Hong Kong has a new Mr Gay HK! Meet 35-year-old Mass Luciano. Amanda Sheppard finds out how the stylist and fashion blogger plans to help the LGBTI community grow
When we congratulate Mass Luciano on winning Mr Gay Hong Kong 2014, he’s both proud and modest about his achievement. “I never intended to enter,” he wryly confesses, explaining that he was initially only going to assist in the production of the pageant. But after only two guys entered, the organiser told him that more candidates were needed. So, Luciano volunteered. It clearly paid off.
Luciano is a stylist, designer and fashion blogger. His blog, OML (Oh Mass Luciano) has recently found a new home on online platform WannabeMag. A Hong Kong resident for two years now, the 35-year-old is a self-proclaimed ‘army brat’, moving around frequently in his youth until settling in Puerto Rico as a young teen. And it was there that he had his first experiences with bullying and discrimination. “It was the first time anyone ever called me a faggot,” he recalls. Following an initial period of shock, Luciano rallied himself and decided he wouldn’t take any crap. “I wasn’t going to allow someone to just say something to make me feel bad because of who I was.”
This year’s Mr Gay Hong Kong is the sixth edition of the competition, begging the question why was participation so low? “There’s a lack of participation in the LGBTI community as a whole,” says Luciano. Interestingly, he’s not the first Mr Gay Hong Kong to think so. Last year we interviewed 2013’s Mr Gay HK, Michael Morrill, who recently left for the USA after experiencing discrimination following his decision to go public about his HIV status. He told us that a lot of people in our city’s LGBTI community practice ‘slacktivism rather than activism’. Luciano, on the other hand, believes that, while there’s an active LGBTI social scene and plenty of involvement in events, ‘when you are out in the public eye, it’s not that easy’. A way to navigate these murky waters, he reckons, is through the establishment of strong Hong Kong Chinese role models for the gay community. “We need more people like Heihei and Jimmy to step up,” he says, citing the Mr Gay HK winners in 2010 and 2011 respectively. “Then people will feel more comfortable. Currently, people talk negatively about [the scene] but they never engage.”
It’s important to note that Luciano is not placing blame anywhere – he acknowledges efforts are in place to increase engagement in the community, including Pink Season: two months of sporting, arts and culture activities specifically aimed at the LGBTI community. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, for Luciano it’s a small step. He says he wants to see more permanent projects come into play.
LBGTI integration is an issue Luciano says exists in many cities. Having lived in Los Angeles, Milan and Hong Kong in recent years, he draws comparisons between the cities. So what exactly is the problem here in our city? “You have the lesbians on one side and then the gays,” he says. “And the gays are split into different divisions. You have your bears, your older gays, your muscle queens.” Having been an active participant in LGBTI communities abroad, Mass may also have an advantage when it comes to progressing to the next Mr Gay World contest in South Africa off the back of his Hong Kong triumph. He has an international approach and outlook. “With Mr Gay Hong Kong, I’m trying to get people more involved here,” he says. “I think that will, at least, give me a great platform to do it on a larger scale.”
With this in mind, does Mr Gay really hold the power to wield large scale change in the community? “I don’t think Mr Gay should be anything political,” muses Luciano. “What I want to do with this title and with the exposure is to promote the different aspects of what it is to be gay.” In a promotional video for Mr Gay HK, Mass states that he wants to ‘draw more attention to the LGBTI community, not just the G’ in it. It seems like he may be well on his way to doing just that.
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