'A big hairy man and proud of it'
Christchurch man Paul Newby didn't feel connected with the region's gay community until he became a bear. Now he has been crowned Mr Bear Canterbury.
A bear is the term for men, usually gay, who are well-built, hairy and rugged.
"I've always tried to be what other people expected me to be in my life . . . usually gay men are slim, muscular and well-dressed and I'm not."
Newby, 47, said he was a "big hairy man and proud of it".
He joined the Christchurch Bears group a couple of years ago and entered the competition after "encouragement from friends".
"I just wanted to do it for a bit of fun . . . I never expected to win."
The competition was held at Burgers and Beers in Sydenham on Saturday night and attracted a 100-strong crowd.
"The first part was casual wear and answering a few questions about being a bear and that sort of thing and then the second part was a performance of a fantasy," he said.
Newby, who is a credit controller for Smiths City, dressed as the construction worker from 1970s pop group Village People.
"I always idolised the Village People for being so open and the performance part of the competition was just a hoot."
Newby was not sure what his prize for winning would be but said he would be travelling to Auckland next year to compete in the Mr New Zealand Bear competition.
The event was held as part of the Big Bear Weekend to coincide with the Christchurch Gay Pride 2012.
Christchurch Bears organiser Ralph Jaegar said the weekend had been "a fantastic success".
"It's our first multi-event weekend but it definitely won't be our last," he said.
On Friday the group went to Hanmer Springs before "partying until 3am" at the Mr Bear competition on Saturday.
Yesterday, the bears chilled out with a film showing and barbecue at the Woolston Tavern.
"It's been such a wonderful weekend and the atmosphere was so vibrant the whole time."
Registrations for the weekend's event included people from Invercargill, Auckland and Australia, he said.