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Mr. MAL — where are they now?

We checked in with three past titleholders to celebrate 34 years of the contest

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Mr. MAL, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Bronson (Washington Blade photo on left by Michael Key; photo on right courtesy Bronson)

NAME:  Matthew Bronson

YEAR WON:  2012

HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU ATTENDED MAL? 6

WILL YOU BE GOING THIS YEAR?  Yes

RESIDENCE: Emmaus, Pa.

RESIDENCE THE YEAR YOU WON: Emmaus, Pa. 

HOW DID YOU GET INTO LEATHER?  I have always found myself attracted to leather bars and men. I found the men at leather bars more genuine and were easy to have a talk with. 

HOW MANY COMPETITORS THE YEAR YOU WON?  8

DID YOU ENTER CASUALLY OR COMPETITIVELY? Causally

HOW DO YOU ID? Gay

WHAT WAS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TITLE TO YOU? Because of MAL’s history, the title was very important to me. I wanted to represent a person who was very approachable in the community and return all that was given to me from that community.

DID YOU COMPETE IN ANY OTHER LEATHER CONTESTS? Before MAL, I was Mr. Pittsburgh Leather/Fetish. Also, because I won MAL I ran for International Mr. Leather.

ADVICE TO THIS YEAR’S CONTESTANTS? Just be yourself and enjoy the whole experience. It’s a fun ride! You will meet some amazing people. If you do not win, it’s life telling you it wasn’t your time or place to win. Continue to put yourself out there and follow your passions. They will lead you in the direction you were meant to be following.

WHY DO YOU FEEL MAL HAS LASTED? Mid-Atlantic Leather, at its soul, is about leather. It has a strong history. People still want to follow that history to show the leather generations for tomorrow where we came from in our past. I always feel MAL is a reunion of leather friends and family.

Frank Nowicki (Photos courtesy of Nowicki)

NAME: Frank Nowicki

YEAR WON: 1993

HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU ATTENDED MAL? Thirty-nine years for Leather Cocktails and 34 years for the contest and weekend. 

WILL YOU BE GOING THIS YEAR? Yes

RESIDENCE: Washington, D.C.

RESIDENCE THE YEAR YOU WON: Washington, D.C.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO LEATHER? Some of my closest friends that I met in 1978 were members and friends of the Centaur M.C. Dick Cogan (past president of the Centaurs and owner of The Leather Rack), Paul Criss (aka Lainie Kazan, director of The Rogue show bar), Tony Bacharach (founder of BHT) and Lou Ritz (Owner of the Eagle in Exile). Always loved the smell and feel of leather growing up, the feeling of power and confidence when wearing it. Guess it was a natural progression.

HOW MANY COMPETITORS THE YEAR YOU WON? It was held at Tracks and there were 25 contestants, the largest to date. 

DID YOU ENTER CASUALLY OR COMPETITIVELY? I entered MAL 1992 casually against 18 contestants and placed first runner-up. I realized the contest was much more than dressing in leather and parading around on stage. I returned the next year in 1993 competitively and won. I spent the prior year donating my time and involvement with the community and clubs as AIDS was at its peak. Fundraising to assist our friends who were dying was so very important at that time.

HOW DO YOU ID? Gay

WHAT WAS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TITLE TO YOU? The most significant aspect of being Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather was that it provided me with a vehicle to open doors that otherwise may have been closed. In the ’80s and ’90s, we were battling the AIDS epidemic head on. We had lost innumerable friends and loved ones to this plague. I utilized my year as MAL to do fundraisers, assist other titleholders with their fundraisers traveling throughout the United States and to Europe. I was blessed being entertaining on a microphone and found out quickly the power of suggestion in raising funds from an audience while at the same time making them laugh during a time when all of us wanted to cry from the loss of our friends. I have emceed/hosted the MAL contest since 1995.

DID YOU COMPETE IN ANY OTHER LEATHER CONTESTS? International Mr. Leather 1993, fourth place. When you win MAL, you represent the local leather community at IML in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend. Contestants from around the world compete. My year, there were 63 contestants.

ADVICE TO THIS YEAR’S MR. LEATHER CONTESTANTS? Know that the fact you have taken the time and effort to be in the contest makes you a special representative of our community. Enjoying yourself on stage brings confidence. Cherishing the experiences and friendships you will have the rest of your life are the rewards you win. Winning or not winning does not define you; use the contest experience as a stepping stone to become more involved with our community and a way to support your personal causes. Some of my closest friends and confidants are the very contestants and titleholders I met 26 years ago. 

WHY DO YOU FEEL MAL HAS LASTED? I personally feel that Leather Weekend celebrates 45 years because of the welcoming and gracious feeling one experiences whether you are a first timer or a multi year alumnus. Over the four decades of existence embracing change yet respecting tradition is the key to the success of the weekend. The Centaurs welcome everyone and celebrate the diversity of choice over the adversity of judgment. 

Mauro Walden-Montoya (Photos courtesy of Mauro Walden-Montoya)

NAME: Mauro Walden-Montoya

YEAR WON: 1996

HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU ATTENDED MAL? I started attending MAL in 1993, and have been going ever since. But I’ve missed several years since I have been with my now husband because he can’t get off work often enough for us to go. I was there for my 20-year anniversary in 2016. 

WILL YOU BE GOING THIS YEAR? Unfortunately I will not be attending this year.  

RESIDENCE: Albuquerque, my hometown.

RESIDENCE THE YEAR YOU WON: Lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’d moved there from D.C. six months before I won.  

HOW DID YOU GET INTO LEATHER? First time I started getting into leather was when my ex and I were having sex and out of the blue, he said, “Hit me.” I was startled but he kept repeating it, so I did. And we both went, “Ooooh,” and it started me on my journey where I discovered I like inflicting consensual pain on those willing to receive it. I always loved the look of the Tom of Finland men and the look and feel of wearing leather is intoxicating.

HOW MANY COMPETITORS THE YEAR YOU WON? 6

DID YOU ENTER CASUALLY OR COMPETITIVELY? I entered casually, being relatively new to the scene and not really knowing what to expect. I entered more for fun than anything, and my ex, who had said he wanted to compete before we moved to Puerto Rico, had put the idea in my head. After we moved and split up, I was going to go to MAL anyway (my fourth time), and just decided to compete for fun. I had no idea I had to go on to compete at IML and had to ask someone what IML was. But once it happened, I was hooked and have lived in leather ever since.  

HOW DO YOU ID? Gay Latino man

WHAT WAS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TITLE TO YOU? When I entered, it was for fun. But during the competition, I found a true spirit of brotherhood, and I saw the greatness of the community, the brotherhood, the spirit of love and spirit of service to others. I have always been about service to the community, so this fit in two of my many interests.  As I went through the competition, and ended up winning, I realized how I could use my platform as a titleholder to do more good in the community.  

DID YOU COMPETE IN ANY OTHER LEATHER CONTESTS? I have competed in many titles besides MAL, but MAL was the first. I was Mr. Leather Puerto Rico in 1998, and in 1999, won Mr. South Florida Leather Daddy. After that, I started judging, and then producing contests, and produced Mr. Florida Leather as well as Mr. & Ms. Rio Grande Leather.

ADVICE TO THIS YEAR’S MR. LEATHER CONTESTANTS? Have fun and love what you’re doing, make the judges and audience laugh and show yourself and who you are.  

WHY DO YOU FEEL MAL HAS LASTED? MAL has lasted for 45 years because it is an amazing event. It is, to me, the truest leather event out there now. It has always stayed true to its roots. It is where I send people for their first “real” leather experience because it has it all. The hotel lobby, the Leather Market, the events, the contest, the spirit of brotherhood shown by the Centaurs in hosting it year after year, it all makes for an incredibly special event that if leather is in your journey, you simply should not miss. I highly commend the Centaurs for keeping this going for 45 years because it is not an easy task, especially in an all-volunteer organization.

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PHOTOS: Loudoun Pride

LGBTQ community celebration held at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Va.

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Loudoun County, Va. elected officials gather on the main stage at Loudoun Pride on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The first Loudoun Pride was held at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Va. on Saturday, June 26.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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PHOTOS: Frederick Pride

Annual celebration held at Carroll Creek Linear Park on Saturday

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Chasity Vain is among the performers at the main stage of Frederick Pride 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 10th annual Frederick Pride was held at Carroll Creek Linear Park in Frederick, Md. on Saturday, June 25.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Out & About

Rayceen Pendarvis hosts District of Pride Showcase

Mayor’s Office celebrates resilience of D.C.’s LGBTQ community with night of entertainment

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Rayceen Pendarvis hosts District of Pride Showcase on June 30. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mayor’s Office for LGBTQ Affairs will host “The District of Pride Showcase” on Thursday, June 30 at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Theatre.

This event is to celebrate the resilience of D.C.’s LGBTQ community with a night of entertainment and performances that will feature the diverse queer talent.

This event will be hosted by Rayceen Pendarvis, with announcer Krylios, featuring DJ Honey. There will also be a performance by “Real Housewives of Potomac” star Candiace. 

This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

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