WA’s Joshua Haines in the running for Mr Gay Pride Australia

It has been more than 1,200 days since the last Mr Gay Pride Australia was crowned, but now, after being cancelled due to the pandemic, finalists for the next competition have finally been announced.

Finalists for Mr Gay Pride Australia 2022, will now be put through a series of online and face-to-face challenges over the next three months leading up to the finale weekend at the Rainbow on the Plains Festival in Hay, New South Wales in late November.

It will be the fourth edition of Mr Gay Pride Australia, which aims to find and empower the next LGBTI+ leaders in Australia.

This year writer, proud bisexual man and OUTinPerth contributor Joshua Haines will be representing our state in the competition, following in the footsteps of his friend and previous WA winner, Jordan Bruno.

We caught up with Josh for a chat about the competition ahead of the main event.

What made you want to take part in this competition?

It wasn’t until I completed my studies at WAAPA that I learnt of the term ‘agent of change’, and how it encompassed all the work I had done as an arts advocate, and my time on the PrideWA Committee – all behind the scenes. After I saw notification that the competition had returned, I thought it was time to be more “loud and proud” with it.

My passions are around mental wellbeing and arts access to communities. After COVID-19 we saw the decline in perceived value for the arts by the government, but a social increase in arts consumption – individuals and families were seeking new artistic ways to keep busy during isolations and quarantines.

I’m also aware of the impact of the arts on young people, not only for their personal growth and wellbeing, but the safe environment the arts provides when navigating their queer journey. Mr Gay Pride Australia provides opportunities for me to further this message to metropolitan and regional communities, and hopefully inspire a new generation of queer arts practitioners.

How would you describe yourself to someone who has never met you?

This question was the hardest one to answer, but I do tend to joke about how I’m the hype-man, psychologist, and Cool Uncle (tv trope) of the friend group. A goth boy gone jock; I’m sassy, mischievous, and flirty – with a Trixie Mattel laugh. Despite a stony resting face, I can create a sense of comfort and familiarity with everyone, a curious communicator, artistic, insightful, and who passionately advocates for self-worth, self-love, and mental wellbeing.

Mr Gay Pride is not a beauty pageant as the title might suggest, what are the elements you’ll be assessed on?

The competition challenges your values and social commitments to the queer community; they test you on your knowledge and understanding of LGBTQIA+ history and pop culture; and lastly, they test your confidence, leadership, and social presence. But don’t worry! It’s also peppered with amazing activities, and opportunities to connect with the community, including photoshoots, networking events, and experiencing Rainbow on the Plains Festival in Hay, NSW.

What do you think makes a good role model?

This is a tough question as I feel that everyone should be their own role model. Who are you now, and would your younger self have looked up to you? With that in mind, a person who will become a good role model (whether they intend to or not) is someone who self-educates and has a thirst to learn.

Empathy, compassion, and respect are foundational – but investing time in learning cultures, and histories outside yourself, allows a person to create safe spaces for everyone. Ultimately, we all want to belong, and a great role model will be able to instill that sense around them wherever they go.

How would your friends describe you?

“Josh wears his heart on his sleeve, and I’m constantly inspired by his bravery, his warmth, and ability to connect with everyone. He is the reason Mr Gay Pride Australia exists – to give a platform to socially conscious queer people wanting to make big change,” – Jordan.

“Josh continually holds space for others – and his emotional intelligence is unmatched. They are incredibly genuine in their approach to people, and considerate of other’s culture and racial backgrounds. One of the things I love about Josh, is his eagerness to learn and educate themselves authentically,” – Tobiasz.

“Josh is a walking oxymoron – he’s the most outgoing introvert you’ll ever meet. A man of many talents and insanely creative. I can’t wait to see what projects Josh brings to this world, and how he’ll serve the community through them – I’m lucky to call him a friend,” – Philip.

What’s your best public speaking advice you can share?

I think the best advice that has been given to me is from friends who MC for a living – and that’s to live in your embarrassment, and never apologise. Chances are that the audience hasn’t noticed the awkward swallow that broke up your answer or speech, or that you spoke too quickly – ultimately, those are moments of authenticity anyway. If you’re speaking passionately about something you care for, the audience will connect with that – and that’s what we want!

Mr Gay Pride Australia and Rainbow on the Plains Festival will be held between November 25 – 27, 2022. More information at rainbowontheplains.com.au

Image: Sam Mead

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