Mr. Bear London 2022/2023 has led quite an interesting life, relocating to London to escape persecution in Venezuela. His tenacity to succeed and desire to make a chosen family for himself has pushed him forward into the loving arms of the British bear community. Get to know a bit about him below.
BWM: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Alej: I’m Manuel Alejandro Parias Peña, but I go by Alej. My ancestry is from the Caribe Tribe, the warrior tribe of the Amazon Rainforest but my grandparents made their life in Caracas, Venezuela. After a change of regime in the government, I was obligated to leave Venezuela and everything I knew. I have been far away from my family since I found safety in London 13 years ago.
BWM: What drew you to the bear community?
Alej: As a foreign person, I sometimes feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I’m deeply grateful for the amazing opportunities available in London, for the many beautiful people who make my way lighter; but I am different, and I have learned to accept it.
I grew up being criticized as a popular actor in Venezuela, so I had to always be aware of what I did and be sure I was doing the right thing to keep everybody happy. After I arrived in London, I found out, for the first time, far away from other people’s expectations of me, who I was. And after I accepted who I was, I became absorbed into the bear community. They celebrated me for who I am, not for what I needed to be.
BWM: How was your experience competing? What was the process like? What was your favorite part?
Alej: My favorite part was meeting the other guys, and feeling like we are all a family. The process was clear and simple. The organization was great. My experience was very positive. I am very proud to come from where I do and to represent London. This shows me that the London bears have taken me as one of their own. I finally feel like I belong somewhere.
BWM: What does winning this title mean to you, specifically?
Alej: It means that no matter where you come from, there people can celebrate you exactly for who you are. There is no need to be born here or there, to be slim, muscular, white, black, not have an accent, to be tall, small, young or old. You just need to be yourself. If you are dedicated to your community, you will belong. I’m looking forward to building bridges in the LGBTQ community with tolerance and love.
BWM: What are the responsibilities associated with your title?
Alej: There are moral responsibilities, to properly represent the community that is putting you forward; to be kind and open to others; to celebrate differences and not use them to divide; to be authentically myself and operate from a place of gratitude.
BWM: What are your goals for your title year? Where will you be appearing?
Alej: Now that I’m finished, I have the goal to raise money for charity and to help small businesses from the community grow.
BWM: What is next for you?
Alej: Next for me is to follow my career, become a UK citizen, and keep working on myself to be happy and to be able to share this with others.
Make sure to follow Alej on Instagram @20alejoft.