Friday, August 15, 2008

Leather Contests and Titles: Every Color of the Rainbow

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #345, August 15, 2008)

In the world of leather contests and titles, International Mr. Leather (IML) is the most well known. Having just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, IML is the oldest surviving international leather contest and title, and also the largest.

But IML is just one of a whole spectrum of national and international leather contests and titles that represent just about every subgroup in the leather/BDSM/fetish community. Although not as large as IML, these events, and the titles associated with them, represent important and diverse parts of leather culture.

Here’s a quick review of why leather contests and titles exist: They offer entertainment to the audience, a challenge to the contestants, a service opportunity to those who win the contests and hold the titles, and a source of representatives, positive role models and leaders for the community. Leather contests may have started as “beauty pageants,” but over the years they have become much more.

Hobbit, International Ms. Leather 2008.
(Credit: Marcus Hernandez)
Let’s begin our survey of contests and titles with IML’s female counterpart, International Ms Leather (IMsL). Billed as a weekend for “leatherwomen and those who love them,” in the last two years this contest has seen amazing growth since moving back to San Francisco, Calif. where it started in 1987.

The 2008 IMsL weekend was May 1-4 and was attended by a crowd of over 600(?). More than 40 educational classes were offered during the weekend as well as a dozen hospitality receptions, a Uniform Party, a Boots and Cigars party, a vendor mart and three different play areas (women only, men only and pansexual) available the entire weekend.

The IMsL contest was won by Hobbit, who hails from Seattle (and who also was awarded the “congeniality” prize by the other contestants). Check out her blog at

IMsL weekend also includes the International Ms Bootblack contest, which was won this year by Miss “Q” of Atlanta. That makes her the female counterpart (also called “sash wife”) to Bootdog, who won this year’s International Mr. Bootblack 2008 competition held as part of the International Mr. Leather weekend.

The American Leather Family for 2008.
Back: Randy Carmenaty, Joan Norry. Front: Chris Scherrer.
(Credit: Marcus Hernandez)
The American Brotherhood Weekend (ABW), whose motto is “Celebrating the American Leather Family,” awards a whole family of leather titles at one event. The American Leatherman title started the family in 1989 and was joined by American Leatherwoman in 1994, American Leatherboy in 1995 and American Leathergirl in 2004.

After a one-year hiatus in 2007, ABW has enthusiastically rejoined the landscape of national leather events. This year’s contest weekend was held July 10-14 in New Orleans and produced the following new titleholders: Randy Carmenaty (from North Hollywood, Calif.) became American Leatherman 2008; Joan Norry (from San Leandro, Calif.) became American Leatherwoman 2008; and Chris Scherrer (from Denver, Co.) became American Leatherboy 2008. (Sadly, there were no contestants for American Leathergirl. Next year, perhaps?) The weekend itself was reportedly filled with food, camaraderie and the wonderful hospitality for which New Orleans is justly famous.

Andrew, Mr. Olympus Leather 2008 and
Mistress Sabrae, Ms Olympus Leather 2008.
One weekend after ABW, and 926 miles to the north, the Mr./Ms Olympus Leather contest was held July 18-20 in Chicago in conjunction with the Pantheon of Leather Community Service Awards. (Both the Pantheon awards and the Olympus Leather titles were created by Dave Rhodes, publisher of The Leather Journal.) Olympus Leather titleholders represent the pansexual branch of the leather/BDSM/fetish community. Noteworthy in leather contest circles is the fact that the Olympus Leather titles are very transgender-friendly.

This year’s Mr./Ms Olympus Leather contest was held in the auditorium at The Chicago Eagle/Man’s Country. Nine contestants (three men and six women) each had a private interview with the judges, went through a question-and-answer session in front of the audience and presented a “fantasy” (erotic skit). When the scores were added up, the new Mr. and Ms Olympus Leather titleholders were Andrew (from Salt Lake City, Utah) and Mistress Sabrae (from Hoover, Ala.) You can see Olympus Leather contest photos at

International Deaf leatherboy 2008,
boy taz (kneeling) and International
Deaf Leatherman 2008, Sir Y.
The same weekend the new Olympus Leather titleholders were being chosen in Chicago, the International Deaf Leather (IDL) contest weekend was being held in Philadelphia, Pa. (July 17-19). Gary Iriza, the current International Mr. Leather, was one of the contest’s judges (which explains why I didn’t see him in Chicago at the Pantheon/OIympus Leather weekend). The new titleholders: International Mr. Deaf Leather 2008 is Marc “Sir Y” Burton, and International Deaf leatherboy 2008 is Alan “boy taz” Arble.

Next up is the International LeatherSIR/Leatherboy contest, which is the direct descendant of the legendary International Mr. Drummer and Drummerboy contests started in San Francisco in 1979 (the same year as the first International Mr. Leather contest). This year’s contest weekend, which also includes the International Community Bootblack contest, returns to San Francisco, Oct. 9-12.

Then, for latex lovers, there’s the Mr. International Rubber contest in Chicago, Nov. 7-9. And next year, Masters and slaves will gather for the International Master/slave Contest weekend, held in conjunction with South Plains Leatherfest in Dallas, Tx., Feb. 27-March 1, 2009.

And there you have it—for a rainbow tribe, a rainbow collection of contests and titles.

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