Christopher Michael Olwage of New Zealand’s time as Mr. Gay World 2013 is about to end in a few days, and many pageant enthusiasts across the globe are now looking forward to meet “that next gay man” who will champion LGBTQIA human rights not just in his own country, but on the global stage.
Mr. Gay World is not a usual beauty contest. At least in the dictionary of Eric Butter, the pageant’s co-founder and president, it is defined as “the toughest job interview in the world.” It is based on the visionary pillars of friendship, diversity and respect, and the winners chosen year after year will serve as role models and ambassadors for young gay men of the world. The sixth edition of the pageant will be held in the southern part of Eternal City, in Rome, Italy, from August 25 to 31.
Randolph Val Palma will be the Philippine envoy to this year’s competition. The 31-year-old and six-footer native of Davao City was appointed by Mr. Gay World for Asia regional director Noemi Alberto and Winnstruck Productions president Mac Bordallo, the local franchise holders of the global search. No local competition was held this year due to time constraints. Palma was actually first runner-up to eventual titleholder Carlito Rosadiño in the Mr. Gay World Philippines 2012 tilt.
Val works as a part-time runway model, and a team leader for JP Morgan Chase & Co., a global financial services firm. He completed his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology, majoring in technology teacher education, at the University of Southwestern Philippines, under a scholarship program of the Department of Science and Technology. He passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers in 2004. He is the son of the late Randy Palma, a military police, and Gene Digal, a retired nurse.
The pressure is on him as he will try to equal, if not surpass, the previous good standing of the Philippines in Mr. Gay World. David Noel Bosley was semifinalist in 2010; Marc Ernest Biala was semifinalist, Best in National Costume and Mr. Gay Popularity in 2011. Carlito Rosadiño was semifinalist, Best in National Costume and Mr. Gay Popularity in 2012. And Erimar Ortigas was also semifinalist and Mr. Gay Popularity last year.
But the Mr. Gay World crown still remains elusive to the Philippines.
“I am not thinking of the pressure (anymore). I just maximize whatever time is left for me to prepare. I was only informed by the organizers two months ago. I’ve been dieting and going to the gym (since then). Seeing my co-candidates’ pictures online (honestly speaking), I cannot totally compete with their well-toned bodies. (You see), it’s impossible for me to have six-pack abs in a short period of time,” he said with a smile in an interview with Outrage Magazine.
“But I think my competitive edge is my working knowledge of various issues confronting the LGBT community here in our country. Even before joining Mr. Gay World Philippines two years ago, I was already helping the LGBT community. I am part of the ‘Take The Test’ project. During my free days at work, I volunteer in providing adequate information about HIV and AIDS through screening and pre-test/post-test counseling. It’s my little way of making everyone a responsible owner of their own sexuality.”
When asked how excited he is in his ultimate pageant assignment, Val said: “Very excited! It’s my first time to travel in Europe, and my mom (who has just retired) will be coming with me! Her presence and guidance in my forthcoming journey will be my immense source of strength.”
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Mr. Gay World 2014 is going to be tough, as this year will have the most number of participants, with 32. They must compete in different challenges first — written test, art exhibit, national costume, formal wear, swimwear, photo shoot, sports and series of off- and on-stage interviews — to earn points. Their preliminary and final scores will be added up and the delegate with the highest mark will be crowned as the overall winner.
Here are 12 delegates that will make Randolph Val Palma compete harder.
- Christopher Glebatsas, 35, an Australian who runs a skin care business with his partner. He has a master’s degree in applied finance and spent most of his life working for investment banks.
- Austria’s Klaus Burkart, 20, is a milk technologist. The youngest delegate in this year’s batch is the strongest contender for the Mr. Gay Photogenic special award.
- Christepher Wee of Canada is a private school teacher in Greater Vancouver. He teaches elementary and secondary-level students and specializes in visual arts and modern language acquisition. He’s also an actor, TV host and model in Asia. He obtained his fine arts and education degrees at the University of British Columbia.
- Cyprus’ Kiriakos Spanos, 26, completed his economics and management degree at the London Metropolitan University. He also took up teaching and currently works as an English teacher in Madrid, Spain.
- Sushant Divgikar of India, 24, is a certified psychologist, professional singer, model, actor and TV personality. He’s presently pursuing his master’s degree in counseling psychology and psychotherapy. Sushant spends his free time counseling and mentoring young adults struggling with issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Italy’s Nicola La Triglia, 28, is a lawyer and PhD student in theory of law. “Know yourself authentically, accept yourself, and love yourself so you can ‘authentically’ love,” is his message of hope and liberation to all of the candidates who will compete with him on his home turf.
- Pedro Cervantes Alvarez, 25, is a veterinarian and would be happy to become Mexico’s newest export to the global LGBT community. There’s never been a winner from his country—Pico Velasco Michel almost did by placing third in 2009—and he believes that it’s about time. He is also an active volunteer in Vida Plena Puebla A.C., a social LGBT group.
- Troy Williams, 33 worked as a lawyer for the past six years in Sydney and London. But he’s just headed to Auckland University to take up medicine. Since New Zealand is one of the best-performing countries in the history of Mister Gay World, with consecutive wins by Andreas Derleth in 2012 and Christopher Michael Olwage last year, Troy has the pressure of achieving a three-peat victory for his country.
- South Africa’s Werner de Waal, 26, is an accountant by profession. He thinks that LGBT people who are approaching their retirement age should have a sort of retirement home or village dedicated for them, a community that understands and has their best interest at heart.
- Stuart Hatton Jr. of the United Kingdom, 29, graduated with a degree in language and linguistics at the Newcastle University in England. He’s a part-time professional undergarments model and a full-time dance teacher.
- United States’ Damien Darrell Rodgers, 33, is a personal fitness trainer. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management and will be going back to school in a few months from now to pursue his master’s degree in international business.
- Luis Ernesto Vento, 33, from Venezuela, is a visual merchandiser for a national department store chain. A graduate of tourism and interior designing, he prepared for this pageant by polishing his knowledge of human rights, civil unions and gay marriage.
Completing this year’s lineup of candidates are Belgium’s Willem Joris, 28, PhD student in media studies; Geroge Todorov, 32, model from Bulgaria; Cambodia’s Chetra Chan Hun, 25, jewelry shop salesman; Julien Mbiada, 29, recruitment coordinator from Cambodia; Costa Rica’s Javier Salazar Alfaro, 34, a university professor; Michael Klapetek, 29, theater dancer from Czech Republic; Denmark’s Christian Sebastian, 24, education major and bartender; Peter Linden, 29, professional photographer from Finland; France’s Jordan Joly, 22, makeup artist and stylist; Fabrice Gayakpa, 22, student and model from Germany; Michael Morril, 35, an American migrant teacher from Hong Kong; Iceland’s Troy Michael Jónsson, 27, actor and recording artist; Ozak, 26, from Indonesia; Robbie Lawlor, 23, peer mentor with Ireland’s largest HIV clinic and co-organizer of an HIV social group; Namibia’s Nelson Kenneth Goagoseb, 31, community facilitator for an LGBT organization; Nick Flanagan, 22, sports injury specialist and orthopedic rehabilitation specialist from Ireland; Pakistan’s Amir Rafique, 31, model; Edgar Moreno, 33, actor and model from Spain; and Syria’s Feras Zhk, 32.
Filipinos around the world can help Randolph Val Palma win the Mr. Gay Popularity special award and land a possible spot in the pageant’s semifinal round by clicking this link and voting once every 24 hours until 2:00AM of August 31 (Manila time).