Twenty eight year old Francois Nel won the 2010 Mr. Gay South Africa™ title in November last year. Since then he’s been preparing to represent South Africa in Manila at the Mr Gay World pageant next month, which is also where we’ll find out if South Africa is successful in its bid to host the event in 2012.

Francois, who lives in Centurion, Pretoria, has a BA in Literature and a diploma in Make Up Artistry. It’s in the latter field where he makes his living, as a make-up artist and hair-stylist. He’s become known for his enthusiasm and positivity as well as his toned body, marked by an intriguing and sexy scar across his lower chest and stomach. Just days ahead of flying to Manila, Mambaonline spoke to Francois about his life, winning the title and if size really counts.

So you’ve been Mr. Gay South Africa for a few months now. How has your life changed?

Life is wonderfully eventful and busier than ever. Being privileged with the title has really kept me busy with planning for the year ahead and the projects I’d like do and be involved in. Preparation for Mr Gay World as well as the bid to host Mr Gay World on the African continent has also been exciting – it’s an event that will highlight the need for gay equality in Africa.

Do you get any bitchiness when you’re out and about in the gay scene?

I haven’t experienced any at all.

Why did you decide to enter the competition?

Like many gay men we may look back at the years and have a feeling that in our youth we might have excelled more in certain avenues had we not been dealing with the internal conflict that being gay presented us with. I feel privileged being gay, but I had to ask a lot more questions in my life and I’d now like to inspire young individuals to personal happiness and acceptance early on in life. I also just felt it would be a lot of fun and that I’d learn a lot.

What would you say to those who feel that Mr. Gay SA is just a glorified beauty pageant?

I’d say it’s not. It’s a humanist ambassador competition that represents LGTBI people. It’s an opportunity to get involved, to give… Being involved in projects that represent your community and being aware that there are places around the world where fellow LGTBI communities still don’t enjoy equal human rights and even face death and imprisonment.

Pic: Tim Hulme Photography

How does it feel walking on a stage in nothing but a Speedo while being watched by hundreds of people?

I guess I see it as the same when you’re at the beach, I didn’t think about it too much and just had fun.

What do you think it is about you that makes you a good role model?

I want to share my experience with people that might be going through the same thing. Life as an openly gay man is still a daunting experience for some, but by us telling our story, our heartaches, our joys and our desires we paint a life that is a happy and human one.

When did you come out, and how would you describe the experience?

I was 19. I had a lot of time for self-evaluation as I was abroad on a working holiday. For most of us it was and can still be a very scary experience, but I don’t regret following my heart and what I felt was inherently natural to me, even if sometimes the world outside didn’t agree.

How would you describe yourself at school? Were you one of the popular guys?

I’m not sure about popular, but definitely the funny guy: always up for a laugh. I was also the constantly hungry guy that sometimes got caught daydreaming. I liked school and enjoyed studying but my school experience was also an inspiration to take part in the competition – life in school is not always easy for LGTBI people.

When and why did you start working on your body? Good job by the way!

Thank you! I did sport and lots of cycling in school and already started weight training then. I love swimming; especially at the end of the day when work is done. Sport is an uniting event and I’ve always had a love for exercise and sport.

So, how did you get that scar? Did you ever feel embarrassed about showing it?

It was a shark bite! (Laughs) Actually, I had a liver operation when I was a baby. I’ve never really been embarrassed. I was 18 months old when it happened so I’ve always had it. I won’t have it removed either.

You’re involved with another sexy guy, Eduard. How long has it been?

He is very sexy! We’ve been together three years.

Tell us a little about him and what he means to you.

Eduard is my biggest inspiration, the calm and contentedness in my life. Love in all its phases and forms is an incredible and beautiful thing. To say that I am blessed is an understatement – you could say I’m elated!

Are you a believer in monogamous relationships and marriage?

Some gay people want to get married and some may not. I am passionate about the principle that we should enjoy the same rights to get married. I would like to devote my energy towards [promoting] safe sex, irrespective of how people conduct their relationships.

What do the two of you do over weekends and to relax and have fun, other than the obvious?

We both sometimes work, but enjoy family time as well as movies, good books – currently A.C. Grayling’s What is Good? – and a great night out. And, as you say, the obvious…

Would you ever consider doing a nude photo shoot?

I would consider it, especially if it’s for a good cause.

Who’s your favourite actor, singer or public figure and why?

Our Madiba is an inspiration to all of us for the belief and courage that we have a country where we are all equal. Helen Zille also dreams of togetherness and safety. Artists in music and drama also inspire me, especially ones that employ their art for humanist work like Bono and Celine Dion. Artists that have, in proud moments, reiterated what talent our country has, like Charlize Theron. Icons like Sir Ian Mckellen, Queen, Elton John. Sport stars that are open about [gay] issues, like Gareth Thomas.

Any hobbies or activities you enjoy?

Extreme sports, swimming, the sun, eating, reading, art.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I always wanted to be a dancer. I danced at school and love rhythm and good music.

What satisfies you in everyday life?

Definitely my training session and FOOD! Ek eet Lekker!

Do you prefer boxers or jocks – and why?

Jocks in the day, boxers to sleep in… comfort is everything.

Does size count – or is it really about skill?

It’s about the confidence and pleasure of the act…

Very diplomatic! What are you most looking forward to in Manila?

I’ve read and heard amazing things about the Philippines. I’m looking forward to meeting like-minded individuals at Mr Gay World. I am also incredibly proud of our bid and look forward to the reveal of who gets to host Mr Gay World in

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