After months of build up and several pre-qualifying regional rounds, the 2023 Mr. Bear UK competition finals were held in Blackpool on December 2nd. When the dust settled, Stuart Fallaize-Cunningham, the representative who previously won the Manchester prequalification round, emerged victorious. We sit down with the charming and handsome Stuart to get to know him a bit better. Check out our conversation below.
BWM: Can you tell us a bit about your background? Including name, where you are from and current city of residency?
Stuart Fallaize-Cunningham (SFC): I’m from a little place called Tamworth in the Middle of England, and currently living in Stoke-on-Trent, home of world famous Pottery , Robbie Williams and regrets!
BWM: Hahaha! I kinda like the sound of that! When did you join the bear community and how did you find it?
SFC: I was on holiday in Gran Canaria with my usual group of gay friends, all classic twinks, in the early noughties , (great bods fake tan not a body hair between them). I had often felt over looked when with them (not their fault at all just the spaces we went too as young gaylings), until we saw a bar in the Yumbo centre we hadn’t tried. We went in and I know it’s shallow, but the attention I received was really amazing. I felt welcomed and for the first time truly lusted after and desired. The music was camp the men were hairy, a little older and in leather, and I felt instantly at home. This is how I found about the bear scene and that it was widespread across the world. Of course, now it is huge but honestly it felt a lot more underground back then (at least to a young gay from the middle of England).
BWM: That’s one of the more unique responses I’ve heard to that question. You quite literally stumbled into it. I love that!
What made you want to compete for the title of Mr Bear UK? What did you win? And did I see a bottle of Kylie’s prosecco in one of the photos?!
SFC: I guess it was one of those classic midlife ‘stop being scared’ moments that made me want to enter. Life really is too short and confidence definitely grows with age so why the hell not!? If you are someone who doesn’t mind the spotlight, I say go for it! I won £250, a box of chocolates, 2 nights stay at the Mardis Gras Hotel in Blackpool (thanks John Street) a medal (Thanks James McMahon), a beautiful Leather Sash and yes indeed some Kylie Prosecco (unfortunately it clashed with her gig in London so she was unable to hand it me herself ha!) Big Thanks to the BEAR group moderators Wayne Starman, Jason Skidmore, Steve Hodge, Kristian Guest and the whole BEAR facebook group for the prizes !
BWM: Very nice indeed! And we certainly love Kylie and her prosecco here at Bear World!
How was your experience competing? Is it true that there were pre-qualifying rounds or titles needed to even compete for the title?
SFC: I had a wonderful time with it, there are regional pre qualifying rounds you had to win in order to compete for the UK title. I won Mr Bear Manchester which I am over the moon about, having used to live there and I am still very much part of that scene (probably TOO MUCH). In addition I had to answer some questions and compete in the category rounds of casual wear, uniform , swim wear and a ‘sexy wear’ category where you got to wear what you wanted (vids on YouTube if interested).
BWM: Excellent. Tell us about your platform. What was the issue you campaigned on or addressed during the competition?
SFC: I’m a strong advocate for mental health and body positivity and inclusivity, and support for our Trans family.
BWM: Important issues all round for certain. What are the responsibilities associated with your title?
SFC: To be an Ambassador for the LGBTQ+ community and be the face of the BEAR group for 2023/2024.
I’m also to uphold and respect the Role of Mr BEAR UK , be approachable to all, engage in BEAR events and act in an inclusive manner.
BWM: And what are your goals specifically for your title year? Where will you be appearing as Mr Bear UK?
SFC: To get as much free stuff and exposure as possible! (Joking!….sort of ). But I would hopefully like to be seen as inspiration for others in and out of the community to just put yourself out there and try! You never know what may come of it. I’ll next be wearing the sash at Beef Dip/ Bearadise in Mexico at the end of January (though not in an official capacity , so any organisers get in touch!) I’ll be walking in the UK prides this summer and any bear events that will have me around the world!
BWM: Oh, I’m sure you’ll hear plenty from the organizers! What are some of your favorite events and memories in the bear scene?
SFC: I Love Pre-Hibernation and Great British Bear bash in Manchester and you’ll usually find me stumbling around Sitges for bear week. Last year I got to go to Lazy Bear in Guerneville which was absolutely amazing! I am very lucky to have many friends around the world and with my amazing husband Adi (who has to put up with me!) by my side I hope to make many more!
BWM: What are some important issues you feel that need to be addressed in the bear community?
SFC: I think mental well-being is always a big one making sure people are supported and loved and reaching out to those you maybe haven’t checked in on in a while . Representation for minorities and trans people who identify as bears too. Also on a lighter note, how about some different music genre’s then just the generic dance house !
BWM: Oh my God YES!! I say that all the time HAHA! Well, thanks for joining me Stuart. I hope you enjoy uoir title year!
SFC: Thank you!