We chat with the President of Les Ours de Paris (the Paris Bears) and get the scoop on their recent Fierté Ours (Bear Pride) event.
Fierté Ours Paris (Bear Pride Paris) is an absolutely unmissable event for all Bears and Admirers in the gorgeous city of Paris, France. The event has been held every Spring since 2008, during Ascension Weekend. Organized by the bear organization Les Ours de Paris (The Paris Bears), Fierté Ours Paris brings together attendees from all over the globe and is one of the most highly anticipated bear events of the year.
This year’s event took place from May 17th to the 21st and we were lucky enough to talk with Nicolas Maalouly, the President of Les Ours de Paris, about the event and the Paris Bears themselves.
John Hernandez (JH): Tell us a little about Fierté Ours Paris. How many people attended? Where did they come from?
Nicolas Maalouly (NM): The Fierté Ours Paris is a 5-day celebration with different types of activities held at a multitude of venues. The most attended events are the Paris Bear Cruise with 250 people (the full capacity of the riverboat) and the Monsieur Ours Election party which gathered more than 600 people this year. We have people from all over France attend our event in addition to Bears visiting from Belgium, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, USA, and South America, to name just a few places.
JH: Can you tell us about the competition for Monsieur Ours 2023? How do you select the winner?
NM: To be a candidate for Mr. Ours someone must meet the following four criteria: they must be gay, fat, bearded and hairy, because this election aims to designate the future flag bearer of our community – a true bear!
Preselection was made by the members of the association among all the candidates who entered, based on the above criteria. Then, an on-line vote campaign was launched to choose the seven finalists among the selected candidates. This year, the shortlist was 26 bears, before we narrowed it down to the final seven!
The jury for Mr. Ours is made up of 6 members of the bear and LGBTQI+ community, at the national and international level (as is the case with several similar elections in Europe). On the night of the election, Mr. Bear (Monsieur Ours) and his runners-up are elected by the vote of the audience present on site (counting for 40% of the mark) and by the vote of the jury (counting for 60% of the mark), on the basis of physical criteria, their speeches (in the videos in particular) and the stage presence of the candidates.
JH: Who was on the jury this year?
NM: This year’s jury was Jérémy, the 2022 Monsieur Ours title holder; Yacine Dejbelnouar, co-president of Shams France; Valentin Folliet, the gifted photographer who photographed our finalists; Rui da Costa, from Fierté Ours Paris’ partner Enipse, Ruairi Smith, Mister Bear Gran Canaria; and Christophe Piton, aka Chris Pépitours, a member of Les Ours de Paris.
JH; And who is the new Monsieur Ours? What can you tell us about him?
NM: Our new Monsieur Ours for 2023 is Willy. He’s 27 years old. His first name is a mix between his British and Germanic origins to which he is very attached. He works in Parametric Tech. His loved ones say that he’s a real good chef! Cooking, and more particularly baking, are an integral part of his daily life. He is also a globetrotter at heart, as he likes a change of scenery, and making new discoveries.
His 1st runner-up is Mikaël and the 2nd is Sébastien.
JH: Can you tell us about some of the other events that took place like the Paris Bear Cruise?
NM: The Paris Bear Cruise was one of the highlights of Parisian Bear Pride. The event sold out within the first two weeks of going on sale. It’s very popular. Two hundred and fifty Bears spent the afternoon on a boat cruising along the Seine River with food and drinks. What a magical experience it was to party with all these wonderful bare-chested boys in front of the most famous places in Paris! As the music pumped loudly under the ancient bridges of Paris, tourists seemed puzzled by such a colorful and furry spectacle!
JH: I bet they did!! I wish I was there, what about the other events?
NM: The Fierté Ours also offered ‘aperitifs’, friendly meals, picnics, saunas, cruising & clubbing events in various iconic places throughout the Parisian Bear scene. Kinky Bear at Sector X specifically is a cruising evening for those wanting to have a ‘closer’ connection with the bolder participants of the Fierté Ours.
JH: Please tell us about Les Ours de Paris – the Paris Bears organization.
NM: Les Ours de Paris is an association which was created 23 years ago, as the Bear movement was rising in France. It was created to make the Bear community visible in Paris and in France. It was created to promote the exchange of ideas and encourage meet ups, to provide a positive and celebratory view of the Bear body, to assert the place of Bears in the LGBTQI + community, and to claim equal rights for LGBTQI+ people.
Today, 23 years later, Les Ours de Paris can be rightfully proud of the progress made. Paris Bear Pride was the first Bear event organized in France and has become, since 2008, a huge event for the Bear community, adding to the ever-growing list of bear title holders in France and throughout the worldwide scene. In collaboration with other associations and organizers for Bear events, I am proud of how Les Ours de Paris has contributed to the visibility of Bears.
JH: How many members are there?
NM: We are a 12-member association, fully dedicated to making Fierté Ours a success. Other social events are organized all year long for the local bear community and every year we proudly march at Paris Pride. We also organize several art exhibitions during the year to promote the representation of the Bear body which has always been one of our main goals.
JH: And where do you guys gather?
NM: Many places but Bears’ den has been the iconic bar for Bears in Paris since the late 90’s and our closest partner for the organization of all our events.
JH: Tell me how the Paris Bears represent the ideals of Bear Pride and political activism?
NM: Les Ours de Paris have supported the struggles of the LGBTQI + community during the last two decades by delivering a political message at the LGBT Pride parades in Paris and having a float of Bears in attendance. We’ve defended the causes of trans people and of lesbians. We’ve publicly denounced homophobia and fatphobia. By our presence in demonstrations for the rights of the community in all its diversity, Les Ours de Paris remains strongly attached to the activist spirit.
JH: What are you most proud of with respect to Les Ours de Paris?
NM: Through our ever-increasing number of organized meetings, Les Ours de Paris has built an ecosystem for Bears: a space of friendliness to meet open-minded and caring peers, without fear of judgement for our physical appearance; that is one of our biggest achievements.
To summarize: Bears from Paris are Big, Bears from Paris are Fags, Bears from Paris are Big Fags!
JH: Woof! Thank you so much Nicolas for your time and for giving us some background on Les Ours de Paris and Fierté Ours Paris. Both the group and the event sound amazing! Congratulations on another successful event!