Bernard Lee’s entry into the Mr Gay New Zealand competition was sealed last year when he won the Mr Gay Wellington competition but it’s been the work he has done with some diverse charity groups that make his admission as a finalist complete.
Born on the island of Borneo in South East Asia, Lee headed to Wellington in the Winter of 2009 to further his architectural studies. But it became the place he could call home and be himself finally.
“I fell in love with the city immediately,” Lee explained exclusively to eikon.
“It is the one place I could truly be myself.
“I even came out to my mother here a few years back, 12 hours prior to my graduation at Victoria(University).
For Lee, the chance to represent New Zealand in the Mr Gay World title in Malta is exciting but his continued social and community work across New Zealand is what he is particularly excited about.
“I have given my time volunteering for the NZ AIDS Foundation (NZAF) and for the Love Your Condom (LYC) campaigns in Wellington,” Lee said.
“Just recently, NZAF has invited me to be a part of their national campaign this year which was both an experience and journey like no other.
“Last year, I was nominated to be the Volunteer & Community Engagement Liaison for Out in the Park 2016 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Homosexual Law Reform.
“It became a vehicle for me to engage more with our diverse divisions in our queer community in Wellington and wider regions.
“Communities like Kava Club, an inclusive art collective who bring together emerging to established Maori and Pasifika art practitioners and advocates.”
As well as work with the gay community in New Zealand, Lee has been a strong advocate of helping others across the world traveling to other countries on humanitarian missions.
“A big part of what I do is social voluntary work. It became an apparent passion when I started to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in 2008 overseas in South-East Asia.”
“Locally, I helped with a build for Habitat in Cannons Creek, Porirua a few years back for a family of refugees.
“My proudest moment would have to be three years ago when I volunteered my time to design a communal space converting a church into school for orphans in South Africa.”
Former Mr. Gay New Zealands’ Matt Fistonich, Andreas Derleth and Chris Olwage have given Lee advice on what to expect in the competition but he is very level-headed about what’s ahead and the other competitors, including fellow finalist Sam White.
“The person I would vouch for is a fellow Wellingtonian – Sam White, who has been a great friend. We even had a double date at the movies.”
And he is also excited the most about, “Having my partner Matt telling mates he’s with a Mr Gay NZ finalist.”
Public voting for the people’s choice portion of the competition will begin this coming Monday with the winner announced at the LYC Big Gay Out on Sunday 14 February in Auckland.
The winner will head to Malta in April for the Mr Gay World Finals.
For more information visit www.mrgaynewzealand.com