Even by his own admission, Douglas Connors, Mr Leather Ottawa-Outaouais 2003, does not look like your typical Leather Man.
But after six months of preparation and anticipation, Connors, all five foot, six inches and 141 pounds of him, will be competing for the title of International Mr Leather (IML) in Chicago from May 22-26.
Connors says he never really did fit the stereotype. When you look at images of gay men, they are not fully representative, the 29-year-old Connors says. “You had to be tall, blonde, preferably white, hairless, and buff. I’m 0 for five.”
In this 25th anniversary year of IML, he says it is important to recognize that in the leather community there is a place for everyone.
“Good things come in small packages. I’m a small package,” Connors states proudly. “In my head I know I’m a small guy, but I don’t feel like a small guy.”
But when Connors first arrived on the leather scene, he recalls how people didn’t share that feeling. Dean Ross, Mr Leather Ottawa-Hull 1999, competed at IML in 2000 and finished ninth. Even Ross says he doesn’t think Doug personifies the leather masses.
Ross quickly adds that doesn’t mean Connors won’t place well. He cites his other distinct advantages, including visibility and a good sales pitch. Connors can convince the judges, Ross predicts.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish in the top ten. He’s hungry enough for it.”
Connors admits spending the last five years working on self-confidence.
“Are you two tonnes of bricks with a brick between the ears?” he quips jokingly.
Connors cites community involvement as an important aspect of the process. He’s attended leather events in Hamilton, Montreal, Toronto, Washington DC, Albany and Syracuse. And while his only obligation as Mr Leather Ottawa-Outaouais is to compete at IML, he has been active with local fundraisers, community events and volunteering.
In the week before IML, Connors will have hosted a send-off bash in Ottawa before moving on to Montreal to present a leather workshop at Egale Canada’s Rainbow Visions Conference and competing in the Uniform Contest at Bar Aigle Noir.
Jean-François Pinsonnault, former producer of the Mr Leather OttawaHull competition, says Connors should be well prepared. He points out that the Ottawa contest uses similar criteria to IML. Nine judges will score contestants in the preliminary competition in two categories with equal weighting: the preliminary interview and “pecs and personality.” That will narrow the field of more than 50 competitors, including five Canadians, down to 20.
In the second round, the first round scores are erased. Judges score competitors in three categories: leather image (0-40 points), presentation skills (0-40 points) and physical appearance (0-20 points) for a total of 100 points. The competitor with the most total points wins the IML title.
“Douglas is very articulate. What’s important about the answers is the wittiness,” says Pinsonnault, expecting Connors to perform well in the interviews.
Ross says his downfall at IML came from having too many mentors, so when he spoke his words, they were not his own.
“Douglas will speak from his lips, his mind, his heart,” Ross says.
Now that Connors is off to IML, he agrees that “it’s not all about physique.” But a lot of it is. “Physique does not necessarily mean big and buff,” he adds, “confidence and comportment are just as important.”
One of Connors’ messages as Mr Leather Ottawa-Outaouais has been the importance of a positive body image.
“Leather is a second skin. For it to fit well, you have to be comfortable with yourself first.”
But the communications professional admits that he’s been busy pumping up in preparation for IML.
“In addition to being a media whore, I’ve become a slave to the gym,” Connors jokes.
IML is about sex to a certain extent, Connors admits.
“I see myself as the sensual side of leather. I’m not butch, but I’m not trying to be something I’m not.”
Connors says he’ll play to his physical aspect, wearing shorts and kilts. Part of his prep has been asking people to be brutally honest, questioning, “What should I hide?” One thing Connors says he won’t be hiding is his body hair.
“Vests are great because they show off my chest hair pattern.”
He says he’s keeping it simple, not distracting. A new pair of lace-up pleather pants has made it into his wardrobe, especially for IML.
Connors says his goal is to crack the Top 20.
“But, no matter how I place, I will do well.”