Happy Birthday, Madonna! Here Are The LGBT Icon's Studio Albums, Ranked

Today, Madonna is putting the “sex” in sexagenarian. The Queen of Pop is 60. In addition to entertaining and thrilling us for over 30 years, Madonna has been outspoken about LGBTQ+ rights in her work and life since long, long before it was trendy, or even acceptable.

As a birthday tribute, Instinct has ranked all 13 of her albums, from least memorable to most unforgettable.

Note: we are only pulling from studio LPs— no soundtracks, compilations or greatest hits packages.

Here they are. All of Madonna’s albums, ranked.


13.  MDNA (2012)

William Orbit, who also produced Ray of Light, has said that MDNA suffered in part because of Madonna’s preoccupation with other business ventures. That checks out: there is very little to connect to here, so unusual when Madonna albums are generally such spirited affairs. MDNA feels like a product, like we’re going through the motions. The LP definitely has its moments: Madonna sounds furious and heartbroken on “Gang Bang” and “Love Spent,” far and away the two best tracks. “Girl Gone Wild” is a lot of fun (it should have been the lead single over the confusing “Give Me All Your Luvin’”), and she sings beautifully on album closer “Falling Free.” There is no such thing as a bad Madonna album; MDNA is the closest thing there is to a lifeless one.


12. Hard Candy (2008)

Guest artists on a Madonna record are usually not a good idea; it rarely works. Plain and simple, no one can match Madonna’s spirit and personality, and bringing younger, perhaps trendier stars into the mix comes off as forced. Hard Candy is the first album since Like a Virgin where Madonna doesn’t have a writing and/or producing credit on every song, and it’s kind of an orgy of guest stars. Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Kanye West and Timbaland bring what you’d expect from them to the table, but as a result this barely feels like a Madonna record. The best tracks (“Give It 2 Me,” “Miles Away,” “Voices”) are the ones where she is front and center, telling us what’s up.


11. American Life (2003)

The response to American Life echoed the response Erotica received a decade earlier; it was largely dismissed and didn’t sell many copies. Erotica was misunderstood, overshadowed by the backlash surrounding Madonna’s coffee table book Sex, and has since been reappraised.

It’s still hard to warm up to American Life. The rapping in the lead single is still nails-on-a-chalkboard, and the album never really takes off, only partially committing to a stripped-down singer/songwriter aesthetic. There are moments of brilliance: “Nobody Knows Me” has great spirit, “Mother and Father” has a rousing chorus, and “Die Another Day” is a terrific dance track, just a weird fit for Bond…but ultimately American Life is a downer, and not in a good way.

10. Like a Virgin (1984)

Make no mistake: This is the moment Madonna proved she wasn’t a flash in the pan, and became a pop culture giant.

“Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl” are two of the catchiest, not to mention most iconic tracks in pop music— and they overshadow the rest of the album, which is otherwise mostly filler, save for “Dress You Up” and, to a lesser extent, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “Angel.”

9. Rebel Heart  (2015)

First thing’s first: Lead single Living For Love is one of Madonna’s best tracks ever, and Rebel Heart might have been something like a home run if it were a few tracks shorter. The lyrics on “Heartbreak City” are uninspired and goofy, and the song stops the album dead for a moment. Though it’s not as intrusive as on MDNA and Hard Candy, Rebel Heart suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen, too many trendy references, etc. Madonna, you’re the trendsetter. There’s a lot to appreciate here, though: “Ghost Town” is gorgeous, and folky “Body Shop” sounds so experimental and appealing it’s easy to overlook the fact that it’s one big sex/car repair innuendo.

8. Madonna (1983)

The album that got this whole thing going is, not unlike Like a Virgin, uneven overall but with sky-high highs. “Borderline,” “Everybody,” “Holiday,” “Burning Up,” and “Lucky Star” are essential Madonna, bona fide pop classics. How about the rest of the tracks, though? Do you remember “Think of Me” and “I Know It?”

7. True Blue (1986)

True Blue is the highest-selling album by a female artist of the 1980s, and one of the best-selling records of all time. This is when Madonna took the reins and reinvented herself head-to-toe for the first time.

“Live to Tell” is Madonna’s greatest ballad, and maybe even her best song, period. She wrote all of the words herself. Who else could rock a pop song about child neglect?


6. Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)

Madonna got on the horse after the disappointment of American Life but quick, with an all-dance record that has unlimited replay value. The lyrics are often breathtakingly beautiful (“Connect to the sky/ Future lovers ride/ Their ambitions high/ Would you like to try”) and occasionally dopey (“I don’t like cities but I like New York/ Other places make me feel like a dork”).

Truth be told, there’s very little confessing on Confessions. But boy(s) is it a blast.


5. Bedtime Stories (1994)

Madonna’s foray into R&B has gotten better with age. This is in many ways Madonna’s softest record, but it displays some of her most effortless, appealing songwriting craft. “Secret” never fails to fill a listener with intrigue. “Human Nature” barely even charted when it was released, but has since become It is just fantastic every time she performs it live. The album closes with tremendous strength: “Sanctuary” and “Bedtime Story” haunt and thrill. “Take a Bow” is one of her most successful ventures into balladry.


4. Erotica (1992)

Unfairly dismissed 26 years ago, Erotica now at long last seems to finally be getting some of the respect it deserves. Rolling Stone can pride themselves on getting it right; awarding Erotica one of its only glowing reviews at the time. In fact, RS nailed it, calling this dark, jazz-heavy LP “a post-AIDS album about romance.”

This is Madonna The Artist at her most uncompromising and vital. God knows this thing was ahead of its time. So much of the output of Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Britney Spears,


It’s not like every track is a masterpiece—that’s not the case—but album closer “Secret Garden” sure as hell is. And "Deeper and Deeper" has arguably held up as well or better than "Vogue."

This writer is 28. I was two years old when this was released. Even I say this thing is damn required listening for all the young gays. Know your history.

3. Music (2000)

It’s tempting to tie this with Ray of Light because they’re so connected. That album was the biggest success of Madonna’s career. Two years later, Music is Madonna the musician at her most confident and instinctive. It’s like she went into the studio, said “f*ck it,” and just made noise, just let it rip. I heard the title track for the first time when I was ten years old, and I honestly think that’s when I knew I was gay, even if I wasn’t even sure what gay even meant at the time. That track still feels as funky and fresh as it did 18 years ago. “What It Feels Like For A Girl” has gained all new resonance in light of the #MeToo movement. 

Album closer “Gone” is the song you play for anyone who says Madonna can’t go deep. There’s no artifice; it’s Madonna with a guitar singing about fame, survival and life--straight from her heart and her brain. It’s Madonna at her most haunting.

2. Ray of Light (1998)

Ray of Light is widely considered a pop masterwork these days. After extensive vocal training for the lead role in Evita, Madonna’s pipes were stronger than ever. A sampling of many genres of world music and a bold foray into electronica that’s lyrically fixated on mortality and motherhood, Ray of Light is spiritually deep and musically adventurous.

After ruling the airwaves and the Billboard Hot 100 for 15 years, Madonna finally won her first Grammys, a total of four, for Ray of Light.

Here's a cruel injustice: "Ray of Light" lost Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the Grammys to that goofy, hilarious song from Titanic. Yeesh.

1. Like a Prayer (1989)

One listen nearly three decades after the fact, and it’s undeniable that this is still Madonna’s finest album. This was the moment she silenced critics who questioned her musical talents.

A concise yet eclectic mix, Like a Prayer shows off Madonna’s astonishing versatility: there’s rock (“Like a Prayer”), soul (“Express Yourself”), romantic doo-wop (“Cherish”) and even a children’s lullaby (“Dear Jessie”). And the entire package is a focused, moving and autobiographical take on religion, spirituality, sexuality and growing up.

On “Spanish Eyes,” Madonna mourns the loss of friends who died of AIDS, extremely taboo at the time.

The LP’s most poignant moment is “Oh Father.” A lot of gay men have adopted this tearjerker as an anthem for the fathers we love even though they perhaps didn’t really understand us or weren’t really there.

Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments. Long live The Queen of Pop!

This Gay Couple From Belgium Could Use Some Loving Neighbors

Mauro Padovani, 46, and Tom Freeman, 59, have been dealing with harassment from their homophobic neighbors for over four years. But this week, things escalated and got extremely serious when both of them were left bloody and battered from an altercation with the couple. When a straight Bulgarian/Croatian couple moved into the neighborhood four years ago they immediately informed Padovani and Freeman that they “hate gays” according to Italian news outlet Genova Today. The gay couple, who lives in Belgium, has endured arguments, being punched, bricks being thrown at them, basically making their lives a living hell.

Padovani shared with Genova that the ‘neighbors’ instigated an argument when the woman spat on their window in the parking area. When Freeman went to confront her that is when things got worse. Padovani got out of the car with a steering wheel lock and the male neighbor took it from him and began hitting them with it. Freeman, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, suffered two crushed vertebrae while Padovani was left with a concussion.

Police finally intervened and the straight couple was arrested. Dutch news outlet HLN identified the woman as 21-year-old, Yesmina R. who has been ordered to stay away from the gay couple for at least a month. She picked up her 1-year-old child and left her apartment immediately escorted by police. According to HLN, she appeared in court in 2015 with allegations of theft with violence. Her partner is in jail for assault and is awaiting trial. They are waiting to hear if this will be considered a hate crime which would give the assaulters the maximum penalty.

The battered couple took to Facebook to share images of their gruesome attack seeking support and comfort from friends and family. They quickly received kind wishes and their story has been gaining international attention.

h/t: Genova Today, HLN

Austria Declines Asylum For Afghan Teen For Not Being 'Gay' Enough

A gay 18-year-old Afghan refugee has been denied asylum in Austria because officials determined he wasn’t ‘gay’ enough to be gay.

Scared for his safety in Afghanistan, the young man originally applied for asylum based on the fact that he’s part of the persecuted Hazara minority in his home country. He later appealed citing his sexual orientation, which in his home country is illegal due to Sharia Law and can be prosecuted resulting in a possible death penalty. He told advocates that he was initially afraid to come out.

But the immigration official wrote in his report, “The way you walk, act and dress does not show even in the slightest that you could be homosexual.”

Also, the official noted that the young man had been involved in fights at the refugee center where he was being temporarily housed. The official decided that his “potential for aggression” undermined the Afghan’s claims since that “wouldn’t be expected from a homosexual.”

Additionally, the young man’s preference to spend time alone caused the official to wonder, “Aren’t homosexuals rather social?”

When asked at what age he realized he was gay, the Afghan told the case worker he came to that determination at the age of 12. But again, he was rebuffed by the official who said that was "rather early" since “there is no public sexual stimulation through fashion and advertisement” in Afghanistan.

Even when the teenager admitted to kissing men, the official decided it wasn’t true since the young man would have been beaten for such behavior.

Ultimately, the Austrian government rejected the 18-year-old’s application for asylum.

According to reports, the Afghan says he will appeal.

Yesterday, Instinct reported on a gay Iranian man who was also denied asylum by Austria. He was told by officials they didn't believe he was gay because he couldn't explain the meanings behind each color of the Pride flag.

(h/t GayStarNews)

Colorado Baker Declines To Sell Cake To Transgender Woman

Anti-LGBTQ Colorado baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop has filed a new lawsuit against Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Civil Rights Commission officials alleging “religious persecution” over his refusal to bake a cake for a transgender individual.

According to The Denver Post, Phillips’ lawsuit states the commission found the baker violated the state’s LGBT protection laws this past June when he declined to bake a pink and blue cake for trans woman Autumn Scardina of Arvada who was celebrating her seventh year of gender transition.

Phillips claims the cake would have amounted to endorsement of messages of sex and gender identity that conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs.

Upon being rebuffed, Scardina filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission which ultimately determined Phillips had discriminated against Scardina based on her gender identity which violates the state’s public accommodation laws.

“The woman on the phone did not object to my request for a birthday cake until I told her I was celebrating my transition from male to female,” Scardina wrote in her complaint, according to ThinkProgress. “I believe that other people who request birthday cakes get to select the color and theme of the cake.”

In a June 28 letter, the commission informed Phillips he was in violation of state laws and to find a way to reach an amicable resolution with Scardina.

According to the lawsuit, Phillips is seeking not only restitution for legal fees but $100,000 from the director of the civil rights commission in "punitive damages.”

Phillips gained national attention in 2012 when he refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.

In June this year, that case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which found the Colorado Civil Rights Commission may have been prejudiced against Phillips in doubting the sincerity of his religious claims and asked the commission to review the decision.

The high court carefully noted at the time that the ruling was specific to that case only and not a broad pronouncement in support for LGBTQ discrimination.

Also, nothing in the ruling said the state couldn't investigate him for future violations.

The new lawsuit includes allegations that Phillips lost 40 percent of his business income when he was ordered to either bake cakes for everyone or give up the part of his business that catered to weddings.

In a press release,  attorney Kristen Waggoner of the anti-LGBTQ law group Alliance Defending Freedom who is representing Phillips said, “The state of Colorado is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs.”

“Even though Jack serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs, the government is intent on destroying him — something the Supreme Court has already told it not to do,” she added. “Neither Jack nor any other creative professionals should be targeted by the government for living consistently with their religious beliefs.”

According to The Denver Post, state officials have not made any public comments on the new lawsuit.

Colton Haynes Trolls Kim Kardashian's Odd 'Dead Body' Post

Colton Haynes, star of Arrow & Teen Wolf, just went there as the shade brigade over Kim Kardashian’s eyebrow-raising Instagram pic.

Ms. Kim shared a photo last week via social media meant to promote Kanye West’s Adidas sneaker line, Butter350.

But it wasn’t the kicks that got attention but her body position on a bed that looked like a dead body at a crime scene.

Here’s the post which was captioned “Like butter. #Butter350’s #yeezy.”



Like butter. #Butter350’s #yeezy

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on


Haynes shared his take on the pic to his huge Instagram followers as he mimicked not only her body position and caption, but went further with a bit of Photoshop fun.



Like butter. #Butter350's #yeezy

A post shared by Colton Haynes (@coltonlhaynes) on


At this writing, over 655,000 folks has liked Haynes’ post.

Fellow Instagrammers began sharing their own recreations of the now-infamous pic:



Like butter. #Butter350’s #yeezy

A post shared by ROSÉ (@rosewithanaccent) on



Like butter. #butter350‘s #yeezy #kimkardashian

A post shared by J O N A T H A N M A R T I N (@mr.jonathanmartin) on




(h/t Queerty)

These Transphobic Parents in Oklahoma Are Leading by Example

A middle school in Achille, Oklahoma was shut down on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week after potential threats to a 12-year-old student were made online—by other parents. The student, Maddie, had been allowed to use the staff restrooms for some time since she initially was accused of trying to peep at other students in the restroom.

For the last couple of years, Maddie hadn’t experienced any other issues, until attending a recently re-opened school where she wasn’t informed of the location of the staff restrooms so she used the girl’s room. According to KXII-TV, a parent found out of the transgender student using the girls bathroom and took to the private Achille ISD Parents Group on Facebook to sound off in outrage.

According to reports, parents began referring to Maddie as ‘it’ and ‘thing’ while others suggested she should be stabbed or beat up. Another person in the group said it was ‘hunting season’ for transgender people.

The Washington Post reports what some of the parents have been saying online:

Jamie Crenshaw:

Heads up parents of 5th thru 7th grade girls. The transgender is already using the girls bathroom. We have been told how the school has gone above and beyond to make sure he has his own restroom yet he is still using the girls. REALLY . . . Looks like it’s gonna be a long year.

“We have made school board meetings over this situation last year but nothing seems to be changing,” the post continued. “This is the same kid that got an [sic] trouble as soon as he transferred two years ago for looking over the stalls in the girls bathroom. Enough is enough.

Another post read:

Why are parents letting their kids be transgender? Parents and Churches need to shut this down, the Bible says God created man, and woman . . . not any transgender bs. Hell with new laws and new rules, this is what our future is if WE don’t stop it.

And another:

If he wants to be a female make him a female. A good sharp knife will do the job really quick.

Maddie’s mother, Brandy Rose, said:

That's a threat against her life--that's scary. These are adults making threats-- I don't understand it.

She's an awesome kid. To see any fear in her, I can't explain how bad that hurts me for them to hurt her.

She's been living as female for years-- she started at Achille as Maddie. We had no problems when we first started.

As a precaution to Maddie and other students and staff, Bryan County Sheriff decided to close the campus on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The superintendent of schools agreed, but shared that he and the school cannot control what others post on the internet.

Rose has filed a protective order against one of the parents in the group, but the FBI is looking further into the postings to see if they can validate a hate crime.

The Facebook group has since been deleted.

A demonstration in support of Maddie will be held on Wednesday morning outside the school.

h/t: KXII-TV, The Washington Post

Germany Takes the Crown for Mr. Gay Europe 2018, Get to Know Him!

Hundreds protested this year’s Pride parade and Mr. Gay Europe competition in Poznan, Poland over the weekend, but regardless of their presence, the competition crowned its newest winner. 30-year-old German delegate, Enrique Doleschy, took home the title, beating out six other contestants—including the competitions very first trans contestant.

GCN reports that protestors spoke out against the LGBTQ community in Poland where polls have suggested that up to 70 percent of the population believe gay relationships are unacceptable. Doleschy said:

We need competitions like this to bring out the best in people and to force them, to drive them, to be better for each other.

Other delegates included:

Niels Jansen from Denmark, the first trans contestant

  • Antony Dzwonkiewica from England, who proudly represented the HIV positive community
  • Guilherme Souza from Ireland, originally from Brazil
  • Christopher Price from Wales
  • Karol Pacyna from Poland
  • Pedro Ferreira from Portugal
  • Dominik Svechnikov from Ukraine
  • Stefan Dimov from Bulgaria
  • LUKÁŠ GREČKO from Czech Republic & Slovakia



Mr. Gay Europe’s President Tore Aasheim says:

Mr Gay Europe is not a beauty contest. We are looking for genuine and real-life role-models for our LGBT communities across Europe and we are honoured by the fact that a trans person wanted and felt comfortable enough to take part. Niels proved himself to be a positive and significant addition to the group of delegates.

Get to know 2018’s Mr. Gay Europe in his bio package:



h/t: GCN, Mr. Gay Europe

Host Seems To Justify Fans Laughing At Male NFL Cheerleaders

Host Beau Davidson thinks NFL fans will get a laugh out of watching male cheerleaders dance with their female colleagues. Do you agree? Here's the viral clip.

Men will laugh, at the cheerleaders, yes, but Beau Davidson seems to take joy in pointing it out, over and over, almost saying WTF are you doing NFL!!?! You're setting these men up for failure and discrimination.  Do you think this would be the first time these 20-something men have faced ridicule and discrimination?

Beau Davidson, imagine a country that allows cross eyed narrow-minded individuals to "report" the news on tv, especially pretentious feeble males with Hardy Boys haircuts. Someone gave you a seat and it appears that you are not worthy, not because of your looks, your hair, but your ignorance. It's not a case of politically correct culture, it's correcting you for being a juvenile that should not have his job. Crap, that was some Beau-type honesty.

Now maybe it's a little harsh in asking Daily Blast LIVE to step up on this matter, but if Beau thinks this is a PC culture, what are 3 blondes doing sitting at the news desk. Is this FOX News?

Apparently other viewers were disgusted in Beau being honest in pointing out that NFL fans will mock the male cheerleaders.  Hell, I laugh at the female cheerleaders. In an attempt to deflect the attention from himself, Beau created a "check yourself" post on Facebook.  I'll include a screen capture of it at the end, just in case he decides to take it down and move on like nothing ever happened.

Our big ol' gay cheering mirror works just fine.

It goes without saying that these men will face ridicule, but the way that Davidson said it, it almost seemed that he was justifying the laughter. And does he think that these 20-something men do not know how to deal with negativity?  They are professional dancers/cheerleader and male in America. 

I've dated cheerleaders before and I would say most of them dealt with discrimination and ridicule way more than we know.  One I dated severely lacked confidence and a feeling of security. No matter what I said or did, he did not believe I supported him in his sport and profession.  His lack of confidence was detrimental to our relationship.

We don't need to hear from someone that justifies discrimination and degradation.  We elected someone like that.

I've never checked out Daily Blast LIVE, but if they support Beau-type "reporting" and sharing of opinions, I have no need to view the program or whatever it is in the future.

This is the opinion of this contributing writer and not the opinion of the other writers or Instinct Magazine.

If You Spread Hate, You Reap What You Sow

When a gay couple in Sandy Springs, Georgia contacted landscaper Stuart DiNenno about getting some work done in their yard, they did not expect the drivel of intolerance that would come out of his mouth with regard to their relationship.

According to Towleroad, the owner of Botanica Atlanta Landscape Designs turned down doing the job for couple because he considered their relationship to be “very perverse and foolish” and a “delusion”.

One of the guys took to the company’s Yelp Page to call out DiNenno on his homophobia, but DiNenno responded by actually confirming the claims and restating his distaste for gay people.

Since then, the company’s Yelp page has been hit with tons of negative feedback from people who are showing their support for the Sandy Springs couple. Folks have also shared screenshots of DiNenno’s racist remarks and bigotry on Facebook, an account that seems to have disappeared since the onslaught of bad press.

But DiNenno seems to be fueled by all the comments.

Just a couple of weeks ago Yelp announced that they would be incorporating a new feature into the app that shows which businesses are Open to All, meaning they serve people of all walks of life. I think it's safe to say that Botanica Atlanta won't be joining in on the campaign to welcome "everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion or disability."

Maybe the Fab 5 should pay DiNenno a visit in Season 3 of Queer Eye?

h/t: Towleroad, Yelp


The Life of a Title Holder in the Gay Community and All That Comes With

The world of title holders in the gay community is one you feel like would be documented on MTV’s True Life back in the early 2000’s. Sure, we have films and shows like Paris is Burning, The Queen and now POSE on F/X when it comes to getting a peek into what goes on in this sort of environment … but what about the other kinds that run the muck within our community?

The lunch room and tables within what a title holder can be continues to get bigger and bigger. “Category is,” can run aplenty for the amount of titles someone can have in a certain portion of this community. A variety of contests for people with fetishes like pup play and leather all the way to more traditional “societal pageant” norms do exist in this interesting cafeteria.

Is this something that will find a mainstream audience eventually, similar to what drag has, or will it remain a mystery that only the people who show up, attend and compete in them will ever know about.

In an Instinct exclusive, I spoke with New York City’s very own Ted Bishop Nieves, who currently holds not one, but two titles: Mr. Urban Bear 2018 and Mr. Fire Island Bear 2018. He spoke about the world of title holding, his journey into it, how friendly or shady everyone can truly be and his best advice to someone who wants to get involved.

How did you find yourself in this "title holding" world? Was it something that interested you for many years in the community?

It wasn’t something that I had sought out really.  My fiancé, Kory Harmon, is very close friends with a title holder, Mr. Eagle 2017, John-John.  I had never known or been around any previous title holders really, but through their relationship and their relationships with other title holders, I was able to see that these titles were a great deal more than just fetish pageants for leather and gear lovers.  There is awesome work involved and a certain responsibility to help our communities that these titles serve as a platform. 

As Mr. Eagle 2017, John-John brought a great deal of awareness and support for issues affecting some of the more marginalized members of our communities, such as trans people of color, and he also helped to shed light on those issues, spreading awareness and letting people know ways in which they could help.  I also witnessed how another friend, Dan Jimenez, used his title Mr. Fire Island Bear 2017, to do a lot more with it than any other person with that title had done before him. That had a lot to do with why I decided to compete.  I had just won the first Mr. Urban Bear 2018 title on a whim and had already wanted to do more with it.  When the opportunity presented itself and I was urged to compete for Mr. Fire Island Bear 2018, I couldn’t pass it up.  So, I ran with it and here I am.  A title whore with two titles for the year. LOL. Now the things that I will be able to do with these titles are ones that I’ve always wanted to do, but had a hard time figuring out how to go about starting.  Raising funds and working to shed light on charities and issues that mean a lot to me is probably the most important part of being a titleholder.  Same thing with being a role model.  These are very important things to me, so I hope that I am most successful on that part.

Does a lot of what goes on behind the scenes ring true to what drag pageants are?

I’d have to say that it’s different in that appearance isn’t as big a focus, per se.  You still have to deal with the selection of outfits and making sure that you meet all the criteria expected of you, but I haven’t quite reached that title level.  The most important thing, I feel, is to be yourself.  Be absolutely true to who you are at your core and I think that you can succeed as a title holder.  That is probably the biggest thing that drag pageants and the title holder world share in common.

You currently have two titles. What are they and when did you win them?

I am currently the first ever Mr. Urban Bear 2018 sponsored by Robert Valin and the Urban Bear team.  I won that title back on May 20th of this year at the Urban Bear Street Festival.  It was such a hoot.  Robert really put together an awesome party and it was just a purely fun event for me.
Then I won Mr. Fire Island Bear 2018 on June 9th during Shane Tate’s AMAZING Fire Island Bear Weekend event. That was also an incredibly fun weekend made all the more special by having won this title.

Were you shocked that you took the title for either... or both?

I was actually shocked that I took both titles.  Mr. Urban Bear I decided to do on a whim fueled by a few drinks lol.  I truly wasn’t expecting to win and the guys I competed with were so much fun as well.

Mr. Fire Island Bear I had not really had much intention of running for, but a friend urged me on and, again, after a few drinks, I decided to go for it.  This was a much different experience as there was an interview involved and I knew that it was a different level than what I was expecting.

 I know a lot of hateration goes on (hello, this is the gay community) when it comes to the winners and the ones who don't. How do you deal with it and not get sucked into all the bulls**t?

”Hateration”. There’s a word I haven’t heard in a while. lol. I have to tell you that I have not had that experience AT ALL.  I’m not going to lie and say that it doesn’t exist because we all know that it does.  I can share with you the experience of one of my fellow title holders.  My predecessor, Dan Jimenez, did an incredible photo shoot for Fire Island Bear Weekend with some really fun and campy photos.  Some of the responses on social media, however, seemed to take offense to the fact that Dan was not reflecting what they thought was the masculine ideal for a title holder and sent some pretty nasty messages. 

Dan decided to turn that negative into a positive and came up with a project called Title Holders and Tiaras, a calendar with a different title holder for each month breaking down the barriers between what we consider unhealthy masculine ideals and the reality of our every day.  I have the pleasure of being part of this project as Mr. November with my fiancé.  The calendar will be available for sale at A Man For Every Season event at the Eagle on August 17th and the proceeds will go to the Tyler Clementi Foundation which battles bullying and suicide. At the end of the day, I am very fortunate to say that my experience has been nothing but positive and supportive from the people in my circle and other title holders as well.

Do you plan on competing for any other titles this year?

Right now, I’m focused on working on a few fundraisers, beginning with one that I’m doing with the current reigning Mr. Eagle 2018, Joseph Macchia, called Colors, a Dance Party.  That will be taking place on September 20th at the Eagle NYC.  We’re raising funds for the True Colors Fund, who work to help homeless LGBTQ youth around the country.  Plus, I have my DJing which is keeping me busy with events in Sept with Antonio Cedeno (The Male Room 1 Year Anniversary at ReBar Chelsea), John-John (Purgatory Thursdays on Sept 27th at RockBar NYC) and Matty Bryan and Julio Rios (Soaked on Friday Sept. 21st also at RockBar NYC). After I’ve done at least one more fundraiser, I will consider what my options might be.

What would you say to someone who wants to get involved in this arena but is too shy to do so?

I would tell them to just do it.  You never know what you might be capable of if you keep yourself out of the spotlight.  Shine, be yourself and most of all, have FUN!