By Laura Latzko, January 2016 Issue.
The eighth annual Mr. Phoenix Leather (MPL) competition, and full weekend of related festivities, will take place from Jan. 7 to 8 at various Valley locations.
In addition to the Mr. Phoenix Leather 2016 competition, which will take place at Jan. 9 at Embassy Suites Phoenix Airport Hotel, the itinerary will also include an opening night cigar social and Mr. Phoenix Leather 2015 roast (hosted by International Bootblack 2015 Boy Bamm Bamm from Phoenix), the Tim Starkey Memorial Bus Tour, a happy hour and silent auction, a parking lot party and leather-themed vendor mart, brunch and, finally, a victory party featuring a beer bust and barbecue.
As part of the competition, reigning Mr. Phoenix Leather 2015 Jefferson “Pup Tugger” Ely will step down as a new titleholder is announced.
Because the competition serves as a preliminary for the International Mr. Leather (IML) competition each year, Mr. Phoenix Leather 2016 will go on to represent the Phoenix Leather community on the international stage May 26 to 30 in Chicago.
Following his experience at the national competition, where he competed against more than 40 contestants from around the world, Pup Tugger said the experience allowed people in the leather community get to know each other on a more personal level.
“It really gave me the opportunity to get to know a lot of people, and to actually meet in person a lot of people I’ve been talking to online,” Pup Tugger said. “It really does create a lot of fraternity bonds between the people who compete.”
The Mr. Phoenix Leather title provides contestants with a platform to speak out about larger issues within the LGBTQ community. Pup Tugger, who was named one of the “15 More Queers and Allies to Watch in 2015” by the Advocate, started a conversation about femininity in the leather community during his reign.
“I’ve always been more of an effeminate man, and effeminacy doesn’t always translate into the leather community. For the last 20 to 30 years, it’s been mostly about this hyper-masculine image,” said the titleholder who describes himself as avant garde. “I was really focusing on having more of an effeminate presence and bringing that part of who I am to the table.”
By being true to himself, Pup Tugger said he created controversy and conversation at the international level. At the IML competition, he uttered the memorable words: “People are going to look. Give them something to look at.”
Pup Tugger, who was a member of the Phoenix Boys of Leather and Arizona Pups and Handlers before entering last year’s competition, hopes to have inspired others who are different in the leather community to be themselves.
Pup Tugger advanced further than any other contestant from Phoenix, by finishing fifth in the international competition.
According to Mr. Phoenix Leather co-founders Kenneth Anthony and Stephen Bloom, the competition – which continues to be about brotherhood, community and charity – has a very similar format to the international competition.
Contestants compete in onstage appearance, skinwear, onstage question, private interview, formal leather, speech and overall weekend presentation and interaction categories.
While the number of contestants varies each year, the panel of judges is always made up of local and national titleholders – including Pup Tugger this year.
“A big thing that I look for when I judge contestants is how comfortable people are with themselves,” he said, adding that it’s important to bring that to the stage.
Mr. Leather Phoenix started in 2009 when Anthony, Mr. Cellblock Leather 2008, and Bloom, Mr. Padlock Leather 2001, decided to establish a citywide competition. Since then, many of the titleholders have continued the tradition of giving back to the LGBTQ community by raising money for such local organizations as the Joshua Tree Feeding Program and Logan’s Playground.
Last year marked the inaugural parking lot party and vendor mart, which, according to Anthony and Bloom, provided attendees an opportunity to continue to socialize after the competition.
For the full Mr. Phoenix Leather itinerary, visit echomag.com/mr-phoenix-leather-2016.
Mr. Phoenix Leather 2016 Competition
8 p.m. Jan. 9
Embassy Suites Phoenix Airport Hotel
2333 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix