By Anthony Costello, May 2016 Web Exclusive.
As part of the 2016 Mr. Phoenix Leather weekend festivities, leather newcomer Daniel Christopher O’Leary has earned the title Mr. Phoenix Leather 2016.
O’Leary, 25, is a University of Arizona graduate who just earned a Bachelor’s degree in business marketing. Additionally, O’Leary attributes his time as a brother of Delta Lambda Phi, a gay/bisexual fraternity, helped him embrace his identity and pursue his interest in the leather community.
Echo caught up with O’Leary to find out what this title means to him and what he plans to accomplish as Mr. Phoenix Leather 2016.
Echo: What initially piqued your interest in the leather community?
O’Leary: I’ve always had a strong interest in the leather and kink community. I’ve been fairly shy coming from a conservative family, but a lot of people in the community urged me to go out and I got a lot of encouragement … I finally just kind of did it.
Echo: How did you start getting involved with the community?
O’Leary: It just kind of escalated. I had my first experience [last] summer in Washington and broke down some personal barriers, edging out into the world. I went to my first leather bar, The Eagle, in Seattle … and it’s just kind of grown from there. Everyone is just so friendly and welcoming.
Echo: What spurred you to run for Mr. Leather?
O’Leary: A month before Mr. Phoenix Leather I ran for Mr. Anvil and had so much fun with that, that I started looking out for other leather events…
Echo: How did you prepare for the contest?
O’Leary: I’m very new to the community, and gear can be expensive so my collection is small … I asked for help from the community and they offered me gear to wear. With the gear I did have, though, I was told I had enough to run.
Echo: Can you explain the contest process?
O’Leary: The first night was a standard meet and greet, going to the different bars around Phoenix, like Anvil and Kobalt. I got to meet a lot of great people that way. The second day a panel of judges interviewed me, asking various questions about the leather community, kinks and why I would be a good fit for the title … Later that day was another mingling event and performances from drag queens and men in leather regalia. My contest wear was a little unique because I had my formal wear and more risqué wear that was a little R-rated.
Echo: What did earning this title mean to you?
O’Leary: It was a very exciting moment. I haven’t always been the most positive about my self-image and body and it was something I wanted to work on. It was empowering to be in front of a crowd of people and not giving a hell what people thought about how I looked. It was a proud moment …
Echo: What do you think is the biggest misconception about the leather community?
O’Leary: It conjures up a lot of images in a lot of people, but one of the things I had no idea about was the sex positivity and the idea of consent that [is] so important to everyone in the community. The deviant, dirty, promiscuous misconception isn’t at all what the community is about … It’s about loving yourself, who you are, your body, self-empowerment and doing what you enjoy and not letting negative views hold you back.
There’s always something for everyone in our community. The people are honestly great – they’re so genuine – they do what they say they’re going to do. They’re more than empty words.
Echo: What do you hope to achieve with your new Mr. Phoenix Leather title?
O’Leary: I’m definitely being much more open … and breaking taboos regarding sex positivity and body positivity. There [are] so many valuable things about the community and, more than anything, I want people to be educated about it and I want to introduce them to it. I ultimately want to break down barriers and misconceptions concerning BDSM and kink. I definitely want to incorporate other aspects of leather culture and share why it’s important to me.
Echo: What advice do you have for next year’s contestants?
O’Leary: It’s easier said than done, but don’t let anything hold you back … Just be yourself, that’s the most important part.
O’Leary will compete for the title of International Mr. Leather 2016 May 27-30 in Chicago. For more information, visit mrphoenixleather.com.