Dashiell Sears recently won the Mr. Gay Philadelphia pageant and will compete nationally.
Philadelphians welcomed a new Mr. Gay Philadelphia on April 16 at nightly hotspot Voyeur nightclub.
Dashiell Sears, a sophomore political science major and member of the men’s gymnastics team, won the annual pageant after three grueling rounds of the citywide competition.
“The moment I won the competition, I really didn’t know what to think,” Sears said. “I felt relaxed but excited to use the title for more GLBT community-oriented purposes.”
Sears, who was featured earlier this year on the front cover of the Philadelphia Gay News as well as in a feature of Instinct magazine, has a relatively laid-back attitude about the recent attention, except a few notable reservations.
“It was all in good fun, and I can now say later in life that I did win,” he said. “But as far as reservations to do anything, I had my own personal limits as to what I would allow myself to do.”
The pageant traditionally includes three different categories: the formalwear portion, the swimsuit competition and a question-and-answer section that contestants are largely left unprepared for.
“I told myself I would answer the question as it came, unless it was something unimportant,” Sears said. “I was asked ‘Who is my favorite male designer and why?’ That question seemed unimportant and demeaning to my intellect.”
Sears said he decided to answer the question in a different way, instead turning his answer directly to head judge and the Village Voice columnist Michael Musto with an unexpected response.
“I didn’t know the next time I would be able to talk to him about how my friend in high school who, before committing suicide, was inspired by him and his writings to come out as bisexual,” Sears said.
Sears maintains he made a conscious effort to stay true to his own personality and talents during the competition.
“Personally, I believe that if the stereotype is what the judges look for in these types of competitions, then the stereotype of every pageant would win,” he said. “I tried not to promote the stereotype, whatever it may be. I just represented myself having fun.”
Bruce Yelk, who organized the event, expressed delight at the outcome of this year’s pageant.
“I think Dash is a great, great guy,” Yelk said. “He’s smart [and] athletic. I think everyone was blown away by his gymnastics routine. We don’t normally even do a talent portion.”
From here, Sears will move on to the national Mr. Gay USA pageant held in November as the Philadelphia representative.
Brandon Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.