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Mr Gay World contestants accuse organizers of bullying and other nasties

Mr Gay World Pageant Tarnished

3 July 2016 By Alan Frank - QL USA

According to reports from Canadian publication - Daily Xtra - The Mr Gay World Pageant is under scrutiny for allegedly bullying contestants, intimidation, bad organisation, insulting host countries, mismanagement and a host of other - equally bad - allegations.

Daily Xtra reports that Mr Gay Canada, Derek Bedry, told them a story of a tarnished competition reduced to little more than glitz. (Corroborated by five other Mr Gay World competitors from around the globe including Mr Gay South Africa Oelof De Meyer)

Documents, emails, Facebook messages and testimony provided to Daily Xtra by Mr Gay Canada, South Africa, Czech Republic, Argentina, New Zealand and Malta seem to show the organizers of Mr Gay World threatening a contestant with poor scores if his producer complained about management, calling the people of the host country Malta “scum,” changing events at the last minute, dismissing criticism, and calling a contestant who objected a poor loser.

According to Daily Xtra:

In March, only a month before the pageant, British club magnate Haydn Pope died of cancer at age 49. Pope ran the European AXM chain, including a location overlooking the Mediterranean in the Maltese city of St Julian’s, and was the local organizer for the 2016 pageant.

Only 10 days earlier, Mr Gay World CEO Dieter Sapper, an Austrian event planner, told the 2016 contestants over Facebook that despite Pope’s death, the show would go on.

Sapper and Australian Mr Gay World president Eric Butter stepped in to run the event personally.

On April 11, Mr Gay Czech Republic producer Honzik Jakubec sent a Facebook message to Sapper, asking what was going on with Mr Gay World. Up until this point, Sapper had been friendly and supportive to the Czech Republic’s contestant, Jirka Korytar. In fact, a few months earlier Sapper had seemed to hint that Jirka was assured a top spot in Malta.

“It’s our first time, so I want Jirka to be better than Slovakia,” Jakubec joked on Feb 1 in a Facebook conversation he later provided to Daily Xtra.

“Of course he will and I help you,” replied Sapper, who is also a judge at Mr Gay World. “I want Jirka in top 5.”

“Nice to hear. Really hope it will be like this,” Jakubec wrote.

“He has to,” Sapper said. “He is my favourite for top 3.”

But in April, in a second Facebook exchange provided to Daily Xtra, Sapper changed his tone as Jakubec pressed him for more information about what would happen after Pope’s death.

Jakubec complained that promotional videos for the contestants had been put online unevenly, and that he had been told he had to fill out a form that nobody had mentioned before.

“When you make troubles this only let Jirka look stupid and he will loose the chance to become top 5 as Mr Gay World don’t want to have complicated producers,” Sapper wrote.

“Right now Dieterer please stop. How can you say that?!” Jakubec replied.

“And of course I will discuss in the name of Czech Republik as when you complain I will have to tell and then they can decide and talk,” Sapper replied.

“If it’s so you make me think that voting is unfair,” Jakubec wrote.

“You think so?” Sapper said. “Good then this is another point I will discuss in your name.”

Mr Gay World's troubled past

This isn’t the first time Mr Gay World has kindled controversy.

For the first few years, after the pageant was founded in 2009 by Butter and Canadian organizer Dean Nelson, sailing was smooth, as it moved from Whistler to Oslo, to Manila, Johannesburg and Antwerp. After Nelson’s departure in 2013, however, trouble started.

In the 2014 competition in Rome, Mr Gay New Zealand, Mr Gay Australia and a sponsoring skincare company all pulled out, citing bullying, poor living conditions, and inappropriate pressure to hook up with other contestants.

Mr Gay World claimed the two contestants had actually been kicked out for alcohol abuse and rule breaking, while admitting that Rome “did not adhere to the standards of our previous events.”

In 2015, the winner of the competition, Mr Gay Germany Klaus Burkart, stepped down seven months later citing mysterious “personal changes,” and was replaced by Mr Gay Hong Kong. In text messages to the 2016 contestants, Sapper hinted at an “investigation” that had taken place at the competition, but was never reported in the media.

The Maltese 'Affair'

In 2016, the contest landed in Malta, a tiny Mediterranean island state off the coast of Sicily with a population of less than half a million. Malta had just been named the most gay-friendly country in Europe. If there was anywhere for things to look up, it was there.

By the time Oelof de Meyer, Mr Gay South Africa, arrived at the airport in Malta, things were already looking down.

De Meyer had bought out of pocket black tie formal wear for the “president’s ball,” in which the contestants were to meet the president of Malta. He also put in the legwork to secure three copies of South Africa’s constitution — the first in the world to protect LGBT rights — signed by notable gay rights reformers. The ball and the auction were then both cancelled.

It was announced that contestants would need a white shirt and blue jeans for the runway, so De Meyer went out and bought those too. Then the blue jeans competition was cancelled as well.

From the airport, things only got worse. A driver showed up 20 minutes late to pick him up and take him to the hotel. He dressed for the welcoming event, where the Mr Gay World Handbook assured him local media would be waiting. The event started late, around nine in the evening, and no reporters appeared. Neither did dinner, and the contestants had to pay for their own drinks.

De Meyer, an engineer, meticulously wrote down his disappointments throughout the competition. A boat trip was cancelled, then a white party, then a photoshoot challenge. A lunch never arrived, and the contestants ate leftover pizza. At one runway event, all 22 men had to share two bathrooms to prepare.

A Maltese designer was commissioned to sew a complete set of costumes for the runway competition, completed the work, and then the segment was dropped at the last moment without explanation.

Organisers Treat Contestants Like Garbage

According to Daily Xtra the Mr Gay World organizers did not spare their contestants from criticism either.

When Mr Gay Argentina, Esteban Jerkovic, complained in a Facebook exchange that the judging for a photo shoot competition did not seem to add up, Sapper called him a “poor looser.”

“They treated everyone like garbage,” says Mr Gay Malta, Iven Fenech. “They didn’t know what they were doing. Everything was changing all the time. And they didn’t want the Maltese’s help.”

Mr Gay World Organisers Response

Daily Xtra contacted Butter about the competitors’ complaints. He replied by email, and said he believes Bedry was just trying to “sell a story,” and said the accusations were either exaggerated or false.

He also said he thought Bedry was not well prepared for the competition, and “was not able to deliver or inspire.”

He flatly denied that Sapper had threatened Mr Czech Republic’s scores, or that he had called the Maltese “scum,” and stressed his good relationship with the Maltese.

“It is up to the contestants if they want to join the winner’s circle or make the decision that they don’t belong to the winners circle,” Butter wrote. “I know for a fact, that amongst the contestants great friendships and memories are created and they will last for many years to come.”

Butter also said Sapper was sick, and unable to talk to reporters. He declined to put Daily Xtra in touch with Sapper. He also declined to provide Xtra with scoresheets for the competition because he said it might embarrass low-scoring participants.

When Daily Xtra presented Butter with screen captures of the Facebook messages between him and Bedry and between Sapper and Jakubec, Butter responded with a letter accusing Xtra of a smear campaign against him and Mr Gay World.

Loss of faith in Mr Gay World

Back in Canada, Bedry says he has lost faith in his title of Mr Gay Canada, and the Mr Gay World competition as a whole, to do any real good.

“I’m trying to stop Mr Gay World from taking money and then falsely representing themselves as an advocacy organization when they’re not,” he says. “They’re taking these guys’ money and saying it’s about human rights. I think there’s a public interest in stopping that.”

According to Daily Xtra, Bedry says he still wants to talk about human rights and mental health issues among gay men. He just won’t do it under the crown of Mr Gay anything.

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