Meet Mr. LisbonBearPride 2024, Alex Fortes

Another LisbonBearPride is in the books. Bears from around the world gathered in the Portuguese capital from May 27th through June 3rd to celebrate our community and brotherhood. Events were held throughout the city including at the Bear World Award nominated Bar TR3S Lisboa and the event featured a performance from Bear World Award nominated musician Tom Goss!

One of the main events of the weekend, of course, was the election of the new Mr. LisbonBearPride of which Alex Fortes was proclaimed the winner. Get to know more about him and his journey within the bear world below.

BWM: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Alex Fortes (AF): Hi, I’m Alex! I was born in Vigo, Spain. It’s a touristic city close to Portugal (I have family on both sides of the border). I worked most of my life in video game localization and 10 years ago I moved to London, where I’m currently a Spanish Editor for a fairly big brand.

Mr. LisbonBearPride 2024, Alex Fortes

BWM: What drew you to the bear community?

AF: Seeing myself represented and accepted. I remember going to the beach with my friends as a teenager and feeling sooo uncomfortable, as I was the only one getting hairy all over the place. And this was the time when being a hairless metrosexual was the most fashionable thing ever. When I started going to bear events feeling not only like I could be unapologetically myself, but also appreciated for it; it was so liberating. Meeting so many positive examples and people to look up to helped me to be comfortable in my own skin.

BWM: What is the bear community like in your area of the world? What are your favorite places to go or activities to participate in with your local bear groups?

AF: Well, it’s London, it basically feels like anything you could want you can find here. It does take from you as much as it offers though, so it can be exhausting. Most of the time I feel I’m not going out as much as I would like, but each night out is definitely fun. From classic pub experience and Bearaoke at The Kings Arms, to club nights like Beefmince at the RVT or Two Tons of Fun, to say just a few, there’s always something fun to go to. But I must admit I usually enjoy it more when a friend throws a party at their house or organises some picnic. Loud places can be a bit overwhelming for me when I’m trying to strike a conversation!

(L-R) Mr. Bear Czechia 2024 (Martin), Tom Goss, Eddie (organizer of LBP), Alex, and Mr. LisbonBearPride 2023 (Diniz).

BWM: What made you want to compete for the title?

AF: Last year, at LisbonBearPride 2023, my partner Bruno and I made a good friend… well, lots of them! But one in particular, Francisco (who I’m extremely thankful to for his support), got into my partner’s head the idea that I should compete next time. I heard about it all year long, but I’m quite the introvert, to the point of being described as “unapproachable” sometimes (though I’m actually a goofball in private!); so, I wasn’t really considering it. Some events later in the year changed my mind. At Reykjavik Bear 2023 they needed two guests to join a dance for just a few seconds, and I volunteered. It ended up being the full dance, but I had a lot of fun on stage! On top of that, two friends of mine (that are also not the extrovert type) managed to win Mr. BearScots and Mr. Bear London. I was so happy for them, and they were extremely inspiring, so I decided to be more daring this year. I posed naked for two body positivity projects, a photography book (“Men and their Bodies”, look for @sir_grolfe on Instagram) and an art book (“The Bear Studio”, by @dougandcolour on Instagram). By May, I had gathered enough confidence (kinda!) to take the leap and compete at LisbonBearPride.

Alex (right) with his friend Francisco

BWM:  How was your experience competing? What was the process like?

AF: The first part was an online poll. As soon as it opened, my partner and I started asking for votes from all our friends, groups, etc. I campaigned with some funny Instagram stories. One of them, about testing for STIs before going to events, got quite popular. Talking with the jury after the competition, I learned those videos were pretty important for the result, not only because they got me a lot of online votes, but also because they showed my personality and will to reach out to people and talk about LisbonBearPride.

On the day of the event, we had a quick interview and dance with our special guest Tom Goss to win the jury’s votes. Most contestants were sashayed away like on a Drag Race episode, leaving only two of us. I was expecting Tom Goss to ask us for a lip sync at that point, but… the DJ came with a box of sausages for us to play with on stage! My only objective during the whole event was having fun and making people have a good time as well, mind you, so at that point there was no shame left and I think both finalists gave a good and funny show. In the end I won, and I was told it was because my personality shined through, which for an introvert, as you can imagine, is the biggest win ever.

BWM: What are the responsibilities associated with your title?

AF: I was set free to do my own thing, though I believe the organizers would like me to represent Portugal in next year’s Mr. Bear Europe, as the previous Mr. LisbonBearPride will do next month (best of luck, Diniz!). And of course give visibility to LisbonBearPride wherever I go, though I didn’t need a sash for that! If you ever talked with my partner Bruno and me in person, you know we always give a good word about bear events we’ve been to. We had some friends this year at LisbonBearPride that came after our recommendation, and I believe we already convinced a few more for next year. But beyond that, I want to give Lisbon more visibility among the Bear community. It’s still an underrated place, though it seems to be getting more popular lately. And next year we will celebrate EuroPride there, so it will be the perfect time to come and enjoy some sun, good food and welcoming bears!

BWM: What are your goals for your title year? Where will you be appearing?

AF: Get as many bears as possible to know about Portugal and LisbonBearPride. Honestly, it’s a super friendly event and the organizers (Eddie, Marcos and Nando) and staff are really welcoming. This year was their biggest one yet, so I want to help them break the record again next time! We made friends for life there and I hope you will too if you decide to join us next time.

What else is on my calendar? So far I’ve booked London Pride and Reykjavik Bears! I hope to go to BearScots as well. Beyond that, early days, but I hope to add a few more European events this year. Who knows, maybe some on the other side of the pond next year, I’m open to suggestions!

BWM: What are some important issues you feel that need to be addressed in the bear community?

AF: Division and lack of consent. The net is full of discussions about who should be part of the Bear community. If they are too fat or too thin. If they are “manly” enough. Hairy enough. Born men. Sure, there’s a central image to it, more or less flexible based on personal opinion, but let’s not use it for gatekeeping. Thankfully I still find events in person quite welcoming of all types (or maybe I go to the good ones!), so I hope it’s just online noise. Then there’s the topic of consent, at many levels. Some believe that being confident in your own body and showing it at events or online is a sexual invitation. Getting unsolicited pics or certain requests on Instagram or Facebook (damn, I had that kind of situation on LinkedIn!) before exchanging at least a couple messages gets frustrating. I love to make friends online, but someone coming hard in the wrong app at the wrong time ruins the experience and a potential friendship. In person… uh, that’s a big red line! Talk to people. You may be misreading the situation and make someone extremely uncomfortable. You could ruin someone’s event. If it’s their first one, they could get discouraged! Be friendly, be welcoming, talk before getting handsy, please. It takes just a moment and it improves everyone’s experience.

Alex and his partner Bruno at Reykjavik Bear 2023

BWM:  Where can we find you? Websites? Social Media?

AF: The best place to find me is on Instagram as @kerbearos. I will try to keep up sharing the same style of funny stories that got me the Mr. LisbonBearPride title and I will keep you updated about the events I’m going to, so please follow and let’s have a fun year together!

Latest Articles

BWM Staff

Our Staff Writing Team works hard to bring you great content and share news & events from the bear community and beyond.