Robin meets… Mr Bear Europe 2019 – Jérôme

Meet Jérôme, he’s 43 years old, he’s from France, he’s a comedian, he’s visually impaired, and he’s just been crowned Mr Bear Europe 2019!

After being the first Mr Bear Rhône Alpes Auvergne 2018, elected last year in Lyon, he went with his team Grrrizzlyon Bear Association to Padua, Italy to run for Mr Bear Europe alongside eight other competitors from around Europe. 

The Mr Bear Europe title was created in 2017 in Cologne, Germany by the Mr Bear Europe organisation. It celebrates the amazing diversity of Europe… a French guy won in Italy a title that was founded in Germany!

I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with Jérôme about his life, his background and being the new Mr Bear Europe. 

Robin: Bonjour Jérôme! What made you enter the Mr Bear Europe contest?

Jerome: After a year of a very beautiful adventure as Mister Bear Rhône-Alpes Auvergne 2018 I was very honored that I had been offered to participate in the election of Mister Bear Europe. I saw the opportunity to meet my peers from other countries. I took this election as a cherry on the cake to finish a year full of encounters and surprises!

What was your favourite moment of taking part?

Moments have been very strong for me. The first day of the contest, meeting of all contestants. We were no longer photos or videos, we were there in front of others to discuss in German, English, Italian… it was a very good atmosphere, we talked about our paths to getting here, our private lives and so much more. 

The other highlight for me during this contest was the announcement of the three finalists. I really did not think I was in the finalists, and at that moment for me I won personally. No matter the result, to bring back the sash or not, being in the three finalists at the Mister Bear Europe competition was already a big win for me!

What did you do in your year as Mr Bear Rhône Alpes Auvergne?

From the first day of our election with Sébastien Mon Dauphin (first runner-up Mr Bear Rhône Alpes Auvergne 2018) we decided to put our energy and our sash to the benefit of the association Le Refuge, which helps the young LGBTI victims of homophobia and transphobia within their own family.

We actively participated in the various actions of LGBT associations in Lyon, in particular Grrrizzlyon Bear association. I represented the region at various Bear events in France and abroad, and I had the great joy of staging the election of Mister Otter Lyon 2019!

How has the community welcomed a title holder with a visual impairment?

Disability, visual or otherwise, does affect my life in the community, as well as work and everyday life, as it’s often a barrier to meeting other people. A little over a year ago, when I registered for the election of Mister Bear Rhône-Alpes Auvergne, I was sure I would not win because I had chosen to do the election with my cane in hand. That day I discovered that the community could surprise me… since then, people have started to know me, and learn to live with my disability. I feel privileged compared to others.

What challenges does someone who is visually impaired have when engaging with the community?

Being visually impaired is something complicated: we are not seeing, but we are not totally blind either… It’s an inbetween that we must explain to others and answer questions like “but you can see me?” There is not an evening where I do not have to answer questions, but I’m used to it! It’s also a way to advocate for better acceptance of people with disabilities in the community.

Personally, the most difficult thing for me is that I do not see body language, so I do not see a nod, a wink or a hand signal to show a direction. It’s always a complicated time when you arrive in a new place, but there is often a good soul to give a hand!

What is the most important thing about the bear community for you?

Its diversity! The Bear community has so many people of different origins, physiques, mentalities and ages… that’s what I love most! It is always a pleasure for me to see this diversity at Bear parties including twinks, otters, chasers, polar bears and more!

What are your plans for your title year as Mr Bear Europe?

This is a question put to me by the Mister Bear Europe jury. I decided to work this year on a better integration of people with disabilities in the LGBT community. A few months ago, I met in an election a deaf young man, who was also dumb and blind. He speaks in sign language directly in the hand of his translator. He explained to me that I was an example for him. That day I really realized that I was privileged. It’s for people like him that I want to fight. It will be a major part of my year, but I will not forget Le Refuge either.

Finally, what’s your advice for anyone entering next year?

The advice to participate in this kind of election is very simple… Fabio, Mister Bear Europe 2018, as well as all the organizers told us several times: be yourself!

Yes, it is true that this kind of election celebrates the physical appearance, but it is also necessary, when speaking to the public or even to the jury, not to hide behind false pretences. You have to be yourself and not wanting to be someone else.

Follow Mr Bear Europe 2019 on Facebook to keep up with Jérôme’s news

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Robin Gray

Robin is proud to be the Editor of the world's leading online bear magazine and loves sharing news, stories and interviews with bears, cubs, chubs and their admirers from all over the globe!