The Mr PGH (Pittsburgh) Bear Contest is one of the newest titles in the US, it’s only two years old! With the third Contest coming up soon, I spoke to the incumbent Mr PGH Bear, Maxx, to find out all about him and the title.
Richard Jones: Good to Meet You Maxx! Mr. PGH (Pittsburgh) Bear is a relatively new title, tell me about where it’s from and what it’s about.
Maxx: An honor to meet you, Richard. Mr. PGH Bear is the brainchild of a highly respected local drag queen named Cindy Crotchford. She recognized that there was a noticeable lack of representation of the Bear Community in the local Gay Scene. She set out to correct this and working with the Blue Moon Bar, a popular local LGBTQ+ bar and the main drag bar in the city, along with the Burgh Bears, the oldest Bear Club in Western PA, she organized the first Mr. PGH Bear Pageant in 2017.
It was a great success and I was quite happy to hear they were putting it on again. My friend Clint, a popular painter in the local Gay Community and was gracious enough to let me be a model for him, thought my look would be perfect for it an encouraged me to compete. I won the title back in August 2018 so the next competition is coming up soon.
RJ: Did you have a platform that you presented?
M: I didn’t necessarily have a platform, I found out later that that’s the general standard at such events, but contestants don’t take a platform at Mr. PGH Bear. The pageant was organized into 3 parts:
1) Presentation & Bear Pride Wear
2) Jock Strap or Underwear & Question and Answer
Contestants really don’t get a chance to make a platform. What I did do was create a central theme for all the parts. I chose a rather weird theme, Russia/Soviet Union. My family is of Slavic descent and I also loved the history of the Slavic nations. As a result, I had access to some props I could use, and my younger brother oddly enough collects foreign military uniforms so I was able to borrow some his stuff.
For the stuff, I couldn’t get or find, my friend Clint was a great help. He was able to make workable suggestions, find what I couldn’t, and helped me rehearse my act.
For the first part, I dressed in late Soviet Era Red Army pants, an officer’s cap, and an officers dress jacket over my shoulders. Under that a red leather harness. I treated the second part as swimsuit-esque and dressed in a Soviet Navy Cap (think Donald Duck’s hat), a sailor’s blue and white striped tang-top, and a red jockstrap with a hammer and sickle patch glued to the front. For the talent portion, I re-enacted a viral video from a few years back about the history of Russia set to song and dressed in old corduroy pants, no shirt, red suspenders, and a shepherd’s cap.
RJ: What do you think titles bring to the bear community?
M: I think it shows that no matter your body type you can still take pride in who you are. I for one love that I don’t need the cliché model body to be confident in who I am. Now, I don’t mean this as an excuse to not be healthy. I still go to the gym at least 3 days a week. However, I no longer feel pressured to look a certain way in order to be found attractive and I don’t beat myself up about having a bit of a belly anymore. Hell, if anything my belly gets complimented the most, haha. If this title can help people feel as good about themselves as I do, then its a truly great thing and I’m happy to be a part of it and that I get to represent my city in such a way.
RJ: What have you learned from being a titleholder that you can take into your “regular” life?
M: For one, I’ve experienced a major boost in my self-confidence and I have found myself to be more open and social than I have ever been before. I’ve met a lot of amazing people because of the title and it also helped me to get a few dancing gigs at Blue Moon and at Vice Versa in Morgantown WV. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but through performing, I’ve found an amazing outlet for a more wild form of creative expression.
RJ: Tell us a little bit more about you?
M: I work as a janitor here, so I guess you could say I’m blue-collar. When I’m not buffing floors, I absolutely love exploring abandoned buildings and photographing them.
I’ve been able to visit locations in Detroit, NYC, Cleveland, and of course around my neck of the woods. Also, my pics were considered good enough that I was able to be the event photographer for the Mr. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish Contest this past year. As I implied before,
I am a huge history nerd. I think half the television I watch are history documentaries of some sort or other and I always have a history book I’m reading. I’ve been told I have the worst taste in music ever. You can find me listening to Finnish and Russian Hip-Hop, Chinese Folk Metal, and History oriented Power Metal from Sweden. I actually have found some ways to incorporate my awful taste into my acts. For a show at Vice Versa I was able to utilize a Finnish song about Pokemon Go! to make a very funny and entertaining act no one was
RJ: Will you go on to compete for other titles in the USA, such as World Bear?
M: Oh, definitely. For one everyone is encouraging me to, from Cindy Crotchford and the staff at the Blue Moon I’ve worked with to Emërson Anicëto, the current Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather and reigning Mr. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish. I think I’m gonna start local. The next Mr. Pittsburgh Leather is coming up and I have my eyes on it. At the very least I aim to be a memorable contestant and I’m excited to tackle the challenge.