BWM AwardsInterviewsTitleholders

Bear World Magazine Trailblazer 2024: Dan Jiménez

Last year we began the tradition of holding the Bear World Magazine Awards as a way to recognize and celebrate bears in the community that are uplifting us, entertaining us and taking the community forward.

To that end, we have 10 categories you can vote for ranging from favorite bear event to favorite bear personality and favorite bear artist, amongst others. We have also spearheaded the tradition of naming a Bear World Magazine Trailblazer and Icon each year to shine a light on some of the most active and impactful members of our community.

This year Dan Jiménez (also known as Danny J) is being honored as the Bear World Trailblazer for his contributions as a mentor within the bear titleholder community, his leadership within the gogo bear scene and for holding space for new and upcoming artists at a music event he hosts in NYC.

Anyone who has had the pleasure to know or work with Dan knows that he operates from a place of kindness and inclusion. He always has an encouraging word for people and is always more than happy to share his platform and knowledge with up and comers in the bear scene. It is no wonder he has so many gogo and sash “dawtas” across the country! It is our honor to bring you an intimate conversation with this remarkable person so you can get to know him better.

Bear World Magazine Trailblazer 2024 – Dan Jiménez

John Hernandez (JH): Hey Dan! Thanks for joining me and congratulations on being named the Bear World Trailblazer for 2024! I am going to dive in with your work amongst titleholders.

You have mentored and recruited several Mr. Fire Island Bears since you yourself held the title a few years back. Your inclusion of diverse bears by race and body type is so important for visibility within the community. What goes into your mentorship, why is it important to you and why do you continue to do it?  

Dan Jiménez  (DJ): My mentorship has been sort of a “make the rules up as I go” kind of thing.  I didn’t have direct mentorship from my predecessor’s, it was like: “congrats kid, this is all you now”, which was fine because it gave me the agency to set my own rules, and take my own road; but I still wanted and needed guidance.  So I sought out mentorship from John John Punki, who is a two time titleholder as Mr.Rockbear and Mr. Eagle.  He helped influence a lot of how I took on the role as a titleholder. 

Because of that it became important to me to do the same for my successors, and give direct guidance and provide resources if needed.  I get so much joy from mentoring all of the winners, being a part of their story and being their support system, almost like a cheerleader for the winners.

JH: You are magnificent with them. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Tell us about your long-standing relationship with Fire Island Bear Weekend. How has it evolved?

DJ: So, I have been doing Fire Island Bear weekend since 2017 when Shane Tate, who created the bear weekend, asked me to gogo for the event as I was one of his gogo bears for his weekly party “Beers and Bears” in Hell’s Kitchen. Fire Island Bear weekend has grown with such a diverse group of bears from all over, not just NYC; and now with the new vendor fair I added and an additional party, our goal is to keep the event fun and exciting!  

I won Fire Island Bear in 2017, and I honestly didn’t even go to Fire Island to compete, I only went to gogo dance.  But while on the island dancing for the parties, I learned about the contest and contemplated entering. I had doubts about competing, being that I lost a previous bear competition a few months prior; my insecurities ran high and I didn’t feel ready to compete.  However, my friends pushed me to enter and I said to myself “you only live once right?” So I mustered the courage, entered the competition with no expectations and to my surprise I won the title. 

During my title year I did a lot of promoting for Fire Island Bear weekend, as well as participating fundraising events. I was very loud and proud with my win.  Shane enjoyed all of the work I had done and asked me to direct the competition which then led me to now become partner of the event.

With Shane Tate

JH: Amazing. You are also known for your mentorship amongst gogo bears. What does that look like? Who in your mind makes a good gogo? What kind of support do you give these guys? 

DJ: The gogo bear mentorship was something that kinda fell into my lap.  I can honestly say it became a thing when I was gogo dancing for a party named “Soaked” at Rockbar created by Matty Bryan and Julio Rios. I was their resident gogo, and at each event there was a wet underwear contest where the winner would be the featured gogo alongside me for the following month. 

During the month leading up to the next event, I’d meet with the contest winners, we’d go shopping for outfits, discuss dance and moves, the dos and don’ts, how to engage with the audience and how to make sure to make your coin LOL.  It was important to me to share my wisdom since it took me so long to get into the nightlife scene between my own insecurities and just not knowing where to begin.  I’m a firm believer in paying it forward and if I can help the next person, why not?

A good gogo dancer to me can engage with the audience, keeps the vibe fun and exciting, looks like they’re enjoying themselves no matter what the circumstance. We have to keep the energy up!

As far as support, I help connect these dancers with promoters who basically hire us. I also connect them with their gogo “sisters”, a lot of my gogo children have their own events, and they hire talent as well. And when they need custom wares, I connect them with Kstraps, who’s been my designer and best friend since I started this journey.

JH: How many sash and gogo daughters do you have now?

DJ: Lord! I have lost count, and it’s not only in NYC, I have gogo “dawta’s” all over! Sometimes I’ll have friends who’ll visit other states and run into one of my daughters on stage and I’m like damn “I should’ve closed my damn legs!” LOL but it’s definitely about 20+! I’m a proud momma!

JH: HAHAHA! Werk! I had no idea it was that many! You lead with kindness in our community and are welcoming and inclusive towards everyone. Where does that come from? Did you yourself have a mentor coming up in the bear scene?

DJ: I’m very much like my mom actually, she was a very kind woman, always very welcoming and would give you the shirt (blouse) off her back; she’d give you her plate of food and not eat type of woman.  I definitely inherited that from her.  It’s very important to me to make people feel welcome, seen and heard no matter what. As far as mentors, I can say both John John and Shane mentored and guided me through the community. 

JH: That’s beautiful. And who gave you your start in gogo dancing/ nightlife? What keeps you plugged into the nightlife now?

DJ: Party promoter Chris Reed used to do a party in NYC called “Beefcake” back in the mid 2010’s, I had done some flyers for his events and some for other parties, and one day  he asked me if I’d be interested in gogo dancing for him, (the chance I had dreamed of) I accepted (though I was scared as FUCK!).  It was a Batman Vs Superman themed party, I had been known for my sexy Batman, or as I was dubbed “BatDan” costume. He’d seen it and wanted me to be his Batman for the party.  The rest is as they say, history. 

I continue to gogo for multiple events and host my very own.  Thursdays my gogo dawta Pup Bandit and I host “Fursdays” at Ty’s on Christopher Street in the West Village.  I also have a monthly Rock music event called “Rock the Rockbar” at said bar, proudly the first and for a long time the only rock music event for the LGBTQIA+ community in Manhattan.

JH: How old is Rock the Rockbar? Why did you start it? Tell us about some of the acts that you feature and how you choose them?

DJ: Rock the Rockbar turns 6 years old this year!! Can you believe it?!  I have been a longtime patron of Rockbar NYC and noticed they didn’t have a rock music event. I absolutely LOVE rock music. One day while having drinks, one of the owners told me if I ever wanted to host a party, I could just let him know. Immediately I said “Yes! I want to host a rock party!”, as rock music fan himself he was thrilled, and gave me the opportunity to create this event. 

I already had two DJ’s in mind; Steven Cunningham and Bobby Duron, who I’d worked with in the past for different events in which I’d gogo and they’d DJ, but I knew they also played rock music. I reached out to them, and both were happy to collaborate with me on this project.   The event is primarily a beer blast type of event on the first Sunday of every month from 4pm to 9pm. I have now added cohost Chazz who’s been an amazing addition, and as of last year I started booking acts. The criteria is quite simple, it has to be a rock music performance or rock music influenced to go with the theme.  I’ve had live singers such as Justice LaBrave, Nadia, Beaux Dega, as well as drag performers such as Jenik Alienik, Dropdead Joe, Beaux Dega (she also does drag) and would like to book more talent this year.  We don’t have acts monthly but when we do I make a big stink about it!

with Chazz at Rock the Rockbar

JH: Who have been your inspirations in life?

DJ: I’ve been so inspired by my mom, all the community leaders, the titleholders and activists I’ve met throughout the years.  They inspire me to continue being a positive, welcoming figure in our community and society as a whole.  Now dancewise, it’s my girl JLO! that’s my QUEEN! haha They don’t call me Bearnnifer Lopez for nothin! 

JH: Yes ma’am! What changes would you like to see in the bear scene?

DJ: It can’t be said enough.  Representation! representation! representation!  What better way to make someone feel more comfortable than seeing someone that looks like you represented.  Bears come in all variations, and everyone deserves a seat at the table.  It would be so great to see that diversity reflected in the media as well as in local events.  I’d also love to see more unity, there is separation in our community (as there is in other communities) and I’d love for us all to stop tearing each other down and be unified. We are stronger together than divided.

JH: Very well said. What does it mean to you to be named the Bear World Trailblazer?

DJ: Being the Bear World Trailblazer is an incredibly humbling award.  I was at a loss for words when Bear World Magazine approached me about it and am honored to have been considered for this recognition.  It tells me that I have made a stamp in the community and in the bear world (see what I did there? lol) And the best is yet to come! 

JH: It is very well deserved, and I cannot wait to see what you so next. Do you participate in any charity work or support any causes?

DJ: I have worked with the Tyler Clementi foundation as depression, bullying, and suicide prevention is something essential in today’s world. Their mission is to try and deliver some guidance and protection to the most vulnerable school age kids. I also support AIDS Walk NYC.  I’ve walked many years and will be entering a new group this year with several titleholders. 

Dan with his husband

JH: Is there anything we left out that you’d like to mention?

DJ: I’d like to take a moment to thank my husband who’s been my rock from day one.  Had it not been for his encouragement to follow my dreams and step out of my comfort zones I would not be where I am today; I’d just be a house bear LOL! I LOVE YOU!

JH: Awww! Steve’s an amazing guy. Well Dan, thank you so much for taking the time out to chat and for all the amazing work that you do. You are an inspiration.

DJ: Thank you so much!

Be sure to vote for this year’s Bear World Magazine Awards which are being presented by Bike Athletic in association with Growlr App and the Crown & Anchor.

Latest Articles

John Hernandez

John Hernandez is the Editor in Chief of Bear World Magazine. In addition to bear culture, he specializes in entertainment writing with a special focus on horror and genre films. He resides in New York City with his husband.