Fight­ing for the same cause

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - RICKY DEVINE WHITE

After seven days of as­sess­ments, chal­lenges and in­ter­views the win­ner of Mr Gay World 2018 was an­nounced at Villa Cas­tollini in Knysna, South Africa.

First place was Jor­dan Bruno, Mr Gay Pride Australia, run­ner up, yours truly, Ricky Devine White, Mr Gay New Zealand and third was Sa­marpan Maiti of Mr Gay In­dia.

In­cluded with plac­ing first run­ner up, I also took out three top plac­ings and was awarded medals for sports, swimwear and writ­ten test.

It feels strange to think it’s over, how­ever it’s merely the com­pe­ti­tion that is over, the cam­paigns and com­mu­nity work have only just be­gun.

Each day while with the other del­e­gates served as valu­able time to dis­cuss other coun­tries’ LGBTQI+ is­sues and strug­gles. A lot of those were sim­i­lar to ours but it was em­pow­er­ing to know there are oth­ers fight­ing for the same cause: ac­cep­tance, in­clu­sion and equal­ity.

You would think that be­ing a com­pe­ti­tion it would in­volve a few cat­fights or ar­gu­ments but this felt more like fam­ily that was founded on un­con­di­tional love.

Lack of sleep and food aside, morn­ings al­ways be­gan with giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity ei­ther through an­i­mal wel­fare vis­its, or­phan­age vis­its, clean­ing up the Pledge Na­ture Re­serve in Knysna, or pick­ing up rub­bish along the Knysna wa­ter­ways.

We were given plenty of op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore this re­gion of South Africa; Birds of Eden, game parks, Knysna Heads and town­ship tours all the while be­ing watched and as­sessed dur­ing con­ver­sa­tions, in­ter­ac­tions and hon­est in­ten­tions.

My favourite del­e­gate had to be Mr Gay Fin­land, Rami Ki­isk­i­nen. Rami iden­ti­fies with be­ing gay and chooses style as his beau­ti­ful way of per­sonal ex­pres­sion.

Per­haps there is a part of me that wishes I was able to walk in heels as well as he does, or have the make-up artistry of a top model. He was the first con­tes­tant in the his­tory of Mr Gay World to walk the runway in heels. Some­thing I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing more of as di­ver­sity and cre­ativ­ity ex­plode.

The hard­est chal­lenge was the writ­ten tests. Although I was given the top mark and award for writ­ten test in­tel­li­gence, on a good day, I am not the great­est at quick fire ques­tions but dur­ing any down time we were given (which was lit­er­ally none) you would find me study­ing LGBTQI + his­tory.

The tests also in­volved lo­cal knowl­edge about South Africa with much of the in­for­ma­tion for the an­swers be­ing gained through con­ver­sa­tions you had with mem­bers of the com­mu­nity while on tours. Thank­fully peo­ple and cul­ture in­ter­ests me, so that learn­ing was easy.

My favourite chal­lenge was most likely the na­tional cos­tume. This was our chance to show­case the beau­ti­ful parts of our coun­tries to the judges by way of an in­spired cos­tume. I chose to rep­re­sent Tan­garoa.

In Ma¯ori myth, Tan­garoa is the god of the sea. My in­tro­duc­tion in­volved the story of how Tan­garoa and his broth­ers forced their mother and fa­ther apart and how Tan­garoa cre­ated an aquatic em­pire. It was im­por­tant for me to high­light to the judges that New Zealand is deeply rooted in cultural traditions and these were what set New Zealand apart from many other coun­tries. Dur­ing this chal­lenge it was fun to play sto­ry­teller and share the rich­ness of tra­di­tional New Zealand.

It was a very emo­tional farewell at the fi­nal break­fast to­gether. Per­haps ex­haus­tion had fi­nally kicked in or per­haps the com­pe­ti­tion had high­lighted how much work ac­tu­ally still needs to be done in our com­mu­ni­ties or per­haps the life­long bonds that were cre­ated with peo­ple from com­pletely dif­fer­ent cul­tures on the other side of the world was too great to say good­bye with­out tears fall­ing.

What­ever it was, I will miss ev­ery del­e­gate and will never for­get a truly blessed ex­pe­ri­ence from be­ing in­volved in the com­pe­ti­tion.

My hus­band and I are now con­tin­u­ing a tour through South Africa to ex­plore the many other ex­cit­ing things the country has to of­fer. When I get home the first thing I plan to do is take a breath, then dive back into work with more fo­cus and in­ten­sity.

Lastly, thank you to ev­ery­one who voted, mes­saged, clicked on like, and watched with an­tic­i­pa­tion. I am very proud to say that I am Mr Gay New Zealand 2018 and plan to do many great things dur­ing my reign. Watch this space.

It was an­nounced that Mr Gay World 2019 will be held in Hong Kong. For those in­ter­ested in com­pet­ing please feel free to send me a per­sonal mes­sage via In­sta­gram or Face­book. Mr Gay World 2018 – AUSTRALIA - Jor­dan Bruno First run­ner-up: NEWZEALAND – Ricky Devine White Sec­ond run­ner-up: IN­DIA – Sa­marpan Maiti Third run­ner-up: TAI­WAN – Po-Hung Chen Fourth run­ner-up: POR­TU­GAL – Joao De Oliveira

GER­HARD MEIR­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Ricky Devine White, left, came first run­ner up in Mr Gay World 2018, after Mr Gay Pride Australia Jor­dan Bruno, cen­tre. Third was Sa­marpan Maiti of Mr Gay In­dia.

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