429Magazine sits down with TV personalities Michael Billy & Jarl to discuss the upcoming Mr. Gay World USA competition, how a reality series became a movement, why this isn’t your average beauty pageant, and what the NEXT American Gay may look like.
429Magazine: When did Mr. Gay World USA first begin, and what inspired it’s creation?
Jarl: I was involved in the international competition and was exposed to the true meaning of what it all meant and that it wasn’t just a beauty pageant. It left a really big impact on me while I was there – hearing stories and seeing what a difference gay pride or lack of pride meant to these countries. When I met Michael I thought it was a great opportunity to bring a competition like that to the US, because the US didn’t have anything like that going on. I thought that if we could pull it off, it would be incredibly groundbreaking.
Michael Billy: It’s an important time for human rights within the United States and globally – competitions like Mister Gay World bring to light everyday gay men who want to serve as role models for the gay community.
The inspiration for the competition is to continuously create agents of change that can speak to the many issues facing human rights globally. Last year the competition was filmed as a reality series “The NEXT American Gay” where 12 finalists moved into our hotel to compete. Since the success of that series, we figured we would also package it as a pageant TV special.
429Magazine: What is your goal in finding the next Mr. Gay World USA?
Jarl: We want to find somebody who represents the gay community that can serve as an ambassador for the US, especially at such a critical time for gay rights worldwide. We want to find a role model for others that need someone to look up to that don’t necessarily have a role model and someone who can make a difference with their title.
429Magazine: What does the winner go on to do for the gay community? And I assume they go on to the final Mr. Gay World competition? If so, does that competition involve contestants from other countries who have been hosting their own national competitions?
Billy: Yes, the winner of Mr. Gay World USA will go on to compete in Antwerp, Belgium in August where the Mr. Gay World competition will be taking place. We are also sending Juan Ortiz, the Mr. Gay World Puerto Rico winner, so it’s very exciting for us. We are honored that after this Saturday we will be able to send two representatives to take part in this experience.
429Mag: Who, to you, is an ideal contestant and then winner for the competition?
Jarl: An ideal contestant is someone who can use their Gay for Good and feels that they can make a difference with the title of Mr. Gay World USA. Someone who is self confident and genuine, that gives back to the community as well as the gay community and is proud of who they are.
429Mag: Tell me more about the TV filming of this year’s event. How did that come about?
Jarl: When we first came up with the idea to do the show and I was brainstorming ideas, the first idea was to do an internet voting competition to find Mr. Gay World USA. Then when Michael and I got together we decided on a live beauty pageant. Further more, we are making it a live to tape TV Special, which means it will be filmed in front of a live audience and edited into a special show.
Billy: It took a lot of planning and preparation and trial and error to get to this point, but we are really excited and about this and confident in it and we think that it’s going to be a phenomenal show. Last year the competition was filmed as a reality TV Series, which has now been picked up in four countries already. The reality series premiers in July.
429Mag: Tell me about the team behind the production of the competition? Have you two been involved since its inception, or has your involvement come around from the production of the new reality show “The Next American Gay”?
Jarl: We have an amazing staff that has been behind us since day one. It takes a team effort to put on something so huge like this. A really big show can’t possibly be done with a small group, so it takes a really great team. Everyone’s patience and continuing efforts have been top notch so far and I can’t begin to express how grateful we are.
Billy: We have been involved every step of the way and I think “The Next American Gay” gave us a good head start because we knew that we already had a decent following from the show. We’ve recently acquired Greenlight Films to team up with Humanity Pride Productions to continuously turn out film and television that can create change. While some of our shows are pure entertainment, the core of our company is the belief that we can do something incredibly positive with our exposure in the media.
429Mag: What will contestants be judged on? Is it very much like most mainstream “beauty pageants,” – swimsuit competition, questions, etc?
Billy: This is not your average beauty pageant, there are a lot of aspects that we take into consideration about our contestants that your average beauty pageant would not. For example, we look at their character, how they carry themselves, we listen to how they speak, and try to find their natural authenticity and personality. We feel that in normal beauty pageants things like that are overlooked a lot, when they shouldn’t be – those are important qualities. We also test their overall knowledge of politics and the world that we live in.
Jarl: Of course we look at their beauty as one thing – it is a beauty pageant. They should epitomize, to us, good looks inside and outside. But sure enough it will be conducted like any other beauty pageant you’ve seen. They will do a swimsuit and a formal wear and will be interviewed.
429Mag: Who will judge the contestants and choose the winner?
Billy: Jarl and I will serve as the main judges and this year we’re honored to have the editor in chiefs of two LGBT Magazines – Shelly Straub from Connextions Magazine and Sidney Alverez from Fuerte Men – join us on the judges panel.
More more information about the competition and to purchase tickets, visit their website here.