most of the events and competitions. The biggest of these are the Miss and Me. Mardi Gras, and Mr Mardi Gras competitions. Mr Mardi Gras 2010 (hosted by Tryst nightclub) is the first regional finals for the Mr Gay South Africa™ competition. The top 2 are chosen as finalists, and the 3rd place finisher may be selected as a wild card finalist. As my Hubby (Karl-Heinz Michel) took part, I kept a close eye on the contestants and the judging criteria. This did not only look like great fun, but also an unforgettable experience!
Mr GSA finalist, Karl-Heinz, during the Mr Mardi Gras competition, in Bone Wear designer underwear.
Karl and I had a bet: If he placed as a finalist, I would take part in the next round. Lo and behold, he became a finalist (along with Dustin Carr), and after much deliberation, I entered the second heat of the competition, hosted at Durbanview Guesthouse in KwaZulu Natal. I was fortunate enough to place as second runner-up, and won the Mr Personality award, resulting in me being the possible wild card for this region. Everyone – the organisers, guests and other contestants – was incredibly supportive and helpful throughout. Above all, it was great getting to know my fellow contestants; sharing stories, tips and just having a good laugh. So many people came up to me to thank and congratulate me for the message and image Karl and I portray as a monogamous couple. Some even asked me to enter their own pageants and events.
From l to r: Jared Smith (Winner), Prince Mkhize (1st Runner-up) & Conraad Jonas (2nd Runner-up & Mr Personality) - Durban Regional Finals
The judges asked difficult yet relevant questions, all pertaining to how you would fare as an ambassador for the LGBTI community. Jared Smith and Prince Mkhize were the top 2 and were selected as finalists. After Durban came Cape Town, where André Lammers and Errol Stroebel placed for the finals. The last regional finals – Pretoria, Gauteng – would prove to be the toughest round, with the most entrants, and the event being sold out long it advance.
From l to r: Errol Stroebel (1st Runner-up); Ernest Gravett (2nd Runner-up) & Andre Lammers (Winner) - Cape Town Regional Finals
I decided to try my luck again in Pretoria; and even though all of us were nervous, my experiences of other pageants I competed in, especially the Durban regionals, helped to calm my nerves. I got to know a few of my fellow contestants before hand, thanks to stunning events like Bruce J. Little’s brilliant comedy cabaret (Little Poof), and having many of my Facebook friends as fellow competitors, also made me more relaxed, as I did not feel like I was walking into this event “blind”. This event, hosted at the Brooklyn Theatre, was an incredible experience for all of us.
The judges – all well known, impressive people from the Gay community – asked rather thought-provoking questions during the interviews. These included: “What difference would you make if chosen as Mr Gay South Africa?”; “Do you think there are great racial differences in the LGBTI community, and how would you resolve this?”; “What are you currently doing to make a positive change to our country?” and “How did or will this competition affect your life and relationship?” Everyone came out of the interviews a lot more relaxed than when they went in, and we all shared our experiences with each other, having quite a few laughs (often at each other’s expense, but in good nature).
All the contestants agreed that the questions were difficult and intriguing, but absolutely character-defining. I was very content with my answers, as I gave them as frank and honest as I could. Choreography ensued, during which much laughter, jokes, advice and the like was shared backstage. It was the perfect setting to get to know each other better. After a short break, we were all set for the big event. Hair done, outfits ready, nerves shot (haha). Starting in evening wear; moving to jeans and T-shirts; and ending with Bone Wear designer underwear (thanks Wilco!), the evening progressed from formal, to casual to absolute fun.
Top 10 Finalist in Gauteng Regional Finals, Conraad Jonas, in Bone Wear designer underwear.
The last walk on the ramp obviously engendered (excuse the pun) much applause, cheering and even cat calls from the audience. I mean, come on, so many hot boys in super sexy underwear! What would you expect? The vast audience’s enthusiastic support was an absolute confidence-booster! Thanks guys/ girls! We gathered in the dressing room, awaiting the judges’ results, as we wished each other good luck, and congratulated each other on a magnificent evening and each’s accomplishments.
From l to r: Tshepo Chuenyane (Winner); Shannon Rex (1st Runner-up) & Barry Meyer (2nd Runner up & Wildcard) - Gauteng Regional Finals
The judges announced the Top 10. I was lucky enough to place again. The top 2 (Tshepo Chuenyane and Shannon Rex) qualified for the finals and the following day, the four wild cards were announced. After much stressing and holding thumbs, I lost out on being a finalist, but I know I’m on the right track – so Mr GSA 2011, here I come.
The four wild card finalists are: Barry Meyer (3rd place, Gauteng), Ernest Gravett (3rd place, Cape Town), Francois Nel (Top 10, Gauteng) and Ross Erlank (contestant, Gauteng).
From l to r: Francois Nel (Top 10 Gauteng); Ernest Gravett (2nd Runner up Cape Town); & Ross Erlank (Entrant in Gauteng).
If any readers want to take place in this event next year, or one of its kind in your country, I would encourage you to do so – regardless of your physical appearance, age, ethnicity or back ground – not only because of the title that could be yours, but also for the amount of knowledge and self-confidence you gain, not to mention the wonderful friends you make, and the stories you’ll be able to tell. I thank everyone on behalf of myself and all the contestants that helped us in some way: judges, sponsors, organisers, friends, family and loved ones. You truly made this a great experience for us all. This was an incredible stepping stone for me, and many others, and I would like to build upon this foundation I have laid, to become a young ambassador for the LGBTI community, especially to the other “twinks” out there:
Guys, we have what it takes to achieve great things! In closing, if you are in South Africa, remember to vote for your favourite by SMS’ing “GSA + finalist’s name” (e.g. “GSA Karl”) to 34008. Your votes count 25% of their total mark. So keep texting.
From l to r: Mr GSA finalists, Karl-Heinz (1st runner-up) & Dustin Carr (Winner) - Knysna Regional Finals.
Love and peace unto you all. Until next month when I'll be reporting on Jo'burg Gay Pride.
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