In September this year, the World Bear family came back together to celebrate together and choose a new World Bear Royal family. I had the chance to chat to the new World Cub, Alika Keawekane, and find out all about his work and his platform for his year.
Richard Jones: Hi, Alika! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Alika Keawekane: 5’9”, 220lbs, smooth and husky, above average, cu… whoops… I am Maui born, northern (PA) raised, and southern (TN) fried, Otter in the sheets, Panda in the streets. I am married to my sweet, sexy, snuggly bear Jesse Hulse and we have two rescue furbabies, Chewie and She-ra.
I work for Beginning Point Surveys Inc. as a land surveyor by day. I am in charge of the field work and help out with CAD drawings. At night and weekends, I follow my passion for dance. Currently rehearsing 3 times a week, 3+ hours a rehearsal, preparing for an immersive art experience in an abandoned mill with The Pop-Up Project. Through The Pop-Up Project, I help participate, lead, and choreograph for site-specific events and I teach a couple after school programs for Red Bank High School and Reach One Teach One Program.
We also have a film that will be available in the spring called “The Light We Share” which shares the stories of some members of the group that decided to create and share. My story was about anxiety, depression, and being isolated because of a pandemic but it was shot as a silent film in 1918 about the Spanish Flu. I work alongside Barking Legs Theater for dance activism projects.
I teach and choreograph for the Chattanooga Dance Theater and the Showchoir program at Coffee County High School. I am normally part of the local alternative drag community performing/hosting for events at DragRave at Wanderlinger Brewing Company, Kreature’s Feature, or at the Seed Theater. My drag consists of my themes, music cuts, mime/theatrical, dance and/or comedy. I love me a good gag!
I help my husband, who is a harm reduction specialist for Choice Health Network, with community events for his job and I am an ambassador for CEMPA Community Care. I have participated/volunteered for community planning groups geared towards the HIV/AIDS epidemic and World AIDS Day including being chair for MSM Taskforce. Through MSM Taskforce, I have attended statewide and other conferences geared towards education and finding solutions to aid our local communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS and stigma and directed/created a PrEP commercial for the state of TN in 2020. I have also held the Mr. Bear Bust 2018 and Mr. North American Bear 2018 titles.
When I’m not busy with the many pokers in the fire, I love to spend time with my husbear, furbabies and friends including my House of Waep and creating/dancing with my House of Quartz (queer arts). I enjoy binge watching shows and movies, camping, being in the water, softball, skiing, arts and crafts, playing with flow art toys (poi balls, silk flags, LED whips, levitation wands), supporting my performer friends at their shows and events, EDM events and music, eating, sleeping, and more dancing.
RJ: When did you begin identifying as a Cub? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a Cub?
AK: I’ve struggled with identifying as a Cub in the early stages of discovering myself in the Bear community. I think, for most people, a cub is larger than myself. I discovered the bear community when I was 24. I’ve always been on the smaller side and have felt like my “label” should be an otter/chaser.
But my friends and partners have helped me gain more confidence over the years. My husband has referred to me as his cub since we’ve been together (almost 9 years now) and I’ve referred to myself as an Hawaiian “cubcake” for a few years now.
RJ: What made you enter the World Cub competition?
AK: I had been wanting to compete for World Cub since it’s first conception. And with each winner, (Zach Palmer, Chris Gonzalez, and James Butterfield) I had more of an itch each time. I have been on a “sabbatical” from doing things outside of Tennessee since before Covid and felt like it was time to step up to the plate to compete and represent.
The requirements to compete are a lot higher to me than what I’ve been used to in the past with contests I’ve competed in or helped judge. To me, there was a much higher bar to reach for. I wanted to see how I would fair and if I had what it took to become World Cub. Now I can only hope I can live up to the bar set by my World Cub title lineage and make them (and the rest of the World Bear family) proud.
RJ: How has winning the World Cub title changed your life/social life?
AK: I haven’t seen much change as of yet. I think I’m too busy with work and dance to notice it right now. I think most of the change I’ve experienced is through social media. I took a break from it for the past 2 years after a major car accident. The accident made me re-evaluate what was important in my life and I decided that being on social media hindered more than it helped me.
But prior to the contest, I knew I would need those platforms to help me during my title year and so I jumped back on. Since earning the title, you always get a barrage of friend requests (which I’m fine with!) but it’s been nice having people tell me how my posts bring them positivity and happiness, people who did not get to go to World Bear Weekend had a chance to live vicariously through my social media posts, and I have had people reach out to talk/vent about issues within the community or requesting assistance with upcoming contests.
Which if anyone is interested in competing for a World Bear title (wink, wink) or any other title, they are more than welcome to reach out to me! Any way I can assist others in their goals or dreams, I’m happy to help!!!
RJ: What is your platform?
AK: I created my platform based on the World Bear Weekend event: Heroes VS. Villains. My platform is about having the qualities of a S.U.P.E.R. – Service. Unity. Positivity. Education. Respect.
Mohammad Ali said “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” It’s more effective when it’s people we love and care about but the responsibility is still there. As a kid, the service of my chubby baseball coach teaching me how to be a catcher and a pitcher or the fuzzy dad who volunteered to take us out into the woods and teach me how to tie knots brought more joy and stability into my life than what was actually happening to me at the time. I have volunteered at events where I opened peoples eyes to the misinformation and stigma of HIV and AIDS. I’ve danced with people living on the spectrum, kids in wheelchairs, elderly lonely women… all feeling like $100 bucks because someone took the time to see them, spend some time, and make them feel loved. I’ve helped people who shared their life story with me about how they got to the point of starving on the streets. And how a simple act of kindness… some leftover pizza and a soda made them cry with joy. Our service to others doesn’t have to affect the world… we can start by affecting those around us… It can be for a cause or organization, a starving artist or underpaid performer, a complete stranger: one who is seen or unseen, or it could be for a sibling, a sister, a brother, family members (blood or platonic), friends, neighbors, coworkers, or the communities we live in. I believe we have the ability to have many gifts that can be a service to others. What’s yours? What are you good at or what do you enjoy: sports-ball, tying knots, theater, cooking, arts and crafts, gardening, teaching, donating, volunteering, organizing, sharing, caring?… How about listening? Sometimes you don’t even have to listen. Sometimes the service is your time. Some people just need people to share the same space, even if there isn’t any talking going on. The service doesn’t have to be expensive or lavish… it just has to serve someone in need.
A famous “questionable” president once said, “A House divided against itself cannot stand.” There’s no debate who this quote speaks to but it also goes for our community as well. There are fractures within our community whether we choose to see them or not. While hanging out with some members of a gay softball team, most of the (single) gay guys proceeded to tell fat jokes after picking up my husband and I from a bear event. A fellow title contender once introduced me to a friend of his, “Here’s Mr North American Bear 2018”… in which his friend quickly responded with a look up and down, followed by a, “Good for you!” with a condescending tone. At an event, one of our friends ran off with a person of color which a small group decided to throw racist jokes around about Kentucky Fried Chicken and Grape Kool-Aid. Masc. vs Fem. Muscle vs Chub. Twink vs Bear. What about the treatment of people living with disabilities, people living with mental health challenges, and people living with HIV or AIDS. There are constant issues and discussions about trans members and women participating in our community. I have also heard of some pup members being mistreated in our community. I’m glad there’s an event like World Bear Weekend that supports all and is open about it because then it steers away the people that we don’t want at events like this. But that’s not necessarily enough or appropriate…is it? Alexander the Great said, “Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” As we have created a safe space (which is important) we have also created an atmosphere of exclusion. I’m not saying we need to share the same space all the time but we do need to work together on the same goals. Fair treatment. Equal rights. Representation. Saving the planet. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or love for that matter). Sex, drugs, and Lady Gaga. Our community was originally created because of being ostracized and excluded for what the bears look like… what “men” should look or act like. Why are we doing it to ourselves within our own community? Why are we hanging onto social cliques and out dated ways of thinking? Why are we cold shouldering people we are not attracted to? Some of the best friendships and connections I have are with people who I am not sexually attracted to… and that’s ok. It’s ok to be friends with someone who doesn’t interest you sexually, doesn’t look like you or who doesn’t have the same journey as you do. You’ll never know what new things you could learn from your new friends. You’ll never know what stories you could share, what connections you could make, or what experiences you could have. And don’t get me wrong, live your life the way you want to but also, don’t be a d*ck. Martin Luther Ling Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Les Brown said “In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.” How can we be positive towards each other? Avoid unnecessary criticism, be nice to each other, use please and thank you, do something nice or give someone a compliment, be realistic because everyone is flawed. Let’s make people feel welcomed, loved, appreciated, respected, heard and seen. I know that we just came out of a social hiatus because of Covid but why is it so hard to be nice to each other? We are ALL struggling to coexist in a world with people who don’t respect or understand us or know how to. Why not be a rainbow in someone’s cloud? Being positive also means being positive to ourselves. “When things go wrong, don’t go with them.” Be thankful and count your blessings. Life could always be much worse than what it is, someone out there is literally living that life right now. Practice positive self talk. Tell yourself a positive affirmation. Look in the mirror like damn I don’t brag enough. Listen to happy music or look at pictures of happy kids, animals, or perky buttholes. Self-care, meditation, healthy lifestyle habits. You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body. Being positive does not mean ignoring difficulties and bad experiences. It means acknowledging them, learning from them, doing better, and using the knowledge gained to improve.
Professor X said, “The greatest power on Earth is the magnificent power we all of us possess… the power of the human brain!” Continued education is important whether it is in school or at home, learning from videos or training with specialists. It helps us have a sharp mind and an understanding heart. If you don’t understand how a person lives, find someone who can help direct you or answer your questions. Read books or listen to audiobooks, solve riddles and problems, watch more documentaries or educational programs, learn a new hobby or language… there are all sorts of ways to engage the brain in different ways that aren’t always boring. There’s also a lot of people who speak on things they know nothing of and/or spread misinformation. Educating ourselves helps make sure we don’t sound like idiots or negatively affect others opinions or choices based on false information which could potentially endanger others. For example, “I can’t wear condoms because I’m allergic to latex” They make condoms made of polyurethane and polyisoprene. There are also condoms made of animal skin (Lambskin condoms) which are good against pregnancy but do not offer the best protection against STI’s. Also changing from STD to STI… “disease” increases stigma and technically there are no disease without symptoms, and since not everyone with an infection develops symptoms, “infection” is scientifically more accurate. (The More You Know)
“And At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Respect for our whole community…LGBTQQIP2SAA. We all have a journey and sometimes there are crossroads, traffic jams, and detours. We are all connected though our hardships and internal suffering caused by what our society thinks about us. Why would we turn around and do the same to our own family?
Respecting our sexual health… educating ourselves if we don’t know, safety precautions, getting tested, getting on PrEP or know when to seek PEP after an incident. Condoms will not protect you from all STI’s. Let’s quit the stigma against HIV, let’s stop using the words dirty and clean, let’s change our vocabulary to STI free and people living with HIV, lets educate ourselves on protecting against it, rather and safer sex practices. Those living with HIV are now able to reach a viral load so low that it becomes untransmittable. There is a slogan for it… “Undetectable means untransmissable” or “U=U.” That also means being respectful for each other sexually, their kinks, and safety concerns. Their past traumas, personal journeys, proclivities, side missions and conquests.
Respect for the Earth. Recycle, reduce, reuse. Don’t litter. Save the bees. Plant more trees. Clean the seas. May the forest be with you. There are many great voices but not all are human. There’s plenty of great slogans and causes to pick from. Find one (or more) that means something to you and try to make an effort. Remember, the power is yours! (I couldn’t help myself!)
And finally, respect for ourselves. We’ve already gone over a few things. Knowing your limits and knowing your worth. Knowing when to say no or when to remove things (or people) from your life that aren’t healthy for you. Taking baby steps is ok… a step is a step towards your goal. Sometimes you’re able to move mountains and sometimes you can only move from the bed to the couch. All of that is ok. Just be kind to yourself.
So I encourage you – Service, Unity, Positivity, Education, Respect. You can have the qualities of a SUPER too!
RJ: In what ways do you think you can help to promote growth or change in the leather and/or bear/cub communities?
AK: Well, to be honest, my experience in the leather community is very limited. I’m excited to learn more about the leather community and will do what I can to assist and advance the leather community.
As far as the bear/cub communities, I hope to work on the things we have already talked about especially concerning unity and education. I think being who I am at “my size” and being a POC, changes the mindset of who can represent the bear/cub community and I hope to see more of “me” or more allies of “me” competing for future titles.
I would really love to change the diversity at some events as I have both seen/experienced and read/heard of POC’s shying away from such events because of lack of people who resemble or approve of them, whether that’s a statement from experience or from what they see being posted, we need to change that mindset. We need to change all bear/cub events to feel more welcoming to ALL types, shapes and sizes. I have also been at events where it seems like there’s a divide between the two or pockets of cliques that are hard for newcomers to break into. I fully understand when you have your core group of friends at an event and I have been on “the other side looking in.”
And I will always choose to stop, meet someone new, have a conversation, maybe experience some things on the itinerary together, and develop a friendship. Most the time, a simple meet and greet is less than 5 mins of time. There are 1,440 mins in the day, we can afford to spare a few here and there making someone feel appreciated and seen.
And besides educating and empowering peoples sexual health, I really want to expand peoples’ dance vocabulary and confidence in themselves. Dance is my gift and I do feel the need to educate others through dance. That’s why I want to create dance videos at the events I attend because I feel like dance and music are universal languages. You may not speak the same language or live in the same shoes but everyone understands the emotion behind a song or the groove of a beat (even if their body doesn’t know who to express it).
I teach a dance workshop at North American Bear Weekend and it’s exciting to see it grow every year. It‘s amazing to see all types, shapes, and sizes being the most fabulous versions of themselves. I love the excitement of doing a sexy routine with guys, the thrill of performing on stage in front of your peers, the positive feedback of people telling you how amazing you looked (for less than a minute on stage), the woofs and hollers from the audience, and the brotherhood that develops from stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new with other people who are just as scared as you. But they still get up on stage and do the damn thang… it’s beautiful to see that growth in others and I’m glad I can be a part of that journey for anyone!
RJ: What is the most important thing about the bear/cub community for you?
AK: It’s the community itself… being around likeminded people. It really does suck when you go to an event and when you go home from an event. Being surrounded by cute handsome boys and going home to work/live in a mostly hetero-society. In my city, there used to be a huge bear community and a group was formed called the Lookout Bears.
Started by my gay dads, Chuck and Mario, they went for many years and had over 100 members. It disbanded a few years ago because there wasn’t anyone to take over and organize. My husband and I tried to get it going in 2018 and it was a struggle to navigate. (We may try again.) That’s why we fill our home with bear artwork and tchotchkes, we wear bear clothing brands (BearSkn, Yeahbuzzy, Killerbob Graphics, Bear T-shirts, Fatmarker, etc.), and listen to bear artists and DJ’s (Bryce Quartz, J.R.Price, Big Dipper, Daddy Karsten, etc.). And it’s also the events that make the community.
There are SO many bear/cub events to go to. It’s hard to plan but I wish we could go to one every month. We still have a few on our list that we can’t wait to check out. But normally when I’m having a bad day or in a poor mental state, I pop on a bear run T-shirt and it cheers me up reminding me of all the good memories I had.
RJ: What are your plans for your World Cub title year?
AK: Picasso said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Everyone (who knows me) knows me for my gift of dance but I also have gifts of empathy, intuition, organization, creativity, teaching, reaching, and humor. With these gifts combined, I am Captain… uh… just Panda. But, I plan on using my gifts to be the best SUPER I can be!
I will use my social media platforms to create a safe space to bring people together to share stories, and promote positivity, education and awareness.
I plan on hosting free dance classes online to promote good health and help build peoples confidence in themselves. I would like to use Growlr and Facebook (once I get through my current show and the holidays). And I’m starting an OnlyFans to help with that as well and to support my travel funds.
I plan on creating a dance montage video at the events I attend to bring people together and to show how amazing, sexy, fun, and diverse our community is. I’ll more than likely send out a message to see who’s interested, record and send a tutorial/concept to those interested, and try to work out a time at the event to practice together and record a couple takes. There will be some basic choreography with improv fillers and cute/sexy scenes. (So if you are interested and see any events that we will be at together, reach out to me!)
I plan on creating videos interviewing members of our community showcasing their knowledge, talents, journeys, and contributions to help educate our community and the communities who don’t experience us. Videos on how to communicate with our deaf members of our community, resources that promote sexual health, and education on services, kinks and lifestyles so we can have a better understanding of each other and our other family members who live on our queer spectrum. I’ve already reached out to a few people and will meet up with them soon. Videos probably won’t appear until next year.
I will continue to use my gifts to perform at events and help raise money for charities and organizations. I hope to use my performing gifts to travel to other cities to perform or to be a guest gogo dancer (literally a dream of mine!!).
I will continue to educate my community on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, help with community planning groups and events, and empower peoples sexual health. This has always been one of my main missions.
To the best of my ability, I will continue to be a positive light to others, to inspire and uplift, to make people feel appreciated and loved, to encourage others to be the best versions of themselves, and to serve for the needs of my peers and my community when needed.
RJ: What are your plans with your World Bear title family?
AK: We are all very busy in our communities and it will most definitely be a little struggle for us to get together. I think we all have a lot of events in the works and right now it’s seeing where we can rendezvous.
Buddha Onyx and I live 2 hours away so I know we will most definitely be seeing each other (I had the pleasure of surprising him recently for Atlanta Pride). Mama Daddie Danger lives in Texas and she has a birthday coming up. We shall see if a surprise is in store…
RJ: Finally, where will the bear community be able to see, meet and connect with you?
AK: Here are a few events we are in the process of looking at or already plan on being there in 2023:
North American Bear Weekend – Lexington, KY – Feb 16-19
Bears On Ice – Gettysburg, PA. – Feb. 24-26
TBRU – Dallas Texas – March 16-19
Bears, Bikers, & Mayhem – Gettysburg, PA. – May 4-7
Tidal Wave – Orlando, FL. – June 1-5
Camp Bear – Timberfell Campground, Greeneville, TN. – Mid June
Atlanta Bear Fest – Atlanta, GA. – July 4th Weekend
Bears 2 Weekend – The Woods Campground, Leighton, PA. – Late July
World Bear Weekend – Orlando, FL. – Sept. 21-24
Here are my handles:
Facebook- Alika Keawekane Instagram – hawaiian_panda_beast Snapchat – kakeawekane
Telegram – @PandaBeast Tik Tok – @panda_world_cub_2022 OnlyFans – @panda_worldcub2022
Nintendo Switch – SW-1948-6401-7795 PlayStation – PandaBeast626 YouTube – kakeawekane
Spotify – kakeawekane Venmo – @Kenny-Keawekane PayPal – @kakeawekane
Cashapp – $KennyKeawekane
Next month we will chat to the new Ms. World Bear – Daddie Danger.
For info in World Bear Weekend head here: worldbearweekend.com
World Cub, Alika Keawekane Main Photo – by Entendre Photography.