Six hours before Manny Pacquiao fights Floyd Mayweather Jr. inside the boxing ring of MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 3, Sunday (Philippine time), another Filipino will first take up the challenge of “knocking out” 21 gay men from different countries on stage at the Knysna Mall Exhibition Area in South Africa, to be the first-ever Filipino Mr. Gay World titleholder.
His name is Nomer Munar Yuzon, an educator who hails from Occidental Mindoro.
Early this year, local franchise holders Noemi Alberto, Mr. Gay World for Asia regional director, and Mac Bordallo, Winnstruck Productions president handpicked him due to time restrictions. But the 42-year-old, 5-feet-10-inch native of Occidental Mindoro is no stranger to beauty pageants. He was David Noel Bosley’s second runner-up in the Mr. Gay Philippines 2009 tilt, also winning the Darling of the Press and Best in Formal Wear special awards. He also represented Hawaii in Manhunt International 2006 world finals staged in Jinjiang, China.
“This will be my last (international) pageant, and I really hope that ‘this is it’,” he said in an interview with Outrage Magazine at the Mr. Gay World Asia Regional Office in Pasig City. “I’m the (oldest candidate) in Mr. Gay World this year. (But) I consider my age as an edge, since I have more experiences (in life) which made me a stronger, more matured and disciplined person that I am today.”
Yuzon is the fifth and youngest child of the late Mariano Yuzon from Batangas, and the former Peg Munar, a retired school teacher who hails from Pangasinan. He completed his bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the Far Eastern University and pursued his postgraduate studies in development communication at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He left for the US in 1997 where he worked as hotelier at the Holiday Inn San Francisco, part-time model and then flight steward for the United Airlines for 14 years.
After grabbing an early retirement package from the airline company, he entered the academe last year. He started teaching airline business and public speaking subjects at the Lyceum of the Philippines University and Asia Pacific College, respectively. He also works as a part-time actor and appeared in ABS-CBN’s fantasy-comedy-drama TV series Inday Bote where he portrayed the role of an investor recently. Yuzon is also a member of the Maharlika Drakon Dragon Boat Racers under the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation.
The global competition aimed at inspiring and empowering gay men to come together in a public performance that will showcase the world that being gay encompasses a broad spectrum is back after eight months. Its founding president, Eric Butter, is again on the lookout for the successor of Stuart Hatton Jr. of the UK, who will also advance gay human rights in his country and throughout the world.
Now in its seventh year, Mr. Gay World will be held in Knysna, a town in South Africa renowned for its wildlife, magnificent oysters, and golf courses, between April 26 and May 4. It’s also the first time that delegates will join the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival street parade on the day of the finals.
“I don’t want to think of the pressure, I’d rather focus on the excitement. I was a flight attendant for so many years, but I’ve never been to South Africa or the African continent on the whole. I’ll have new friends (there) for sure and I’ll do my very best, of course,” he said.
But one thing is sure about his “road to success” in South Africa, it wouldn’t be easy as there are 12 likely victors—all staying aligned and holding tight to their vision—who will surely stop him from winning the Mr. Gay World crown.
- Australia’s Scott Fletcher, 27, was born and raised in New Zealand, but migrated to Melbourne three years ago to start a career in software development. He is a principal security consultant for a company that specializes in helping organizations secure their information technology systems. His bodybuilder-like physique is a strong contender for the Best in Swimsuit special award.
- From a young teenager who weighed 120 kilograms, had no friends, became a laughingstock, and was sick all the time during swimming lessons, Jordy de Smedt, 20, from Belgium, evolved from “chunk to hunk.” He studied to become a personal trainer, to inspire many people who find it too hard to lose pounds fast.
- Finland’s Tomi Mikael Lappi, 24, is a professional show/ballroom dancer and show coordinator for Finnish designer Antti Asplund’s “Heterophobia” clothing line. He joined the pageant “to share knowledge, confidence and youthful energy to become both a face and an accessible voice to the LGBT community worldwide.”
- Klaus Burkart, 20, is a milk technologist blessed with an angelic face. He was Austria’s envoy in last year’s contest. He is back with a vengeance, but this time representing Germany where he’s born. Burkart is a shoo-in for the Mr. Gay Photogenic special award.
- Iceland’s Troy Michael Jónsson, 27, bartender and gay rights activist, is another Mr. Gay World repeater. He isn’t happy with his top 10 finish last August: He wants no less than the crown so he can lead “The Bleeding Love Project,” a global mission that hopes to “end the ban on gay men donating blood.”
- Marcos Vinicius Barboza, 27, a fitness professional from Ireland. This Brazilian immigrant would like to become Mr. Gay World, so he could represent the gay community and push for the “YES vote” at a time when his newfound home is about to hold a referendum for marriage equality.
- Italy’s Arziom Cristofaro, 22, is pursuing his degree in political science major in international relations at the University of Bari Aldo Moro. He believes that, “Freedom is an inviolable right: It’s about marriage, adoption or the simple fact of being gay.”
- Wayne Grech, 28, professional hairstylist and salon owner, is Malta’s first entrant in the global pageant’s history. He started modelling at 16, and represented his country at the Manhunt International pageant staged in South Korea a decade ago.
- Gabriel Jesus Naal Fernandez, 33, completed his bachelor’s degree in autonomy economics at the University of Yucatan. He works as an assistant manager of an entertainment team in Riviera Maya, a tourism and resort district in Mexico.
- Twenty-four year-old Matt Andrija Fistonich has a diploma in business and management, national certificates in real estate and firefighting, and awarded with advanced diploma in public safety (emergency management). He worked as a firefighter in New Zealand’s Defense Force for six years.
- Craig Maggs, 25, obtained his diploma in sports science at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa. This year’s “hometown gay” works for an HIV and Ebola research nongovernment organization during the day and is a restaurant waiter in Johannesburg at night.
- Jesus Martin Marquez, 30, is an “untouchable fixture” in Spain’s modeling industry. The gorgeous dancer, runway and commercial model hasn’t stepped into the South African soil yet, but the “Spanish Adonis” is already deemed to give the other delegates a run for their money.
The other contestants are Colombia’s Jorge Escribano Pelaez, 32, host and actor; Leonardo Piloto Gonzalez, 35, disc jockey, composer and music producer from Cuba; Czech Republic’s Daniel Frohlich, 20, shipping crew and call center agent; Alejandro Torres-Solanot Martinez, 26, university student from the Dominican Republic; Hong Kong’s Emmanuel Mass Luciano, 35, fashion designer, stylist and blogger; Sweden’s Carl Anton Ljungberg, 21, waiter and bartender; Luis Jorge Vicente, 29, runway model from Uruguay; and Zambia’s Siyathokoza Thabani Khumalo, 28, retail company buyer and planning coordinator.
HELP ADVANCE THE FILIPINO
Filipinos all over the world can help Nomer Yuzon win the Mr. Gay Popularity special award to possibly advance in the semifinal round by clicking MGW 2015 and voting once every 24 hours until 6 AM of May 1, Friday (Manila time).
The Philippines is a very promising non-winning country in Mr. Gay World. Wilbert Tolentino was named Mr. Gay Popularity and won Best in National Costume in 2009. And for half a decade now, all the Philippines’ gay emissaries made it to the semifinal round: David Noel Bosley in 2010; Marc Ernest Biala, also awarded Best in National Costume and Mr. Gay Popularity in 2011; Carlito Rosadiño, also adjudged Best in National Costume and Mr. Gay Popularity in 2012; Erimar Ortigas, named Mr. Gay Popularity in 2013; and Randolph Val Palma, sixth place overall in 2014. Hence, the pressure to equal if not exceed the feats of his predecessors is definitely on for Yuzon.
“If I would become Mr. Gay World, it will be easier for me to network. As an educator, an ‘openly gay’ teacher, I believe that I have the responsibility. I can easily reach out to a lot of students. I want to spearhead a project, ‘It’s OKAY to be GAY,’ because a lot of young gays still find it hard to come out these days. There’s still widespread discrimination in our society (also due to our traditional beliefs) that being gay is a disease, (or) it’s a shame. It’s just one of the things I want to change,” he concluded.