For the second year running, Mr Gay South Africa was crowned Mr Gay World.

At a lavish ceremony in Manila in the Philippines this month, Charl Van den Berg, 2010 Mr Gay World, handed over the crown to fellow South African, Francois Nel.

Nel beat Mr Gay USA, Michael Kevin Holtz, and Mr Gay Spain, Israel Acevedo, to take the title. Holtz and Acevedo were awarded first and second runner-up respectively.

Nel is a make-up artist from Johannesburg and has a visual multimedia/creative writing degree. He also works at a medical practice that deals with HIV and TB, and has completed a course in HIV care and counselling. He is currently a hair stylist and lecturer.

Nel considers himself an advocate of human rights – particularly within the gay and lesbian community. During the competition, Nel chose Nelson Mandela as the world leader he would most like to meet because Mandela “completely encompasses everything that humanity and human rights stand for”.

As Mr Gay World 2011, Nel will have US $25 000 at his disposal for promoting the gay community around the world. However, Nel seems to have his work cut for him in his own country, where he is yet to be formally congratulated. The Democratic Alliance proposed a motion to do so, but this was opposed by the African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Front Plus, and thus prevented from going to the floor for a vote.

Despite this, Nel seems to be making waves abroad and was instrumental in South Africa’s bid to host the pageant in 2012. Which, as it turns out, we won.

Various local businesses have signed up to support the event. Amongst them is The Fairway Hotel and Golf Resort, which hosted the Brazilian team for last year’s FIFA World Cup. The five-star hotel will sponsor accommodation for the contestants, directors and staff of the event. According to Coenie Kukkuk, operations director of Mr Gay South Africa, the sponsorship (worth $50 000) is the “single biggest sponsorship of a gay event by a company in South African history.”

Nel will hand over the crown and title in his hometown next year, where the fourth annual Mr Gay World will be held. The event is set to take place from 4 to 8 April 2012.

Illustration: Gustav Reyneke

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