Centre image: Newly crowned Mr Gay World, Troy Michael Smith, flanked by runners up David Allwood from the UK (left) and Dion Alexander from Australia (right) (Photo: Rudy Du Toit Photography)
Mental health advocate Troy Michael Smith, who represented the US island territory of Guam, was crowned Mr Gay World 2023 at a ceremony in Cape Town on Friday night.
Smith, who lives in Alaska and has Guamanian heritage, beat out ten other contenders from around the world for the title.
“I feel incredible. It’s been such a great experience joining these guys from all around the globe and advocating for different causes in our own respective countries that we believe in,” said Smith, 36, who was seen tearfully shaking his head in disbelief after being named the winner.
“It’s just a blessing that I was able to express my message to all the judges and my fellow contestants about suicide prevention and what we can do to help lower that high statistic within the LGBTIQ+ community specifically,” he told MambaOnline.
The Mr Gay World title was awarded through a combination of the judges’ scores and votes from the public.
The delegates were assessed by the judges on their knowledge of LGBTIQ+ issues and history, their social responsibility campaigns, and how they carried themselves in several categories.
David Allwood from the UK took the 1st Runner-up position while Dion Alexander from Australia was named the 2nd Runner-up. Belgium and India were also in the top five.
“We have to work together,” said Smith. “I know that I may be the winner of this competition, but this is a team effort. I can’t change the world alone, but I could not think of a better group of guys to share this experience and advocate this cause with. This is just the beginning and together we are going to do so many different great things, and I’m ready for it.”
Smith is a real estate agent, small business owner, and mental health advocate. He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English and was a collegiate athlete and captain of the men’s tennis team.
In 2020, Smith ran for political office in Alaska’s state capital, Juneau, to serve on the city assembly. His campaign focused on mental health as the leading cause of homelessness, the opioid crisis, and high suicide statistics.
Smith currently serves on the board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and recently launched a suicide awareness platform called “The Forward Project.” Its mission is to provide education, resources, and suicide prevention training to help significantly reduce the number of suicide attempts each year, especially within the LGBTQ community.
The 15th annual Mr Gay World grand finale took place at Honey & Dora at De Waterkant in Cape Town.
South Africa was represented by pilot, businessman, and child welfare activist, Markus Coetzee, who stepped in at the last minute after the previous South African delegate, Juan Pinnick, pulled out.