Self-worth is one of the most important qualities to promote, especially in the the LGBTQIA+ community. So many queer people– as I once saw a viral tweet put it– “grow up playing a version of ourselves” in order to fit in with the rest of society, so many of us learn later in life how to love and accept our authentic selves.
I recently had a chance to speak with the very first Mr. Bear Fahrenheit 2019, Lucky Paelo Vega, from the Philippines. We discussed how he plans to continue promoting self-worth and HIV awareness in his title year, and his love for bear camaraderie.
KJ: Can you tell us a bit about you – introduce yourself, your background, personal life, etc.?
LPV: My Name is Lucky Paelo C. Vega. I am 35 years old, I grew up in the Municipality of Narra, Palawan, but I’ve been here in Metro Manila since college. I am a System Specialist in one of the BPO companies operating here in the Philippines.
Since 2014, I’ve been volunteering at LoveYourself — and organization that promotes self-worth and HIV awareness. You can usually find me working backstage whenever there are events.
I am also an active supporter of events organized by OSO Pilipinas, BiggerManila, Pilipinas Chubs and Chasers (PCC), and other bear communities. In my spare time, I am usually just working out in the gym. Otherwise, I’m walking around the metro area, because walking relaxes me.
I also like going to the theatre, and watching TV series and movies.
KJ: When did you begin identifying as a Bear? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a Bear?
LPV: Being part of the LGBT community mostly comes with the added pressure of playing to what is ideal, or being able to pass as your preferred gender expression. It was a struggle for me when I wasn’t able to reach that ideal image.
In 2013, I started attending bear events organized by BiggerManila and OSO Pilipinas, which introduced me to the bear and chub community in the Philippines. I met a lot of bear friends and from then on I began to identify as a bear.
KJ: What made you enter the competition?
LPV: A fellow volunteer from LoveYourself informed me about the competition. I joined because I wanted to enjoy and celebrate the diversity within my community. It was the first bear competition in the Philippines and, to be honest, I had no expectation of winning.
KJ: What was your favorite part about taking part in the competition?
LPV: Being part of a special event and celebrating body positivity is something that I am happy and proud of. The biggest challenge — which also became my favorite part of the competition– was selecting what to wear in the different segments of the competition.
There were moments before the competition when my friends and I were arguing about what I should wear, but a guy I used to go out with at that time told me, “You don’t have to worry about anything. You already have your own character, you’re just not aware of it. Just be yourself when you’re onstage and you will surely radiate.”
All my worries just vanished!
KJ: What is your platform?
LPV: My platform would be HIV awareness and promoting self-worth.
As a volunteer of LoveYourself, I see this platform as an opportunity to educate others about HIV and how it is transmitted. I also see this as an opportunity to promote self-worth because, in the past, my self-esteem was very low.
I realized that it is only by loving myself that I will be able to reach my goals and make myself happy. When my self-worth was already high, that was the time that I knew I had to share that love to the people around me.
KJ: In what ways do you think you can help to promote growth or change in the bear/cub community?
LPV: Every culture is different, every race has different features, and every community is evolving.
I would promote the value of self-worth and the importance of wellbeing. It resonates globally beyond race, religion and culture, which can establish a better human relationship.
KJ: What is the most important thing about the bear/cub community for you?
LPV: Food, music, and great camaraderie. It’s an extended family where you’ll feel at ease and consider as a safe space.
Most bears enjoy socializing and filling our stomachs. Bears are tough on the outside, but we are sweet, loveable and cuddly once you get to know us. It’s hard to penetrate the bears defensive walls at first, but after a few beers or alcohol (in moderation, of course) you’ll see our jolly side.
KJ: What are your plans for your title year?
LPV: One thing I learned in life was good timing and determination. I was content in joining a nonprofit HIV organization, and I try to help the best way I possibly can.
Winning Mr. Bear Fahrenheit paved the way to other platforms that allow me to reach out to more people, bear communities and activities in order to share the mission and vision of promoting information, education, and awareness about HIV and the value of self-worth.
KJ: Will you go on to enter other competitions once your title year is done?
In all honesty, I don’t know if I want to go through all that anxiety, pressure and nervousness all over again.I just told myself that whatever the outcome, I just want to enjoy, have fun and meet new friends.
I was glad that my colleagues and friends from the organization were there to cheer me on, which helped calm my nerves a bit.
However, going back to your question, if my work schedule permits it, I might run again. Our country has never held an event such as this, and I’m quite humbled and honored to have won the title. The organizers already invited me to join Mr. Bear in Bangkok in Sept.2020, so will see how it goes.
KJ: Finally, what’s your advice for anyone entering the competition next year?
LPV: Just have fun, be authentic, and be kind, and don’t take it too seriously.
I know it sounds so cliché, but just think of it as a check box in your bucket list that you had the guts and balls to enter a bear competition.