BearWatch: Bearlesque Performer Bear Lee There

For this week’s BearWatch, we will be highlighting the sexy and confident “bearlesque” performer Bear Lee There from Dublin, Ireland!

Bear Lee There’s first performance was Halloween of 2017, as part of a cabaret show called The Bon Bon Rooms — an unpaid show for amatuer and first time burlesque perfomers. The name “Bear Lee There” came to him as a bit of an alter ego — Bear Lee There has a different attitude, and does things that Mark (his birth name) would never do. 

“I had never been in less than a top and trousers in public before, and wouldn’t strip off in the sun or show off my body. But a friend encouraged me to try performing bearlesque, which I loved coming up with routines and costumes for”, he says. 

“My first performance went down well with the audience, and it made me want to do more. So, I did the Christmas show dressed as a grumpy teddy bear who strips to be a sexy bear Santa, which led to me getting my first paid booking two days later.”

With a newfound confidence, Bear Lee There went on to enter the Dublin Burlesque Festival ten months later, where he won the Best Newcomer Award. After this win and receiving more bookings, he decided to push his boundaries further and pose naked for Daire Lynch — a very talented and wonderful painter who enjoys painting various body types. One of the paintings from this session being chosen to be on the front cover of a book of poetry. 

In 2019, Bear Lee was the first ever competitor in Ireland’s Mr. Boylesque Competition, and a finalist again this year. After in various cities in Ireland, including Dublin, Athlone and Belfast, Bear Lee will have his first international performance this May in Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of Pin Up Promotions’ event The Burly Supper. He hopes to also have the chance to perform in the Vienna Boylesque Festival and with the boys of Bear It All Burlesque in the U.S. 

Recently, he produced a show entitled Bear Lee There’s All Male(ish) Review. The show, which performers who all donated their time to help raise money for a local charity, was a traditional cabaret featuring live singing, comedians, drag queens/kings, lip sync performers and burlesque — which can be changed to “boylesque”, “manesque”, or “bearlesque” when the performers are male.  

“I lost my brother to suicide ten years ago and I wanted to do something to mark the anniversary and remember him. So, I planned the show and contacted Irish Men’s Sheds, which is a charity set up to bring men together to socialize and talk about their problems, both physical and mental”, he says. 

The performance was a success, raising over €2,000 for Irish Men’s Sheds. 

In addition to burlesque, Bear Lee There has been working on a number of body positive projects. He did a shoot with Steve Grolfe, a UK photographer who publishes photo books called Men and Their Bodies

“He shows the world how important it is to be positive about all body shapes, especially those who get shunned for not being the typical everyday or fashionable. He embraces the body in all its forms from dressed to nude and shows the world how amazing the body is”, he says of Grolfe’s work. 

He has also received tons of support from Kilted Bros, who he met online through their shared love of kilts, and their appreciation for the human body and freedom of expression. His connection with the Kilted Bros led him to work with Go Naked, a magazine that celebrates bodies of all types.

When asked about mental health awareness and body positivity, Bear Lee There says that his new career and passion as a burlesque performer has helped him embrace his body while encouraging others to embrace themselves as well.

Performing on stage and stripping down to pretty much nothing or just a jockstrap is not the usual thing you find a slightly insecure person, or someone who has issues about their body, doing on a Saturday night. But it gave me a lot more understanding and acceptance of my body, and helped me to see that it is just as sexy and beautiful as any other body. It’s important that we don’t compare ourselves to others, as everyone has issues about something that they see in the mirror. Some of us learn to accept it, and some of us embrace it and love it, but we all need to be at peace with the fact we are all different and amazing.

Bear Lee There

He also makes it clear that he is very happy and content with his body and does not plan on being skinny any time soon. 

“I stand on stage in a jockstrap and shake what I got to say this is it — this is me. If you don’t like it, I don’t actually care. I will never be skinny, and I don’t want to be skinny. I want to be happy — happy with who I am and not who anyone thinks I should be.” 

We can’t wait to see what else is in store for Bear Lee There!

Follow Bear Lee There on Instagram and Facebook!

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.