Our exclusive interviews with the newly elected World Bear Royal Family continues with Mr. World Bear 2023 – Heath “Candy Bear” Hooper. Check out our discussion with him below and then, if you haven’t already check out our interviews with World Pet 2023 haifisch and World Cub 2023 David Sugar.
BWM: Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what’s your background?
Candy Bear: My name is Heath “Candy Bear” Hooper and I live in Manchester, New Hampshire (USA) with my husband Jonathan. I am a dad of two, my youngest is living with us and my oldest is in college. I currently serve as a Senior Director of Human Resources for a local not for profit. I am a former foster and adoptive parent and been involved in community service work since I was 8 years old.
BWM: What drew you to the bear community?
Candy Bear: Well, this goes back to my coming out story. I came out as gay in 2018 after over 25+ years in a relationship/marriage to a woman. I always knew I was gay but did not have the courage to be myself. In 2015 I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and fought it for 2.5 years. It was then that I needed to be myself not only for me, but for my kids as well. I encouraged them to be themselves, and how could I back that up if I wasn’t being myself?
When I did come out, I met my husband Jonathan and he introduced me to the bear community. I had heard bits and pieces about the community but wanted to experience it for myself. I was instantly hooked. I have met some of the kindest, most caring and proud individuals around the country. I have made some wonderful friends and people who are now a part of my family. Bears are nurturers and protectors, and let’s face it, we like to have fun!
BWM: What made you want to compete for the title?
Candy Bear: This will be my third title since 2019. I was Mr. Providence (Rhode Island) Bear 2019/2020 where most of my tile years were during the pandemic, so most activities were remote. In 2022 I decided to run for North American Bear and won, which led me to this title. I noticed that there were a lot of great people in the community doing great work, but all separately. There is collaboration that needs to take place instead of us all working in silos. We can all achieve great things independently, but imagine if we all worked together how much change we can make. Even though this is a yearlong title and I don’t get people to collaborate on something this year, I can certainly start the ball rolling and the conversations to take place to get there. After I step down from this title in August of 2024, my work will not stop.
BWM: How was your experience competing? What was it like participating in the competition with your partner who was competing for World Pet?
Candy Bear: I will say it was a tough competition. Michael and Alan, the two other bear contestants, were forces to be reckoned with and I totally did not expect to win. This competition I went in being totally who I was, being my honest true self, what you saw was me – Candy Bear.
Competing with my husband Jonathan is a joy. We love the Bear community and we always want to make a difference anyway we can, and imagine a couple working towards that? This was a tough one, as he did not win the title, but he still remains by my side to support me and my current title. We have been known in the community I guess as a “power couple” and sometimes I don’t know how to take that; but then I realize that we are getting noticed which is the start of making a difference.
BWM: That’s lovely to hear. You both did an amazing job in the competition. Speaking of, can you tell us a bit about your theme wear and fantasy presentations?
Candy Bear: My villain theme character was “Sour Candy”. Sour candy is the opposite persona of “Candy Bear ” and he likes to make good people bad. My costume for that was a yellow lab coat that I took the sleeves off and then I hot glued WarHead Candy across the back and had sour patch kids as chains around my shoulder. I was all in yellow, from my sneakers,to my socks and eye mask. To top it all off I found WarHead candy boxers to wear. I was really going for the 80’s roller skater look. In my scene I had some good guys sitting around the table at a study sessions. Sour Candy provided the snack that day which was the potion for his powers to take effect. When Sour Candy came into the scene, he started putting a spell on the boys to activate their inner bad boy. From there, the scene got really hot with the boys having some “playful fun” on the table. In the end Sour Candy was proud and sat down with all of the bad boys surrounding and worshiping him.
For my fantasy theme I did something that I always wanted to do, and that was to be in a music video. So, I fell in love with Kylie Minogue’s “Padum Padum” song, and the planning started there. My outfit was from various sources, but all red like her video. I wore red Doc Martens, red socks, red Mesh trunks and a red mesh half shirt with my bulldog harness underneath. I also had some mesh fabric that I used like a shawl for flowy dance scenes. The crew behind me and in the sour candy scene, were a great example of what the bear community is. I put it out there on social media that I needed some help and they responded. We all met a few times to go over the dance routine and they took the time to practice during WBW. We tried to mimic as much of the video as we could but put our own spin on it. I would lip-sync the words and the backup crew would dance while I was out doing my thing. Most of the song was flirting with each one of them which was super fun!
We had a very diverse team of performers on the “Candy Bear” crew, all unique in their own way, and I am forever grateful for the hard work and support they gave.
BWM: It was a lot of fun to watch from the audience. Can you tell us what your platform is as Mr. World Bear?
Candy Bear: To promote and spread kindness throughout not only the bear community, but to all. We have a lot to do as a community and we are all trying to accomplish the same goal and that is to be accepted for who we are and not who we love or identify as. Right before I attended WBW weekend, I watched an amazing graduation speech from NC State. I wish I could find her name, however her speech was about “being a human being and not a human doing”. She goes on to say “that we are so much more than a role in life, you always have opportunity to be the person you dreamed when you choose a positive attitude, treat others with genuine kindness and appreciate your own inner beauty, if you embrace those three things your life will become more rich by seeing the world through a lens beyond the labels that confine us”. This really hit home for me, she put into words the life I have been living for years. We are all unique and we need to embrace that. We all need to remember that we are human beings and we need to be kind to one another.
BWM: Beautiful. And what are the responsibilities associated with your title?
Candy Bear: There is a lot of responsibility from holding two fundraisers, attending local pride parades, teaching educational courses to the community, volunteering and judging at various events. We also will hold quarterly online meeting sessions.
BWM: What are your goals for your title year? Where will you be appearing?
Candy Bear: My goal is to get to as many events as I can, large or small. To stay available and a listening ear to those who need me, and to raise some significant funds for LGBTQIA+ youth.
Recent Appearances: Northeast Pet Contest, Mr. Boston Bear Contest and A Mayhem Midway – Baltimore
Upcoming: North American Bear, Bears Bikers and Mayhem, Texas Bear Round Up, and Bear Jamobree
TBD: Travel to Canada and UK
BWM: What are some important issues you feel that need to be addressed in the bear community?
Candy Bear: We need to do a better job of accepting those who feel they are part of the bear community and not judge them by their size, color, background, social status or gender identity. We all have the same goal and that is to be accepted. We need to make spaces more welcoming for our POC and female bears. Everyone has something to contribute, and we need to embrace that.