Gird Your Loins For The Mr. L.A. Leather Contest This Weekend
It's Leather Week in Los Angeles, which means it's almost time to crown a new Mr. LA Leather this weekend. Los Angeles has a robust leather scene, which you've likely seen if you've ever been to an annual PRIDE parade or stopped into the Eagle in Silver Lake. The subculture has a lot of notable moments in Los Angeles: the gay motorcycle club The Satyrs was formed in L.A. in 1954, and you can still visit the house Tom of Finland used to crash at when he visited L.A. over in Echo Park. Los Angeles has been celebrating Leather Pride all week with numerous events around the city, concluding with the annual Mr. L.A. Leather Contest on Saturday and the Off-Sunset Street Festival—with performances by Missing Persons and more—on Sunday.
The Leather community is about "sexual freedom and expressing yourself," Marlon Morales, L.A. Leather Pride's Production Director, told LAist, but it's also about community and education. Morales says the winner of the contest often goes on to do great things for the community, and he said that this is no exception when it comes to the current Mr. L.A. Leather.
Eric Paul Leue, originally from Berlin, has been the reigning Mr. LA Leather for the past year. Throughout the past 12 months, Leue has worked in HIV prevention and education. A mere month after his win, he took a stand against Michael Weinstein, the controversial leader of the Aids Healthcare Foundation when Weinstein called an HIV prevention medication a "party drug."
"Eric educated everyone making sure they had the best information about health," Morales said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti recently sent Leue a Certificate of Recognition thanking him for his services to the LGBTQ community as Mr. L.A. Leather:
When it comes to the Los Angeles scene, Morales said, "We're the tastemakers," and offers appreciation for the diversity of the local scene.
"Of the ten guys who are competing in this year's competition, none of them look like each other and they come from all walks of life," he said. "All age ranges, all body types."
This year's contestants include a psychotherapist, a doctor, an architect and a personal trainer. Many volunteer at nonprofits and work to do good within and outside the leather community. Each is the winner of one of the prequalifying rounds hosted by local organizations or establishments. There's a contestant from activist group The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, there's a Mr. L.A. Leather Bear and there's one from Sanctuary, the BDSM dungeon out by the airport. Judges include Leue and other leather winners from the U.S. as well as Germany.
"Our winner becomes an ambassador and sort of a spokesperson for our community," Kevin Casey, L.A. Leather Pride Director of Digital Media Production, said, "so it's important we select the right person for the job. The judges are looking for a number of things, but chief among them would be: integrity, passion and to an extent, ambition. What they ultimately decide to do with the title is up to them, but we certainly encourage and look for a winner who is well-spoken and will be comfortable engaging people both in and outside of the leather tribe."
Contestants are evaluated based on private interviews with the judges, their stage presence and attire, a speech and a Q&A with the contest's emcee. They're also judged on their physique, in which they admittedly "wear very little." "This is less about the physical appearance of the contestant, but more about how comfortable they are in their own skin and how well they can 'let loose,' so to speak," Casey said.
The winner may then go on to compete for the title of International Mr. Leather in Chicago in May.