New Mr Gay Wellington Bernard Lee is a 28-year-old who grew up in Borneo. He tells us about coming out to his mum, and what winning the title means to someone who is generally a bit of an introvert.
What does winning the title mean to you?
It means I didn't screw up my life like I thought I did. I'm quite reserved, shy and rather introverted kinda person. Registering itself was daunting but winning it has seriously given me a confidence boost. On a broader note, being an active volunteer for the LYC for the last three years means I could share on a broader scope what LYC & the NZAF does for the community in terms of volunteering and social events.
Walking out in my police themed underwear, kissing my partner Matthew in my underwear in public, when my name was announced, I was literally asking the announcer "Really!?" Twice!
What do you hope to achieve as Mr Gay Wellington?
I would love to use the title as stepping stone to promote community based volunteering. Like I said on the night of the competition, we get so involved with social media that I feel we lost track of just plain communicating. That is why I miss the golden age when we had to go to gay bars to get the latest news the in gay community, places where we had to get our act together and help the gay community for once.
Even something as small as packing condoms made me realise how much I appreciate voluntary support. Volunteering for LYC & NZAF for the last three years made me more confident about myself and I hope to spread the need for social & community volunteering within our gay community through this title.
Will you enter the next Mr Gay NZ?
Funny enough, the current Mr. Gay NZ, Matt Fistonich asked me the same thing this morning. I was told that there was no maybe, and that Matt might drag me up to Auckland in February 2016 for it.
Why the hell not as long as my family of volunteers from LYC Wellington can tag along for support, I would gladly to put my name forward.
What do you love about Wellington?
I came to Wellington to continue my varsity back in July 2010. What I found was independence and freedom to be myself. I really came to terms with my sexuality and it was in Wellington that I achieve one of my hardest & proudest moment - coming out to my mother.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Kuching, Borneo and was rises by just my mother. Even though I spent a few years in Austin, Texas, I would still say I grew up in a small town of on the island of Borneo.
How old are you now?
I'm actually older than I look, turning 29 this 7th July.
When did you come out, and how did it go?
One of my proudest moment was actually coming out to my mother over three years ago. As you already know, I came from a conservative Asian background in Borneo. I have always stay grounded to my roots and it was extremely hard being brought up as a Catholic and then involuntarily force to convert to Buddhism.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was supposed to come out to her at Picton but I chickened out. I then chose a great time, literally 12 hours before my graduation from Victoria University back in late 2011. Mum was watching some TV infomercial, sleeping on the other side of the room. It felt forever until I finally said "Mum, I'm gay". Because I took so long to tell her and I literally acted like I was hiding something from her, my mother immediately thought I got a girl pregnant!
Ironically, she got quite the opposite news. It didn't go down well after. Mum refused to discuss about my coming out for nearly half a year but instead suggestively asking when will I get married and have kids. I made the one of the biggest decisions of my life to move to NZ permanently after.
Funny enough, my mum and sister are now friends with my partner Matthew, and it's adorable!
Tell us about your partner?
He's adorable, caring and incredibly supportive whom without, I won't have won.
What are you most proud of, from your life so far?
Besides coming out, I'm proud of my volunteering past for Habitat for Humanity like I did in Porirua once and overseas. I would love to go back designing more socially responsible architecture like I did in South Africa. Volunteering for them has been the proudest as I see the need for that in the islands where social economy is doing poor plus with the sudden change of weather, especially with the recent catastrophe at Vanuatu.
What type of music do you like?
Finally a fun question. I love alternative folk, oldies, 90's pop & rap. Most of my favourite artists are English funny enough like Mumfords & Sons.
What about movies and TV - any recommendations?
I have a fond excitement in collecting old classic films, from Hitchcock to Spielberg to modern day greats from Alfonso Cuaron to the Nolan brothers. Recommendations : If you enjoy classic black& whites, '12 Angry Men' & 'Psycho' are ahead of their time. For pure thriller & adventure, I would choose 'The Dark Knight', 'Jurassic Park' & 'Interstellar'.
What do you think are the biggest issues currently facing
lgbtiq New Zealanders?
For me, one of the biggest issues facing the lgbtiq is the stereotypes we put ourselves into. A lot of the time, we act, feel and look according to the stereotypes in order to fit in.
Sure, I get how stereotypes work but there needs to be respect, understanding between the community and most importantly a confidence to be yourself as an individual.
Who in the world would you most like to have a coffee and a
chat with and why?
Russell Tovey. I wonâ€™t be having my dinner but I would watch him eat. WHY NOT!? On a serious note, probably Dame Judi Dench or Julie Walters because both of them are icons in their field and have you seem them on Graham Norton? They are amazing!
If you could have one wish granted what would it be?
I would wish to be a Top Gear host driving all those fancy exotic cars. Honestly to be happy would be a great aspiration. Did I just quote Beyonce?!