Friday, October 4, 2002

Interview with Stephen Weber, International Mr. Leather 2002, Part 1

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #192, October 4, 2002)

Stephen Weber’s speech at this year’s International Mr. Leather (IML) contest started with the words “Have you ever lost something?” In his case, it was 80 pounds. Even before winning the International Mr. Leather 2002 title, that dramatic physical transformation made him a role model for other folks who want to slim down (including your humble columnist). So when I had the chance to interview Weber recently, that was where the conversation started.

Let’s start at the beginning of your journey as a titleholder: Before winning the International Mr. Leather contest this year you were Mr. Texas Leather 2002—why did you enter that contest?

Well, I was about 280 pounds and had just tried to put on a pair of jeans and it was a 40 waist, and I decided that was unacceptable at 35 years old. So I decided to lose weight. I’d been out in the European leather community for several years, and one of the objectives that I wrote down when I started losing the weight was that I wanted to enter a leather contest. And the reason is, entering a contest would be an indication that I had enough confidence in myself to get up in front of a group of people without my shirt on. It was as simple as that. I had never been in front of a group of people—or never been in front of anyone—without my shirt, not even at the swimming pool or anything.

You wore your shirt at the swimming pool?

I would. I was that self-conscious about my weight.

Were you heavy as a kid too?

I felt that I was, and it’s one of those things that if you feel you are, you are—perception is reality. My whole family has a history of weight issues, which was something that my mother would always caution me about, and it got really out of hand. I tried to keep it in check for a long time, but then I got married. And during my marriage I stopped working out so I started to really gain weight, and it was after I was divorced that I found myself at 280 pounds.

Actually, there were a couple of reasons for losing the weight. I was starting to have some very severe lower-back problems, and I was also having a lot of other health problems. My mother had just recently had a stroke, which took a lot of her speech and the use of her right hand. I looked at my father, who had just retired and was in great health, and I thought about my parents having to survive on their own—if I didn’t keep myself healthy I was not going to be around to help them. And if something were to happen to me I knew they would be devastated.

When I told people that I was going to be losing weight, I wanted to make sure they knew the whole story. I told them I’m not doing this because I wanna be thin and I wanna be pretty—that wasn’t the point at all. The reason I was doing it was because I was so uncomfortable because I had gotten so heavy that I had health problems, and guess what, I wanted to be around to take care of my mom and dad.

So anyway, I started losing weight, getting physically fit, working with weights, that sort of thing. At the time I was living in Austin [Texas], and my goal was as simple as running for Mr. Chain Drive [an Austin-area leather bar]. Well, I had shared that goal of entering a leather contest with a lot of people, and as I was losing the weight people started to take notice and say things like, “Oh, we think you could probably do really well in one of the bigger leather contests.”

Then shortly after I lost all the weight I went to IML 2001 and got a lot of notice, a lot of comments. I had people pull me aside to do photo shoots. I did several photo shoots at IML—fully clothed—and that, to me, was another sign that, okay, I guess I’ve made enough progress that I can run for a bigger contest. So that’s why I decided to run for Mr. Texas Leather instead of Mr. Chain Drive.

What’s your image of your body now? Do you still think of yourself as fat? Are you surprised when you look in the mirror, or have you adjusted?

I still think of myself as a heavy person. I constantly strive to get better and to work on my body. A lot of it now is just—have you heard about the Adonis complex? Maybe I’m a victim of that, where now I just strive for that perfection of the body, and I don’t think I will ever achieve it, but I have to keep working at it.

And people come up to me very frequently now, and they just kinda go off on how I look, or they woof, stuff like that. And I just—

Do the woofs take you by surprise sometimes?

They do. Even now they do. I’m just not used to it yet.

(This interview will continue in the next issue of Lavender, when I’ll talk with Weber about how his experiences following his dramatic physical transformation shaped his time as Mr. Texas Leather, and continue to influence the themes of his IML title year.)

No comments:

Post a Comment