Former US Marine Matthew Simmons, 25, has been crowned as Mister Gay World USA.
“I dream to inspire my peers to overcome the tough obstacles in their life and strive to be the best person they can, never giving up on their dreams and never losing sight of who they are,” the Nevada native said.
“Traveling to and living in many foreign countries for the better part of my childhood has allowed me to gain a respect for people living in other parts of the world that may not be as fortunate as many Americans are,” he continued.
Simmons’ win is also an indication of how far the nation has come since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010.
“I believe this makes me relatable to a diverse range of men, giving them someone they can easily look up to,” said Simmons.
After competing against 25 other contestants, he will now go on to represent the United States at Mister Gay World on August 4 in Belgium.
Judges Jarl Haugedal and Michael Billy hope that Mister Gay World will be more than a “typical beauty pageant.”
“It’s an important time for human rights within the United States and globally,” said Billy in an interview with 429Magazine. “The inspiration for the competition is to continuously create agents of change that can speak to the many issues facing human rights globally.”
Read the full interview with Michael Billy and Jarl Haugedal here.