(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #293, August 18, 2006)
International Mr. Leather 2006 Bo Ladashevska is in many respects his own creation. He chose his own name and has reconstructed his body. Yet he’s soft-spoken and says his image of himself is “petite.” Growing up in Winnipeg as a hearing child of deaf parents, he considers himself “culturally deaf.”
Ladashevska now lives in Montreal with his partner, Guy. Your humble columnist interviewed him when he was Omaha, Neb., attending this year’s International Ms Leather contest. I started by asking about his name.
Ladashevska is a beautiful, musical name. Is that Russian?
It’s actually Ukranian/Russian. My given name was Vernon Ladashusky. I made a few changes, just because it sounds nicer. It has a feminine ending, which is actually incorrect, but I like the sound of it. I think it’s a very interesting and powerful experience when people actually choose their name.
And your first name, Bohdan. Where does that come from?
It was a name I heard in my Ukranian class when I was very young. It was a name I loved, and I decided that’s who I wanted to be. At age 15 I took ownership of my life, and became Bohdan Ladashevska. [He pronounces “Bohdan” with a sound in the back of his throat, almost a “k” but not quite, before the “h”.] There are some cultures that have a problem pronouncing that sound, so I just go by “Bo.”
You seem bigger.
Interesting. I feel very small. You know how you have an inner sense of who you are? I tend to feel very petite and very small.
Right now? Two-thirty.
Five times a week.
How long have you been working out?
About two years. I used to be more of a bear, actually. I went to the doctor one day a couple of years ago, and he said, you know what? With your cholesterol level and triglycerides that high, you’re probably going to be dead in a couple years. So I took it upon myself to get back in shape. I was close to three hundred pounds—not muscle. I reconstructed myself.
And you still think of yourself as petite?
Even when I was big I still thought of myself as small. I often look in the mirror and I go [gasping in surprise], “Who is that?”
Talk about growing up as a child of deaf parents.
My father comes from a very large genetically deaf clan, spreading over Canada and into the States as well. I think right now we have five generations of deafness, living. My mother actually was born hearing, and she became deaf—I think at about one year old. My brothers and sisters can all hear, but most of my family—aunts, uncles, cousins—are all deaf.
And this is what you do professionally?
American Sign Language English interpreter, yes.
That almost seems like it was foreordained.
It was not what I wanted to do. I just sort of fell into, and I love it.
What did you want to do?
Actually, I wanted to be an opera singer for awhile. I did some acting. When you’re young you try all kinds of things.
Do you sing now?
No, actually, I gave up singing. Becoming an opera star can be very expensive, and I come from a relatively poor family.
Are you still an opera fan?
I don’t have time for it. I don’t even watch TV much anymore.
What are you so busy with?
There’s so much to do in Montreal. I love Montreal—I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I enjoy spending time with my partner. And with work and being involved with the community, it takes a lot of time. Over the years I’ve been involved in several AIDS organizations. And I’ve been very involved with the deaf community—the sports organizations, the political organizations, being there, volunteering with them—just because it’s a part of who I am, it’s a part of who my community is. I consider myself being deaf as you might consider yourself being Italian.
Let’s talk about sex. There are some very erotic pictures of you on the web.
I’m very comfortable in who I am and in what I do. I think we should all be proud of our bodies. You know, I’ve put a lot of work into this body—I’m not embarrassed to show it. And I live very openly about my sexuality—I always have, since I was thirteen when I came out.
What about coming out into the leather community?
It was twenty years ago this past summer, but there’s always been a fascination that probably goes back further. When I was five years old I was totally obsessed with my grandfather’s shaving strap on the bathroom door. When we used to be bad, we used to get “the strap”. Sometimes it was more pleasurable than it was supposed to be.