How was the experience of winning Mr Gay Hong Kong last year?
A good experience – it’s always nice to win! It was satisfying because I put a lot of work into it and I really quite competitive. I wanted to get involved and do a proper campaign so I presented my personality with a bit of comedy and tackled the issues and I was very proud to see it all work out. The actual night is a complete blur as it was so hectic and I felt pretty anxious. I’ve done nothing like that before.
Five months in how are you finding the role as Mr Gay Hong Kong?
As Mr Gay Hong Kong I am the Red Ribbon Ambassador so a major part of my role is getting the word out about how important it is to get tested and to know your HIV status. It’s surprising how many people in HK don’t get tested, maybe because they don’t know all the free services available or how important it is.
This is something I really believe in and I’m so glad that Aids Concern has given me this platform. Working within the community is really fun and I enjoy projects with the former Mr Gay Hong Kongs. I really do believe we have a great community here in Hong Kong and I wish more people would interact and contribute.
Has the notoriety that has come with being Mr Gay Hong Kong changed anything?
I like to joke that I am a celebrity, but I do get a few friend requests and photos sent to me on Facebook. I find that a little bit intrusive, but overall I really like it that people are keen to come up to me in the bars and out an about and talk to me.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
So far its been pretty good. I’m trying to prepare for Mr Gay World which is coming up in April in South Africa so there is a lot to prepare for. I think there’s a lot of things to address and I need to make sure I am up to date on all the LGBT events globally. I think I find that more exciting than challenging.
How do you think a pageant like Mr Gay Hong Kong is good for the community?
I think the competition gives visibility to what it is to be gay in Hong Kong and greater China. It provides a role model to younger LGBT who may have issues coming out to conservative families or at work. I think it’s important to have someone who is happy to stand up and say “I’m Gay” and to represent the community.
Is the format relevant for the 21st Century? Should we still be so concerned with appearances?
It’s a pageant in the sense that it's people competing for a title that is not political or social. I don’t think it is only based on looks and physique. I think there’s a lot of social engagement and the interview section is very important. It’s easy to diminish the value of something and to say it's just a pageant. It's a fun thing to do, I think it should be taken for face value, for what it is.
Do you think that the fact that you are not a Hong Kong native has affected your role?
I know that I am not Chinese and therefore my experience of LGBT life in Hong Kong is different. I think until more local people are ready to step in it doesn’t mean that we should just shelve it. I am here to represent the LGBT community in Hong Kong, not the nation or race of Chinese. A lot of people wish there was more participation from local people, and I have always said that there should be more participation. The thing is that there is so much stigma of being gay within traditional Hong Kong families. I am happy to hold the title until someone more worthy comes along.
I represent the LGBT people in Hong Kong, not just the Hong Kong people – and our LGBT community is very diverse and we come from all over the world, that it is the community I try to represent as best as I can.
How do you think you are a voice for all of LGBT? Including Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender
I think bisexual can maybe fit into both. It's very difficult for trans as it's very hard to hide. I try to represent in terms of equality and unity. Give them support and a sense of solidarity. We are all together and we accept you the way we are. Thats the role MRGHK can have for trans. I haven’t really reached out to any organisation but that is is something that I want to do. I work very closely with the lesbian community and obviously the work with the red ribbon goes across the whole thing.
How do you think the various scandals have affected the MRGHK brand? what do you see as the future for MRGHK?
I don’t think it's affected it in a negative way. All scandal is a good scandal. There is no such thing as bad publicity. The way I see it is it that it's easier to pick something apart rather than build something together. I find that rather deconstructive. Personal issues aren’t coming from anything positive its just trying to diminish value.
I think James Gannaban has done a great job in keeping it together, finding great candidates. I think there is room for improvement and there should be more in the community. Instead of creating scandals people should try to work with it and improve it. I see that more in LA or Italy and I don’t necessary see here.
I think it is symptomatic of the community - we are known for being fantastically creative and that is something I consider myself as stylist and designer - so everyone has an idea of how to do things better/differently. I think that leads to creating a bigger issue than it is, when they could actually sign up and get involved and try to make a difference. That's something that I hope will change. the more people that are involved, the better and the easier we can move forward. Rather than flinging things in from the side.
In what ways do you want to have made a difference?
I’ve been able to chose my platform. For me it is all about coming together for a united front - that I can completely run with and feel very confident to promote.
I have so many great ideas and things I want to accomplish. I just want to have more people involved, more people participating, thats what I would like to see. And hopefully I can encourage people to participate in the pageant. Things could be a lot more fun than they are. My role is just a social role - I don't want to try to change anything political, participate in the community actively - going to the bars, going to the film festival, being present. You don’t have to be carrying a rainbow flag. I think thats feasible and realistic.
It’s not my background and I don’t really feel comfortable trying to rally or lobby. I still think that equality is incredibly important but I don’t think I am right the voice to carry this out, I don’t think he should be a political figure. I don’t see it that way.
Can you win Mr Gay World in April?
My plan is to tackle it by the horns. I am very competitive - I love getting into competition mode. Just trying to the best I can in all of the challenges. I’m going to freshen up all my knowledge on global LGBT rights - especially in non-asian non-west. I want to generate a voice that is acceptable on an international stage. A lot of them are very young, that is going to be interesting - maybe I have an advantage as I’m a little older and hopefully wiser - a better communicator. Mr Iceland - I find him to be quite competitive - he’s a singer/recording artist and he just launched a campaign about donating blood. Which I think is a really important issue. And he is gorgeous. There’s an art challenge which I’m looking forward to. If I was the winner I would take the Red Ribbon message abroad. Hong Kong and China is showing the growth that needs international and national attention. People need to know their status and take care of themselves and how they go about it. There’s no reason to not get tested.
There aren’t any Mr Asias yet. But the Philippines, Thailand, India and, think, Cambodia usually compete.
Having spent time in Europe and US how do you think LGBT life in Asia is different?
I guess Europe and Asia has had a long history of demanding equal rights with Stonewall and it's slowly becoming the new normal. I think that will happen eventually all over the world. Whereas in Asia it is a lot less out in the open. The only places you really see it are places like Hong Kong, Thailand and maybe Taiwan. It’s interesting that it is less of an issue for these people but not how it is in the States and Europe - but it's still not the norm. Some places in China, for example in Shanghai, have a very healthy community - but it is just like clubbing, it's not as visiible. The public level is a lot less.