andy cross, international mr. leather 2013, at victory party
photo credit // anthony meade
International Mr. Leather celebrates 35 years
Chicago, IL -
Andy Cross, Mr. San Francisco Leather 2013, was named International Mr. Leather 2013 at the 35th annual IML Competition in Chicago May 26.
The competition began with a passionate speech from International Mr. Leather founder and producer Chuck Renslow, 73, who had triple bypass surgery in January.
"It's been a remarkable ride all these years, these past 35 years," he said.
After sharing a brief reflection of the organization and leather community, Renslow commented, "Like all stories they need to be saved and shared." He then told the crowd about planned expansions to The Leather Archives & Museum, which is the sole beneficiary of IML.
Renslow closed with an emotional thank you to the crowd, organizers and his boyfriend, Juan.
"Tops aren't supposed to cry," he said. "On with the show."
Over 2,000 leather enthusiasts packed The Harris Theatre for the competition, which featured lesbian singer Beverly McClennan of NBC's The Voice.
"I applaud everyone of you for being here and being yourself, because that's what this is about," said McClennan.
Renslow later returned to the stage where he commanded the envelope and announced Robert Miller, Mr. Leather Toronto 2013, as the 2nd runnerup, Thib Guichard-Callin, Mr. Santa Clara County Leather 2012, as 1st runnerup and then Renslow named Andy Cross, Mr. San Francisco Lather 2013, as Mr. International Leather 2013.
Cross bested a field of 20 finalists, from across the U.S. and around the world. Participants were judged on stage presence and personality (Pecs and Personality), leather image, presentation skills, and physical appearance.
Sammy from Portland, OR. was named International Mr. Bootblack 2013. Mike from Minneapolis, MN was named 1st runnerup and Fuzzybuns from Palm Springs was named 2nd runnerup in the in the Bootblack competition.
IML began in 1979 when about 400 gay leathermen gathered in Chicago. This year, nearly 20,000 people attended weekend activities centered around the annual event.
International Mr. Leather 2013, including the Leather Market (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.), continues through Monday, May 27, 2013 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, 540 North Michigan Ave.
The official closing party, The Black and Blue Ball, begins at 8 p.m. Monday, May 27 at Castle Nightclub, 640 N. Dearborn. The party features DJ Matthew Harvat as well as Chicago's legendary Grammy-nominated DJ, producer and remixer Ralphi Rosario.