North American Bear Weekend is one of the leading bear runs in the US – it’s a full weekend of parties, social events, excursions, and vending all taking place in February in Lexington Kentucky. A highlight of the weekend is the title run and this year saw a change up with the titles now offered as North American Bear, North American Mama Bear and North American Cub. I was fortunate recently to catch up with the new North American Cub, Cutlar Shell.
Richard Jones: Cutlar thanks for sitting down with us, it must have been a crazy few weeks since you won North American Cub, have you taken a breath?
Cutlar Shell: Hey, no, thank you! And I certainly don’t feel like I have. I got to spend a couple of days in Norfolk with my chosen family before heading back home to Texas, but then it was back to work and school. Things are calming down now, though, which is nice.
RJ: What surprised you about the competition?
CS: Hmm… everything! I try to take things one step at a time, live in the moment, you know? So it felt like there was something new and exciting every day. The only thing I was not surprised by was how welcoming and friendly everyone was! That’s what made it so amazing, the friends I’ve made and all the people I’ve met.
RJ: What made you enter the competition?
CS: That would be my good friend Paul Lanner. I always joke with him about how he turned me into this! It honestly started with TBRU last year, winning my first title and seeing the amazing good I could do. I started an LGBTQ+ inclusive group, the Hub City Bears, and it been an absolute blast, a real success. I brought people together, people that had trouble finding a place to fit in, and created a family. I did this for them. I want the community as a whole to know that no matter where you are, you’re never too small to make a huge impact!
RJ: How do you think it will change your life?
CS: It already has, and this is definitely never something I thought I would be doing even two years ago. Of course, you feel the pressure to make change happen immediately, to go and be seen, you feel a bit of a spotlight on you. I feel like I’m part of something great, the whole NAB family… I just want to make them proud of what I can accomplish. They’ve all been so supportive and I feel instantly at home with all of them. And I won’t lie, I feel very proud to call myself Mr. NAB Cub! I have a page, run pins in the works… It’s all very exciting! Admittedly, I’m also trying not to let it all go to my head. I’m still just a simple boy from west Texas, I put my vest on one arm at a time!
RJ: What do you plan to do with your title year?
CS: Anything and everything that comes to helping others. I plan on working throughout the South Plains area, I want to bring the communities together and create a support system. I really want to reach out to some of the smaller towns where there isn’t any kind of safe space. I live in a very conservative area, and Lubbock was long-standing the second most conservative town in America. Coupled with being a right-to-work state, some LGBTQ+ individuals are scared to come out to themselves, let alone in any kind of social gathering where their employers might see or hear about. I don’t want to make people join my group or anything, I just want them to know someone is here, and they aren’t alone in the way they feel.
RJ: What does the bear community mean to you?
CS: Being a bear to me has less to do with looks and more to do with your attitude. We are a kind, accepting, loving group who don’t judge or ask questions. Of course, we are also humans that make mistakes. I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and I will continue to make them. But we as bears learn from these mistakes and move forward in life. We love each other regardless and we don’t put up with bigotry or racism or intolerance of any kind. Unless, of course, it’s being intolerant of intolerance, but I’m sure you get my meaning. The bear community is brothers, sisters, non-binary kin folk, comrades, dudes, chicks, bros, gals, greys, and any other host of names coming together as a family and standing together in love and acceptance. That is what the bear community is in my eyes.
RJ: What are your plans with your Title Family?
CS; Party it up? We’ve got a group chat and we communicate on what each of us is doing. I guess I can’t really say what our plans are yet, but you can expect to hear about it soon.
RJ: Tell us more about your platform?
CS: My platform has always been on mental health awareness, inclusivity, and acceptance. I personally deal with my own mental health issues, like PTSD, severe depression, general anxiety… the list goes on. And sometimes, you can’t always see it. Hell, sometimes I can’t even see it in myself until I find myself locked away in my room having almost no human contact for two days. My point is, you don’t know someone’s story and you cannot assume you know what is best.
This goes beyond mental health, reaching into education, racism, and all these other systemically sustained mindsets. I’ve started to tell people to slap themselves when they aren’t listening, meaning stop, listen, accept, and process. It’s not easy, but when we all take a moment to understand each other’s sides, we can actually begin to heal and come up with better solutions. I’ve been on panels and discussions about problems the community faces, how counselors and psychologists should interact, safe spaces and why they are necessary…
Sorry, there’s just so many things I feel so passionately about that its hard to chose just one stance, you know?
RJ: And where and when can we see you and meet you?
CS: Well, you can always come down to the Hub City, meet me and my fellow bears! I’ll also be at CLAW, World Bear Weekend, NAB, and a few other places.
Find me on Facebook, my page is Mr. NAB Cub 2019. Its got this awesome design up as my profile picture from Paul. If you ever see me, or Dionysus, my pup persona, just say hi! And if you want to follow my group, just search for the Hub City Bears on Facebook as well. I will caution against going to my personal Facebook, I’ve just had so many people send requests recently that I’ve kind of been overwhelmed with that! But as my travel schedule changes, I’ll keep updates on my page.
If I may, I’d like to give a couple of quick shoutouts. First, to my mother, she was the first person I called after sneaking away from the photos right after the competition. Next, of course, Adam and the entire team. And last, my partners. Without their support, I would have been lost, scared, and probably crying in the corner again. And, of course, thank you, Richard, its truly been an absolute pleasure.
Thanks to Chester and Dane of Entendre Photography – www.entendrephoto.com