Meet Stewart Wheeler, Mr. Bear Perth 2023

Back in November Bears Perth held their annual competition to find their new Mr. Bear. After a sexy and exciting competition, the friendly and handsome Stewart Wheeler emerged victorious. Head back Down Under with us and check out our exclusive interview with Stewart below to find out how he intends to spend his title year. Special thanks to Ezra Alcantra all the photos used in this article.

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

Stewart Wheeler (SW): Hello all you bears, cubs, and admirers, I’m Stewart, the current reigning Mr. Bear for Perth all the way down here in Western Australia. I’ve been a WA boy basically my whole life but grew up in a little coastal town even further down south before moving up to Perth in 2013 to study.

These days I work in Marketing at a place called WAAC (the Western Australian AIDS Council) that was founded in 1985 to support people living with HIV, and to help destigmatize HIV. I’m lucky enough to get to work in the LGBTQIA+ community doing something that I am passionate about, and am very proud to be representing Perth, the Bears, and the community down here.

BWM: What drew you to the bear community?

SW: Moving to a bigger city from a small town of about 4,000 people, I felt like I was a bit out of place and didn’t really know anyone, so I wanted to try and find some friends to be honest. I left pretty much everyone I knew behind, and with moving away I was also able to come out and live openly as a gay man, so it really felt like I was starting fresh. I ended up going through a few social groups and never really found one that quite fit with me.

I eventually found the local kink scene where I joined the West Australian Pups and Handlers where I met a lot of new friends and had a lot of fun, and from there they introduced me to Perth Bears who were warm, welcoming and accepting, and it was a place where I was able to make friends and meet new people in a more social setting which is exactly what I was looking for.

The Pups and the Bears in Perth are very close in Perth, so I am very thankful that I get to be involved in both communities. There is a lot of overlap and support for each other here.

BWM: Tell us a bit about the bear scene in Perth.

SW: The bears scene in Perth is a bit on the smaller side compared to other cities, but with that I think it is a bit more intimate in the sense that you can get to know people quicker, you start recognizing people more often, and you can tell who is new and make sure they feel welcome. It’s got that charm to it where it’s a welcoming space, and because it is a bit on the smaller side everyone who puts the time and effort into it is keen to see it grow, and they go out of their way to welcome new bears into the community.

We’ve got a few venues around Perth that are always happy to see us. Our typical Den Nights are run out of Loton Park Tennis Club, but we’ve also got clubs such as Connections and The Court who are always keen to party, and there is Steamworks which is the local sauna that is always happy to have the bears stop in.

BWM: How was your experience competing for Mr. Bear Perth?

SW: Competing for Mr. Bear Perth was a great experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to compete. The nerves were there right up until you hit that stage, but as soon as you see all the people who came out to support not only you but all the competitors, those nerves are replaced with a feeling of love and support that is truly hard to describe. We are lucky enough to have Connections Nightclub host our competitions, which is a great LGBTQIA+ venue that really knows how to put on a show.

Our competition had three rounds, so I wanted to make everything I showed a reflection of myself. First, we had the “Everyday Bear” round, where I was happy to don my leathers, my work shirt, and a beautiful custom leather vest made by the extremely talented local Moose Knuckle Leather. Next up was the “Bear Necessities” round, where I stripped down to my leather jock and restraints and marched out in front of friends and family in my pup hood (Pup Hale for those interested) and represent another community I’m proud of. And last up was the “Time to Shine” performance round, where I performed a little muscle man himbo routine which I was quite proud of and which was a big hit with the audience.

BWM: Tell us about your platform as a titleholder.

SW: For me, I want to take what Perth is often looked down on for and make it something great. Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, and is a small capital city, so I want to take that isolation and turn it into a more connected community. When you live in what is quite a small city, there is no need for the community to be so disjointed, so I want to try and connect the LGBTQIA+ community here – whether that’s by supporting other groups, going to others’ events, or being active members of other social groups – and turn it into a community that builds each other up and supports each other.

We’ve got some fantastic groups here for the LGBTQIA+ community, from kink and fetish groups to social groups and sporting teams, and I’m going to try and be involved in as many as I can and advocate for others to get involved. I know I’m just one person, but I’m going to wear my sash proudly and I’m going to go and show up to as many others as I can and hopefully, hopefully others will start doing the same, and my goal by the end of it is to have a lot of different connections between everyone.

BWM: What are the responsibilities associated with your title?

SW: My main responsibilities are being an advocate and representative for Bears Perth, and by extension I feel like I am representing the LGBTQIA+ community here in Perth as a whole; so it is really about being present, being out in the community, and showing everyone what makes our community and Perth so great. There are other responsibilities too like input into the running of Bears Perth, and of course there is the fundraising aspect. Throughout my year, I will be raising funds for WAAC where I work, so I am lucky enough to raise funds for something that I am passionate about and I also get to take pride in my work at the same time.

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

SW: My goals are to try and meet as many new people as I can from across not just the Bear community, but from as many communities as I can. I touched on it before, but I am also a member of the West Australian Pups and Handlers, so I would love to meet more pups and kinksters from all over during my title year. I just marched in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on March 2nd and attended a few parties while I was over there. Next up I’ll be competing for the title of Mr. Bear Australasia with the other title holders (who I am hoping to meet sooner!).

I’m also hoping to make it to the next Australian Pup and Handler Competition later in the year to show my support, so hopefully you’ll be seeing me pop up in a few places!

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

SW: I think one of the most important issues is inclusivity. There is always talk about what makes a bear a bear, or how you have to be a certain body type or this and that to be a bear. I’ve been told I’m not bear enough, and I’m pushing 6’5”, weigh 120kg (265 lbs) and am quite hairy. To me, a bear is anyone who is a positive influence on the community as a whole, comes along and supports the events, and who wants to be a bear. There is still that stereotype of that classic bear physique, but the more the merrier in my mind – I’m not going to stop someone from being involved who may have been in a similar boat to me who wants to come and make friends and be involved.

Inclusion as a whole is very important, and I think making sure that the Bear community remains an open, welcoming, and accepting place as the times change is very important.

Be sure to follow Stewart Wheeler, Mr. Bear Perth on Instagram and Twitter (18+).

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