A landmark victory for Filipino LGBTs.
Thirty-five-year-old John Fernandez Raspado brought home the Mr. Gay World crown – the first for the Philippines.
He also won several awards during the competition, that include: Best in Swimwear, Best in Formal Wear, Mr Gay World Closed Door Interview, Mr. Online Vote, and Mr. Social Media.
“It was very fulfilling. I served as a voice for the entire (LGBT) community; it was a moment that helped Filipinos become visible and be heard,” Raspado said in an exclusive Outrage Magazine interview.
He added that the experience was overwhelming and unforgettable, and “I learned a lot from it – the place, the people, and the other delegates, as well as their stories.”
Raspado is first to admit that “it was not an easy feat.” Perhaps highlighting how pageants dwell on the physical (first, before anything else), he admitted that he had some insecurities during the pageant.
“I was not the tallest and sexiest, nor did I have the most chiseled body,” he said. But “despite all this, I had to exude confidence. It paid off.”
Raspado also made friends during the competition, becoming close with Mr. Gay Belgium, Mr. Gay Venezuela, Mr. Gay Finland, and “my new besty” Mr. Gay New Zealand.
Leading up to the pageant, Raspado went through a series of trainings, courtesy of Mister Gay World Philippines Organization; Wilbert Tolentino – the first Filipino to join Mr Gay World; and Kagandahang Flores.
“Physically, I had to trim down my weight. And since my legs were quite big – which made me look small, short-legged, and heavy – I had to tone it down as well,” he said. “I conditioned myself emotionally and spiritually. I also prepared for the Q&A by updating myself with current events.”
Now with the title, Raspado plans to further promote his advocacy – #iheartLGBTQI, which stands for:
I – image modernization
H – healthy lifestyle
E – equality
A – acceptance
R – responsible sexual behavior and awareness
T – testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS
Recognizing that his win somehow gives him a platform to be heard, Raspado stressed his support for marriage equality and the anti-discrimination bill.
“I’m all for the rights that LGBTs should have – we should experience the full benefits of these rights. And these two (marriage equality and anti-discrimination bill) are important and beneficial for us to be protected as citizens and as human beings,” he said.
And his message to LGBT Filipinos is to “have faith and fight for what is right. Be true to who you are and empower yourselves. Have courage and be involved in the community.”
Albeit the emphasis on physical beauty (first of all), Mr. Gay World is still considered as one of the more celebrated beauty pageants in the LGBT community. And by winning the competition, Raspado hopes that it will “give Filipino LGBTs the platform to be recognized and be heard,” he ended.