Mr. Gay USA pageant to be held in Philadelphia this weekend

Mr. Gay Philadelphia, Ryan Mattis, 28, will represent the city in the national competition tomorrow.
Mr. Gay Philadelphia, Ryan Mattis, 28, will represent the city in the national competition tomorrow.
Posted: November 12, 2010

Twenty delegates from around the country will descend on the city with their swimsuits and evening wear in hand, prepared to answer whatever questions the judges throw at them. But these aren't traditional pageant princesses. These contestants are vying for the position of Mr. Gay USA.

Mr. Gay shares some qualities with beauty pageants, but the goal is to put the emphasis on brains rather than beauty. Don Spradlin, founder and president of the Noble Beast Foundation, which organizes Mr. Gay competitions, said the pageant is meant to combat gay stereotypes by showcasing real, well-rounded gay men.

Most contestants are chosen via regional competitions. Accountant Ryan Mattis, 28, won the title of Mr. Gay Philadelphia in April.

"I am looking for an intelligent and personable guy who happens to be good-looking, not the other way around," Village Voice gossip columnist and pageant judge Michael Musto said via e-mail about his ideal Mr. Gay. "I want someone who can represent all gays by being an individual - someone with spunk, spirit and smarts worthy of our community's respect."

He added: "And I will not allow any pandering or sexual favors!"

Mr. Gay consists of two days of competition. Tonight at Q Lounge, there's an opportunity to mingle with the contestants and listen to the first Q&A round. Tomorrow's event at Voyeur Nightclub is more freewheeling, with swimsuit and evening-wear competitions.

Five finalists will be announced and will have to answer another round of questions from the panel of judges, which also includes City Council at-large candidate Christopher Hayes, celebrity hairstylist David Evangelista, Paper Magazine's Mr. Mickey, TV producer Terence Noonan ("The Dr. Oz Show"), and Ryan Nickalus and TJ Kelly from Logo's "The A-List."

Writer-comedian Frank DeCaro and drag queen Brittany Lynn will host.

The line of questioning will delve into each contestant's thoughts and opinions on current events and issues in the gay community.

There is no talent portion. Spradlin said they tried it in the competition's inaugural year, and it didn't fare well. Instead, entertainment duties are handed over to pros like up-and-coming drag performer Navaya Shay, who will be accompanied by the Philadelphia Freedom Band - an LGBTQ-and-allies marching band - and a showstopping finale by six area drag queens.

Now in its sixth year, the Mr. Gay USA competition has never been on the East Coast, let alone in Philadelphia. According to Spradlin, Philly got the call because of the city's efforts to welcome the LGBTQ community and because of producer Bruce Yelk, who works at the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. and runs the blog Nightlifegay.com.

"For Philadelphia, it raises the national visibility within the LGBT market to let them know Philadelphia is a warm and welcoming place," Yelk said about the competition's benefits for the city.

Philly representative Mattis mirrored Yelk's sentiments. "As a Philly boy, I carry a lot of love for the city and the people of Philadelphia," he said. "It's an opportunity for people coming [from] out of town to get to see Philadelphia in a different way."

Mattis thinks he has a pretty good chance of taking the crown and a spot in the online competition, Mr. Gay International. There's also the honor of being a spokesman for the community.

"I consider myself an intelligent man," said the St. Joseph's University grad, whose pictures on mrgaycompetition.com showcase his sixpack abs and chiseled chest. "The one advantage that I have is that I'm very confident. That will be apparent when I step onstage."

Yelk calls Mattis an ideal candidate - intelligent and handsome. "I couldn't have asked for a better representative for Philadelphia," Yelk said.

Mr. Gay USA meet-and-greet, Q Lounge, 1234 Locust St., 8 tonight, $10, 215-732-1800, qphilly.com. Competition, Voyeur, 1221 St. James St., 9 p.m. tomorrow (meet-and-greet, 8 p.m.), $10, 215-735-5772, voyeurnightclub.com.

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