Friday, August 18, 2006

The Leather Life Interview: Bo Ladashevska, International Mr. Leather 2006

(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.”


Six feet.

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.

Workout schedule?

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.

Friday, August 4, 2006

International Ms Leather Celebrates 20 Years

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #292, August 4, 2006)


Leatherwomen, and the leathermen who support them, gathered in Omaha, Neb. July 14-16 for the twentieth-anniversary edition of the International Ms Leather (IMsL) contest. Held concurrently with IMsL was the eighth annual International Ms Bootblack (IMsBB) competition.

International Ms Leather (IMsL), the first international leather title for women, started in San Francisco in 1987. Originally run by a board as a non-profit organization, the IMsL title was almost discontinued after eight years. IMsL ’93 Amy Marie Meek (now Meek-DeJarlais) assumed production of the contest in 1995 and has kept it going ever since. (Her partner and co-producer is Megan Meek-DeJarlais, IMsL ’98.)

After being held in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, Las Vegas, Toronto, and Dallas, the contest has been held in Meek-DeJarlais’ hometown of Omaha since 2002. Both female and male members of Omaha’s leather/fetish community have pitched in every year to help produce the contest and the weekend’s other events.

IMsL contestants for 2006 were Beth Roberts of Indianapolis, Ind. and Lady Faye of Dallas, Texas. The sole IMsBB contestant was Alex Bettencourt of Medford, Mass. (A second bootblack contestant was forced to withdraw due to illness.)

It has become increasingly difficult to find contestants for IMsL (as it has for many other leather contests). Fewer local and regional women’s leather contests mean fewer winners to go onto to compete in the IMsL contest. In 1999, IMsL had fourteen contests; that number had fallen to five by 2002.

Nonetheless, IMsL 2006 was a rollicking weekend. It started the evening of Thursday, July 13, with a Contestants’ Night Out trip to Harrah’s Casino (across the Missouri river in Council Bluffs, Iowa). The casino junket was followed by dinner at Jazz, a New Orleans-themed restaurant across the street and down the block from the weekend’s host hotel, Omaha’s Redick Plaza.

The IMsL Press Party and Basket Auction happened Friday evening. Baskets of leather/fetish merchandise gathered by the weekend’s contestants were auctioned off to benefit the IMsL and IMsBB travel funds. Other activities on Friday evening were a roast for outgoing IMsL 2005 Jessie Holman-Ahart and a dungeon party at the hotel. A men’s party was held at The Max, Omaha’s GLBT mega-bar complex that for years has been one of the cleanest and most attractive GLBT clubs in the nation.

On Saturday morning it was down to business for the weekend’s judges, all IMsL titleholders from prior years, as they conducted private interviews with this year’s IMsL contestants. Everyone else was free to shop the leather market and get their boots shined (bootblack contestant Bettencourt was working furiously).

A series of educational workshops was presented Saturday morning and afternoon by Kansas City Leather University. Workshop topics included mummification, head shaving, electrical play, “Free Speech Under Fire,” and a fascinating look at the deaf leather community (about which you will hear more in a future Leather Life column).

The last of Saturday’s seminars was special—a twenty-year retrospective on IMsL’s history as told by eight IMsL titleholders. (You can hear audio of the retrospective at <>.)

The IMsL contest and show were Saturday evening in the Arena theater at The Max.

Each contestant made a short speech and performed a fantasy (erotic skit) presentation. Roberts was Mrs. Claus in a Christmas-themed fantasy, while Lady Faye interrupted her housecleaning chores for a sexy fling with a sudden visitor.

This year’s IMsL contest and show included the traditional IMsL tattoo contest, which drew nine people to the stage to show off their ink. Many present and past leather titleholders attended the weekend to welcome and support the new IMsL and IMsBB titleholders, and during the evening many of them were recognized and brought to the stage.

Also part of the show Saturday were three big-ticket auctions: the IMsL 20-year quilt donated by Lifestyle Sewing, sold for $700. (Shortly after winning the auction, the buyer came to the stage and presented the quilt to Amy Marie Meek-DeJarlais.) The IMsL Bootblack quilt, also donated by Lifestyle Sewing, sold for $1,300—a demonstration of the affection people feel for their bootblacks.

The third big-ticket auction item was an original leather flag signed by its creator, Tony DeBlase. One of only fourteen in existence, it sold for a breathtaking $2,850. All proceeds from these auctions were split between the IMsL and ImsBB travel funds.

Toward the end of the evening the International Ms Bootblack torch was passed from Suka, last year’s titleholder, to Bettencourt. Then, in a highly emotional moment, there was another torch-passing: Amy and Megan Meek-DeJarlais stepped aside as contest producers, turning the IMsL and IMsBB titles over to new producer Glenda Ryder.

The culmination of the evening was the announcement of the new IMsL 2006: Lady Faye. Cameras flashed and audience members rushed the stage to offer their congratulations.

Sunday morning’s Victory Brunch at the Redick Grill was again emotional. It was the close of IMsL’s Meek-DeJarlais era. Next year will mark the start of the next era of International Ms Leather, July 13-15, 2007, in San Francisco. For more details visit <>.

Find more photos of the IMsL weekend, and audio of “20 years of IMsL—A Retrospective Roundtable,” at <>.