A few weeks back Diniz Sanchez gave us the scoop on Belgium Bear Pride and now we are happy to bring you our interview with the man that was elected Mr. Bear Belgium 2024 at the event, Geoffrey Armellini!
BWM :Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Geoffrey Armellini (GA) : Allow me to introduce myself: Geoffrey Armellini, I’m 36 years old, and I hail from Liège, Belgium. I work as an intensive care nurse, and I’m the proud father of a 13-year-old son.
My personal journey has been somewhat unconventional. I grew up with a father who often made homophobic remarks. Even though I knew deep down that I had always been attracted to men, it was unthinkable for me to fully embrace my sexual orientation as I would have liked. Like many young people, I met a girl who would become my wife and then the mother of my son. Due to our incompatibilities, we separated after two years when our son was just six months old. I subsequently met my first boyfriend, with whom I stayed for 4 and a half years.
Coming out as gay was easier for me because I had not been in contact with my father for several years by then. Everyone, including my ex-family, with whom I maintain good relations, accepted me for who I am without judgment.
After that relationship, I remained single for a long period before meeting a guy with whom I lived for a year. That relationship turned out to be toxic.
Currently, I’ve been single for over 4 years, and I’m doing well.
BWM : What drew you to the bear community?
GA : To be honest, two years ago, I happened to meet Mister Bear Belgium 2022, Damien. Through our discussions and his very kind personality, I began to frequent Baroque, one of the Belgiumbearpride’s sponsor bars in Brussels. The more I spent time in Brussels, the more I met bears who accepted me for who I am, without judgment, and with whom I felt comfortable. I particularly felt their kindness and respect for people, and I realized that this place was a perfect fit for me.
BWM : What inspired you to compete for the title?
GA : Initially, it was my friends who insisted that I enter the Mister Bear Belgium competition. Then I met people from the committee and former Misters with whom I discussed the adventure, what it could bring to my life, and what I could, in turn, bring to people.
After much reflection and personal soul-searching, I felt comfortable enough with myself and knew I had the strength to reach out to others in order to give them the strength to thrive in their personal situations better than they had before, so I signed up.
I’ve always had a desire to help others. It seems I’m not a nurse for nothing…
BWM :How was your competition experience? Can you describe the process? What was your favorite part?
GA : The only competition I experienced was against myself. It was filled with a lot of stress, but that stress allowed me to push my limits. Each challenge took me out of my comfort zone and provided me with a great deal of personal satisfaction.
I never felt like I was competing against the other candidates because I always believed that the five of us were highly motivated individuals with very interesting projects for the community, and we all shared the same values.
The competition process unfolded as follows:
- Registration with the submission of a letter of motivation (April 2023)
- Presentation before the committee to determine if our candidacy could be accepted (May 2023)
- In-person presentation at the sponsor bars of the Belgiumbearpride and meeting the public (July 1, 2023)
- Start of virtual voting on September 1 at midnight.
- Presentation of our personal show
- Rehearsal of joint shows
- Appearance before an international jury
- Ongoing participation in group activities and outings before and during the Bearpride.
- Election night and announcement of the results.
Throughout all these stages, we were equally supported by the committee and a coach. The most stressful but also the most enjoyable part for me was the appearance before the international jury.
This is because:
- The juries were kind and very respectful
- This interview was an exchange between the jury and myself, where I could genuinely express my motivation to become a spokesperson for the community. I felt at home with these international personalities to the point where I wanted to stay with them to continue our discussion!
BWM : What does winning this title mean to you specifically?
GA : First and foremost, it’s a personal victory over the past. Having faced difficulties in social integration during my adolescence, family issues, and challenges finding my place in society, it’s a way to show that despite life’s obstacles, you can earn the trust and respect of others.
Being Mister Bear Belgium means representing the values shared within the community and I’m truly proud to have gained the trust of this community. I will always be grateful for that.
BWM : What responsibilities come with your title?
GA : I have the responsibility to uphold the community’s values: kindness, respect, tolerance, fair play, inclusivity, and love. I know that for a year, I will be the face of the community, and I must be impeccable in public.
I also have the responsibility to implement projects for the well-being of the community.
I am responsible for representing the bear community of Belgium at various events and gatherings both within and outside the country.
I also have the responsibility not to disappoint those who have placed their trust in me.
BWM: What are your goals for your title year? Where will we find you?
GA : My goals include:
- Highlighting same-sex parenting
- Being present in the community throughout Belgium
- Promoting inclusivity by bringing different communities together to foster understanding and moments of tolerance.
During my title year, you’ll find me all over Belgium. I plan to reach out to various Belgian associations to introduce myself and show that the bear community is here for all of Belgium.
I will also attend international events to represent the Bear community of Belgium and demonstrate our support for our neighbors during Mister Bear elections, pride events, and other gatherings.
BWM : In your opinion, what are the significant issues that need to be addressed in the bear community?
GA : I’ve observed that many people have misconceptions about the bear community in general. Many don’t know our community as we wish to present it. There is a lack of information about who we are, the values we uphold, and our goals for society.
A challenge is that the community is nonexistent in some cities on the outskirts of major capitals, making it difficult to educate people who are unfamiliar with us.