Trailblazing Jose Lopez rises from adversity to win Mr. Gay World 2022

Sun. July 9, 2023 9:04 PM by Ross Forman

josé lópez

photo credit // provided

‘Today I am standing here, having overcome all the obstacles and showing that it only takes courage and bravery,’ says José López

When he was 12 years old, José López suffered from obesity. He was bullied at school because of his weight, orientation and speech impediment. He came to have anorexia and bulimia, and contemplated suicide on several occasions. 

He hid in the library at school to avoid ridicule and looked at himself in the mirror with hatred. 

“People told me that I will never achieve my dreams of being a model or an actor. They told me ‘kill yourself’ (and I) really came to despise myself,” López said. “In the attempt to be accepted by society, I became skinny due to anorexia and bulimia; I really looked sick.

“One day, I was on my way to end my hell, but on the way, I saw a gym and something told me to go (in). Exercise saved my life and today I can take a message to the world that you can get ahead.”

Flash-forward two decades: López, 33, is a trailblazing, record-setting, muscle-packed Puerto Rican – and the reigning champion at the Mr. Gay World 2022, the LGBTQI+ pageant held last October in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Mr. Gay World 2022 event was the seventh time that the pageant was hosted in South Africa, and López made history as the first contestant from the Americas to win the title. He also claimed the Best Social Media Presence, Best in National Costume, Best Sports Challenge, Best in Swimwear and Best in Formal Wear honors.

López fell to his knees after being announced as the winner.

“I couldn’t believe it; I just thought it was a dream,” López said of winning. “It (was) very important to me (to win) because you become an ambassador and spokesperson, which is a responsibility that I enjoy. I needed to be in the competition to tell the world, ‘Look at me; I was once obese, had a speech problem (and had) many doors closed on me. Today I am standing here, having overcome all the obstacles and showing that it only takes courage and bravery.

“Winning allowed me to give visibility to our collective and tell the world that love is not bad, hate is. 

“Mr. Gay World is not the typical beauty pageant that exalts the gay man in the world; it is a tool to reach many lives in need, who need inspiration and above all, a voice.”

López, who lives in San Juan, said being the first Puerto Rican to win the title is an honor – and with it comes a great responsibility. “I don’t want to be remembered as the first Puerto Rican Mr. Gay World … I want you to remember that dreams can come true, that we cannot be who society wants us to be, we must be just as we are, free to love, free to live and above all, to be proud of who we are.

“Carrying my beloved homeland high is something I always dreamed of and after a lot of effort, I achieved it.

“Being the first Latino to win, after 14 years of the contest, it’s something that blows my mind. I still don’t believe it; I feel so blessed. I thank God day after day for such a great opportunity, because He gives me the forum to do what I love the most, inspire.”

López added: “It really means a lot (to have won the title) … it was very arduous preparation, not only physically, but also intellectually. Standing on a stage with an audience that doesn’t know me and shouting PUERTO RICO is a lot. For me this triumph is the satisfaction that no matter how many times they tell you that you can’t … you can! I wanted to win because Mr. Gay World gives you the opportunity to reach all corners of the world. It is a platform that allows me to connect with people, regardless of distance or language. Having such an important title is an opportunity to carry the message through my body dysmorphia platform.”

López is very clear on his goals as Mr. Gay World 2022:

1. Be an agent of change, to break stereotypes.

2. Destroy fear in people from ‘regular contests’ who cannot compete in LGBTQI+ contests or vice versa.

3. That other Mister or Misses use their platforms to create an impact and, in turn, use their voice to help and inspire.

4. Raise awareness of the importance of creating platforms that give visibility to campaigns, such as HIV, body dysmorphia and more.

5. Demonstrate that success can be achieved regardless of sexual orientation.

“(From the Mr. Gay World event), the body dysmorphia social impact platform was born, which is dedicated to giving talks and tools to people with this mental illness,” López said. “Long before winning I dedicated myself through social networks to help people. Winning has given me an opportunity to reach all corners of the world, to the point that I have prevented suicides.”

On Stage With … Mr. Gay World 2022, Jose López

On Chicago: “I’ve been looking forward to seeing Chicago for a long time; it’s a destination that catches my eye.”

More Chicago: “Is a city of dreams.”

That Muscled Body: “My body is the result of continuous effort and a lot of work. After finding the solution to the problem of body dysmorphia, I fell in love with exercises and today it is my passion.”

That Muscled Body, Part II: “My body is a temple and I take great care of it. I really feel comfortable and happy; I look in the mirror and say, ‘It was worth the effort.’”

Favorite Pig-Out Food: “I love pizza, and red meat, rice and beans.”

Job Title: Fitness club manager

Mr. Gay World: “Is one of the most important contests for the LGBT+ community, a powerful platform to carry a message and continue the fight for our rights. This platform encouraged me to continue working for our youth.”

Coming-Out: Came out at age 18 “when my father told me, ‘If you are happy, I will be.’ If the person I love the most accepts me as I am, I don’t care about the rest. Since then, I am simply ME.”

Single or Dating: Has a boyfriend

The Boyfriend: “My partner is really my support, my energy to do what I love, the responsible person who is always there. He is my friend, confidante … simply my partner. We have been (together for) almost two years. He is a professional stylist and future trainer.”

Passions: “Training, beach, movies and time for my partner.”

Favorite Actor: Tom Holland

Favorite TV Show: Top Chef

Favorite Movie: Star Wars 

Favorite Musician or Musical Group: Ednita Nazario, a Puerto Rico pop singer

Favorite Sport: Running

Favorite Pro Athlete: Jasmine Camacho

Favorite App: Instagram (Follow joselopezpr)

Boxers or Briefs: Briefs

If you are depressed, having thoughts of suicide, self-harming, or experiencing an eating disorder, know there is help and you’re not alone. If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 988 to talk to a skilled, trained counselor (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.