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Terry George: The return of the competition

I’ve finally given way to public pressure: No, not to set up a home for ‘wayward young men’ (although that does sound like a good idea) but to bring back the Mr Gay UK competition.

The contest has been on a 2 year hiatus because I thought that fewer people were interested in it these days but it would appear that I may have been wrong. Everywhere I go if it’s not the first question, it is invariably the second: “When’s the next Mr Gay UK Final?” I have been getting a constant stream of e-mails asking the same question and from venues eager to hold a heat. Even some of the celebrities that were on past judging panels have asked if they can be involved again and excitedly tell me what a terrific time they had watching the lads parade around in their underwear. Over the years we’ve had pop stars, movie stars, sporting icons, fashion designers, soap stars and TV personalities all eager to be on that panel and enjoying what I’ve always thought of as a ‘fun’ competition and an enjoyable night out.

The Mr Gay UK competition has always been one of my favourite parts of all the things I do as a businessman. It was what helped get the company established and certainly generated a lot of interest in all things gay as well as publicity for whoever managed to win the title. Organising those first few heats back in 1993 when we took the contest out to the wider public was very hectic. Everyone seemed scared to enter so myself, and the team, would go around trying to talk various members of the audience into entering. Getting them to take their trousers off and parade around in the underpants was even trickier…but I have my ways. Now it’s slightly easier as people know the concept and love the idea of being crowned Mr Gay UK. Even after the recent break in it being held I still get TV companies and various other media calling me up asking if I have a current winner who could appear on some TV show or news programme. They seem very disappointed that there isn’t any new holder of the title they can call on to represent the gay community.

That was one of the best things for the winner of the title; almost immediately they became a celebrity themselves and a spokesman for a group of gay people who had very little opportunity to speak their own mind. The 1999 winner Mark Ledsham appeared in ‘Queer as Folk’, while Jarrod Batchelor, winner in 2003 took part in ‘The Games’, a series on Channel 4 that pitted celebs against each other in sporting contests. He went on to share the victor’s accolade with Shane Lynch from Boyzone and donated his winner’s fee of £15000 to the Albert Kennedy Trust. Ben Harris, the 1998 title holder later went on take part in a series called ‘Playing it Straight’, a show where a sexy female had to decide from a bunch of hunky suitors, who was gay and who was straight. Former Mr Gay UK Ben beat all the competition by ‘Playing it Straight’ and walked off with a pile of cash.
I can’t guarantee that everyone gets their own TV show, although with all the gay celebs appearing at peak-time viewing on our screens I suppose it is only a matter of time, but it can give a platform to all kinds of brilliant opportunities.

Of course the great thing about this competition is that it really is a nationwide search with venues across the UK holding their own heats so ensuring they have their own representative taking part in the final. That means, your mate, or your boyfriend, or partner, or the barman you’ve simply lusted after for the past few weeks could be the next Mr Gay UK. We plan to hold the Grand Final online in conjunction with a major social networking site, with the winner being given the opportunity to represent the UK in the prestigious Mr Gay Europe competition.
If you want to take part either as a host venue or a contestant then just get in touch via the web at: