Actor and model José Lopez from Puerto Rico was crowned Mr Gay World 2022 at the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town on Saturday night.
A total of eight delegates from across the world made it to the grand finale of the event’s 14th edition.
After a gruelling week of media interviews, special appearances, photo shoots, charity drives and presentations of their social responsibility campaigns, it all came to a head at the grand finale where the winner was revealed.
Lopez, 32, was a clear favourite, winning several categories in the event including Best Social Media Presence, Best in National Costume, Best Sports Challenge, Best in Swimwear and Best in Formal Wear.
Holding the Puerto Rico flag, an emotional Lopez fell to his knees in disbelief when he was announced as the winner. He is the first competitor from the Americas to win the contest.
His social responsibility campaign focused on body dysmorphia, which he suffered from as a child. Lopez said he was inspired by Nelson Mandela to make a difference in the world.
“I suffered a lot of discrimination from being obese and because of problems in being able to communicate properly. At some point, I considered ending my life but I carried on with the great love my mother gave me,” he told the judges.
He asserted that being Mr Gay World “requires someone who never gives up on their dreams and wants to inspire others with the story of their life. That’s why I created my platform about body dysmorphia, to help young people not go through the problems I went through. And that’s why I want to be Mr Gay World, to use the platform to communicate a powerful message to the world.”
The night’s first runner-up was Mr Gay World United States of America, Tony Ardolino, and the second runner-up was Mr Gay World Germany, Max Appenroth, who made history as the contest’s first transgender finalist.
Eric Butter, President and founder of the Mr Gay World organisation, expressed his satisfaction with the well-organised event and the calibre of delegates.
“This year’s competition amplified the need for greater visibility to the wider LGBTI+ community. The entrant of Germany made global history as being the first transgender delegate in the finals of our contest,” he said.
“Mr Gay World is a collective space to see the coming together of gay men across the world, to share an international stage and amplify their purpose in the sole pursuit of equal access to human rights, social and political acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion. I am sure that Lopéz will ignite and sustain such light in many years to come,” Butter said.