A TEDDY BEAR Inside

Mr. LA Leather 2017, Jeff Wilcox, on growing up in a small farm town, diversity and the road to IML.

BY DR. STEVE GANZELL  |  PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

Jeff Wilcox, the new Mr. LA Leather, talked to THE FIGHT  about his recent success and his plans for the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest in Chicago over Memorial Day this month.

Genuinely warm and engaging, he shares easily about his personal transformation from a shy, overweight guy who worked hard to become the person he is now.

Congratulations!

Thank you! I’m actually very excited about it now. Finding out about IML and learning about what happens there, all the activities you get to do. It seems like a great reason to get out of your shell. I’m a completely shy and introverted wall flower. In September of last year, I went through a break up and decided I was not gonna let doubt take over for me. I silenced that critic in my head…I danced at Meat Rack, which was terrifying. If you look at me, you make assumptions but I realized everybody has their own story, their own journey. I may look tough on the outside but I’m a teddy bear inside.

Have you been to IML before?

I went once in 2011. I wasn’t even aware that there were all these things going on, including the contest. I wandered around the vendor mart and thought “well I’ve done IML.” I’m really looking forward and getting to do all the things that are a part of IML this time. Of course I want to make Los Angeles proud but more importantly I want to do my personal best.

I was a fat kid, who ate his feelings. I had to transform myself. I spent 3 hours in the gym a day. But there is no point in changing the outside appearance if you don’t accept and love your inside self. By silencing my critic I’ve been able to accept myself and become the man I am today.”

Tell us a little bit about your journey from Mr. Eagle LA Leather to Mr. Los Angeles Leather and heading to Chicago to compete in International
Mr. Leather.

I grew up in a small farm town outside of Sacramento, 3000 people. When I moved to Los Angeles, my father gave me the “big city talk.”

“You’re moving to the big city son…be sure to lock your car and don’t walk down allies.” My freshman year I went to Ricks College ( a small Mormon college in Rexburg, Idaho). It was so cold I said “Oh hell no… I’m never doing cold again”, so I transferred to Pepperdine in Malibu.

I was a fat kid, who ate his feelings. I had to transform myself. I spent 3 hours in the gym a day. But there is no point in changing the outside appearance if you don’t accept and love your inside self. By silencing my critic I’ve been able to accept myself and become the man I am today.”

I had been going to the Eagle for a long time. I was always on the edges.  I never thought about being in a title contest. When Charlie and Hunter (Owner and Manager of the Eagle) talked to me about participating, they took me around and introduced me to people. I began to see parts of the community, I hadn’t seen before. And I began to feel more a part of something.

How would you sum up your experience, so far, as a leatherman?

I was impressed by the diversity of the men that became the 10 contestants for Mr. LA Leather. They became a cohesive group and I really enjoyed that. They reflected the diversity in the leather community in many different ways and brought something that was unique to them.

There was a time, I didn’t really think of myself as the traditional leatherman… but I have evolved… I would say that my primary fetish is muscle worship. I even wore a sleeveless shirt made of gold lamé (the somewhat tongue in cheek way of indicating an interest in muscles) to an event at the Faultline.

Despite his somewhat self-effacing responses, it is clear that Jeff has found reasons to push past limitations. He is a well-chosen representative of a community that highly appraises power dynamics. He put in the hard work to transform from that shy kid who used to eat his feelings
to a man who now not only exemplifies an archetypal leather esthetic but whose heart and spirt will represent the community well. 


Dr. Steve Ganzell, former president of Christopher Street West (CSW), the organization that produces LA Pride, works in the federal healthcare system, providing member health services and training to other providers.

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