World Bear Weekend in Kentucky saw the crowning of the first ever international royal family of bears, this week we will be meeting the first ever World Cub 2018, Zach Palmer, in our exclusive interview.
World Bear Weekend is the ultimate destination on your contest journey! If you’ve ever wanted to take the next step beyond your current title, this event is for you. This unique event essentially combines the bear, bootblack, and pup communities into one action-packed weekend of fun, philanthropy, and a competitive spirit of love & brotherhood/sisterhood.
Zach thanks for sitting down with us, it must have been a crazy week since you won the very first World Cub Title. – How are you feeling?
Well, first, thanks for having me. I finally feel like I’m starting to calm down a bit, but I’ve just been so ecstatic and excited… if you told me a decade ago I was going to be an international title holder, I probably would have thought that was the worst pickup line ever!
What surprised you about the competition?
The level of competition. I’ve seen many other leather and bear contests, and it’s often so easy to be like, “Well, clearly that guy’s the winner as no one is doing as much as him, so…” But seeing what other people did, just everyone was so consistently amazing. Which, I guess, shouldn’t have been a surprise, everyone there had a title already, so they all knew what they were doing. I just didn’t anticipate how much harder I was going to have to work.
What made you enter the competition?
I like to joke that it was my Catching Fire, like the Hunger Games. I just finished North American Bear, I got second place and it’s like, you competed in the top bear competition, now it’s all over, no more contests… then all of a sudden, no, sorry, jk, there’s another one now so you gotta go back! But now it’s actually over… the competing part, at least, there’s still a lot of work to be done. And there’s still a terrible government to overthrow, but that’s why everyone needs to vote in 2020. Well, every year, but especially 2020.
How do you think it will change your life?
I’m really not sure. I’ve been inundated with congratulations from around the world. It’s only just begun, too soon to tell. But I definitely do know, I won’t squander the opportunity.
What do you think this title will mean to the bear community around the world? Tell us more about the uniqueness of the Title.
Well, there hasn’t been a non-leather international bear title since 2011 when IBR ended… god I wish I could have gone to that… So actually, last year I got to go to The Netherlands, and I met the man who won IBR Grizzly in 1996. He told me he was the first ever winner from outside the United States and that was only the second year of the event, back in AOL internet days, so for it to just so quickly become a truly international event… that’s what I’m hoping this becomes. Everyone knows IML, I want this to be the IML of the bear community.
Since you brought up the uniqueness of the title, I wanted to also mention, my title is World Cub, not Mr. World Cub. The reason for that is that the title is open to people regardless of gender identity. This year we only had, at least so far as I know, male identified contestants, but that can, and hopefully will, change in the future. Of course, if someone wants to call me Mr. World Cub, that’s fine! Heck, I’ll probably do it too a few times. But I just want people to know that this is there for anyone to earn!
What do you plan to do with your Title Year?
Well, first I’m sort of taking a breather – every year I work for Terror Behind the Walls, it’s a haunted house at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. I’ve always loved scary stuff, and it’s the biggest haunted house, and even better, it’s a not for profit event, so all the money goes to preserve the building and help the museum sort of promote the discussion of the issues in our criminal justice system. And if that sounded like a shameless plug, it’s because it is! Sorry, I just love it so much and it’s such a good cause. This is actually going to be my 17th year there!
So once that’s over, I’ll be able to focus much more on being World Cub – lots and lots of fundraising, promoting my platform and encouraging people to get tested for things other than HIV, and just a lot of putting myself out there and promoting the event for future years.
What does the bear community mean to you?
I was the geeky chubby kid in high school, and even though I wasn’t out, pretty much everyone could tell I was gay. I always felt on the outside and when I was in college, it was like being gay meant you had a six pack and were a sharp dresser, had perfect hair, but only on your head cause you shave everything else. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but they just aren’t me. Discovering the bear community was amazing because they accepted me as I was, and embraced me for things I’d been told were imperfections. To me, the bear community is about accepting people regardless of size, age, race, gender… it’s about inclusion. Of course, I know some people who have felt unwelcome in our community, but I think it’s just a few bad eggs, and really the community, as a whole, is very accepting. Lots of us are super friendly people!
What are your plans with your Title Family?
We’ve been talking and we’re still working that out, but a big goal of ours is to meet an an event outside the US, probably Mexico or Canada. And of course we want to meet up at events whenever possible, just a matter of timing, vacation time, finances, that sort of stuff. Also, we will of course have title pins, but we also have a group title pin, and all the proceeds from that will go to Rainbow Railroad, which helps people escape countries where just being gay means being subject to state sanctioned imprisonment, torture, and even death.
Tell us more about your platform?
My platform is to encourage everyone to be a #responsibleslut. Since undetectable means untransmittable, and so many people are on prep, we could see an end to HIV, but it’s not gonna stop chlamydia, or gonorrhea, or syphillis. So to help with these STIs, you should be a #responsibleslut. It means testing as often as necessary for you… I personally test once a month because I think it’s necessary for my level of sexual activity. It means being open and honest with your partners, and letting all of them know if you may have gotten something. But most importantly, it’s about not shaming people. The word slut is a word people use to shame others, but it shouldn’t be, it’s just someone who embraces their sexuality. I want people to be able to declare with pride that they are responsible sluts, because when we feel shame about something, we keep it a secret, and that’s how infections spread. Feel no shame, throw no shame, take care of yourself, and everyone else.
Finally, where and when can bears see and meet you?
You can find me most Fridays at Tabu in Philadephia for Happy Bear. I’m hoping to get down to International Mr. Leather Bear in Baltimore in October, I’ll definitely be seeing Johnny for Mr. Bear Virginia in November, and otherwise I’m planning to head to Midwest Bearfest, Mid-Atlantic Leather, North American Bear, Mx. Virginia Leather, Texas Bear Round up, Bears Bikers and Mayhem… and hopefully also Provincetown for Bear Week, and I’m sure lots of other things. I’ve only just started planning. I can promise, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
You can keep up to date with Zach and follow his journey by checking out his Facebook Page here.