The International Mr. Leather (IML) contest, held in Chicago during Memorial Day Weekend, is the largest, most prestigious annual Leather event that takes place in this country. Nations, states, bars, and organizations will be sending their best and finest Leathermen to compete for the title, and unaffiliated individuals will participate as well. This coming May 26, two distinguished New York titleholders, Mr. Fire Island Leather 2017 Sir Joseph and Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018 Joseph, will be among those competing. The former won his title in Cherry Grove last May, and is the first Mr. FI Leather ever to be a contender for IML, and the latter won his title in Chelsea this past October. Q News publications Fire Island Q News.com and New York Q News.com decided to spotlight these well-spoken local titleholders and see what’s on their minds as they prepare for the forthcoming big event. Full disclosure: as Mr. FI Leather 2001 (the first), I was part of the panels of judges, on Fire Island and in New York City, that helped to choose these men to represent the Leather community officially.
Q News: You must be very excited about competing in the forthcoming IML contest. Please explain what participating in IML means to you.
Mr. Fire Island Leather 2017 Sir Joseph: IML gives me the opportunity to represent and raise awareness, on an international level, about the Fire Island community and the preservation of LGBT history everywhere. My motto, since sashed, has been, “Remembering the past, in the present, for the future.” It is important to support community members who have made vital contributions to the LGBT and Leather communities. Fire Island and New York City have a long history as LGBT places but, moreover, their people have been rich in history and tradition.
Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018 Joseph: I am thrilled and excited to compete at IML, as it will the first time we will get to meet all our brothers, and we are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of IML and being part of History. I am extremely honored to be part of this group of extraordinary men.
QN: How will you be announced at the contest: your name, your current title and organization affiliation(s), and your sponsor(s).
Mr. FI Leather 2017: Sir Joseph, Mr. Fire Island Leather 2017. My primary sponsor is Excelsior Motorcycle Club, and other sponsors are the Saint-at-Large Design Collective and Males au Natural. My Leather affiliations are: Excelsior M.C. (Vice President), New York City Pups & Handlers (Member), Bay State Marauders (Associate Member), and Long Island Ravens M.C. (Associate Member).
Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018: Joseph, Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018. My sponsor is the New York City Eagle.
QN: You’ll both be representing New York. Where are you from originally?
Mr. FI Leather 2017: I am originally from Oyster Bay, Long Island, but currently live in Manhattan.
Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018: I was born in Maspeth, Queens, then moved to another part of Queens, where I lived until I was in the fourth grade. Then my family moved to Long Island. After living there for 15 years, I moved backed to Maspeth and have lived here for 22 years, in the apartment where my grandparents lived
QN: How long have you been into the Leather scene, how many years of being into the scene did it take for you to enter your first Leather contest, and did you ever think you’d be competing in a contest of this size, scope, and importance?
Mr. FI Leather 2017: In 2005, I was on Fire Island for a day-trip. That night happened to be the night of the Pines Party, a charity benefit. So many men were adorned in harnesses and jock straps that I was hooked. In 2013, I attended my first Saint-at-Large Black Party and, because of this event and its positive impact on me, I became very active in the Leather community and the rest is history! Mr. Fire Island Leather 2017 was my first Leather contest. It took me months of thought and preparation to compete. Fire Island has been there for me over the years. This title gives me the opportunity to give back to a home away from home. I knew that, if I were to win Mr. Fire Island Leather, I was going to take it all the way to International Mr. Leather. I want people worldwide to know about Fire Island. Since the Fire Island contest’s inception in 2001, I will be the first Mr. Fire Island Leather to compete at a National or International level and I am very proud of that fact.
Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018: My Journey in the Leather community started a little over four years ago, when I ran for Mr. Eagle NYC, in my first year, and was the second runner up. After spending some time in the community, I knew that competing this past October was the right time. No, I never thought I would be competing in a contest of this size. Competing both times for Mr. Eagle NYC, I was challenging myself to do something I might have never done in the past. The importance of representing the Leather community, and the amazing work it does for the community, is very important to me in order to educate those who don’t know about our community.
QN: How have you been preparing for your appearance on stage in Chicago, what are you planning to wear on stage, and are there any particular stores or designers of your gear that you’d like to mention?
Mr. FI Leather 2017: In preparation, I have been mentally and physically getting myself in shape. What I plan to wear is a bit of a secret, but I want it to represent me and Fire Island. My gear will come from many designers, such as The Leatherman and FM Leather, but some of my most unique and cutting-edge pieces will be created by Saint-at-Large Design Collective. This brand finds it roots in The Saint discotheque, NYC (1980-1988), and the Black Party–the Father of all large circuit parties.
Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018: I am preparing a bit, working on my speech. I am still deciding on what looks I will wear.
QN: What special attributes do you think you’d bring to being International Mr. Leather, if you’re chosen?
Mr. FI Leather 2017: Inclusivity–I believe that we are one family in Leather and fetish; no matter the age, sexual orientation, gender, location, or fetish, our community is stronger together—and History–understanding that the community has a very important past that we have to remember, respect, preserve, and reflect on. As we move forward, of course the community dynamics will change, but that’s just another chapter in who we are as a community.
Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018: I think the most important attribute in having a title is being an outgoing person, and I enjoy being around people—so, the ability to reach out to people, being social, being there for the community.
QN: You’ve both been very visible in the community since you’ve won your titles. How has your current reign been and what would you do for the community, in addition, if you become International Mr. Leather?
Mr. FI Leather 2017: My current title year has been fantastic! I have represented Fire Island not just in a number of states, but also in several countries. I attended the Mr. Europe Leather, Mr. Netherlands Leather, and Mr. Netherlands Puppy contests, in addition to Folsom Street Fair, in San Francisco, and dozens of other events. Also, I am excited to support some upcoming events, such as CLAW (Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend), Bears, Bikers & Mayhem, Cherry DC, the Black Party and, of course, Fire Island Leather Weekend 2018. I’ve had the opportunity to raise money for the GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) Long Term Survivors Buddy Program and have collaborated with other titleholders on charity events for various other causes. If I were to become IML, I would travel more and support the LGBT and Leather communities worldwide. Also, I would bring my message, of inclusivity and support, to a larger audience, with a focus on the Long Term Survivors of HIV/AIDS and the important place they have in our history.
Mr. Eagle NYC Leather 2018: My title year has been amazing so far, and I look forward to the rest of the year. A year can go by so quickly, so I plan on enjoying every minute, and doing as much as I can. The first week, I kept asking myself did this really happen. I have been able to meet so many amazing people and title holders in the community. Right after I won, I headed to New Jersey and Washington, DC for their contests. Then I attended my first MAL (Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend), which was a great time. I have also been busy working on working with former Misters Eagle from New York, as well as with other current and former title holders, on events. I am currently working on a new initiative, which I am very excited about, and will be able to share very soon. And even when my reign is over, I plan to continue the work that I have started and to be there for the next Mr. Eagle NYC. If I win IML, I would like to take this initiative around the country, and then the world, and work with the title holders in their states and countries, while continuing to raise awareness for Children, Teens, and Youth living with HIV and AIDS, on living with the disease generally, as well as testing and going on PREP, and continuing my Cancer campaign “Know Your Body Listen To It.”