For aspiring Vancouver’s Next Gay Top Models, a shirt-ripping night

Beautiful, smooth, flawless skin. Lanky limbs. Waspish waists. Heaving chests under which young, spirited hearts beat to the silent song of innocence. Laid out before all, within reach of outstretched arms, are a dozen samples of delectable eye candy. And who knows what pleasures they may have for us to savour.

Yes, one may suppose I am at the border here. It could be “Goodbye, het-land” and “Hello, homo country” for the Georgia Straight ’s sexually anxious menswear writer.

You see, I’m one of the judges for Vancouver’s Next Gay Top Model. The question on my mind is, “How should a judge who is straight evaluate gay men on their beauty?”

Let’s review the facts. The event will set 12 finalists against each other tonight (March 6) at Celebrities Nightclub (1022 Davie Street). (Doors are 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m.; according to, some tickets may still be available at Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium or at the door.)

Organized by Terry Costa, the event is one part community activism and one part life imitating reality TV.

Costa, who is also hosting the event, proved in the preliminary rounds of the competition that he has a knack for ratcheting up the tension among the hopeful.

As contestant Darren Bruce observed in an early elimination session, “Every couple of hours, three people would be called up to the front of the stage and Terry would tell you if you’re in the top 12, or you’re still part of the undecided group, or he would send you home.”

Some may wonder what the big deal is. This struggle to the top of the male-mannequin mountain is a fundraiser for the Vancouver Friends for Life Society, a charity that helps people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as illnesses such as cancer and hepatitis C.

Bruce says it’s meant to be for a good cause, but also notes that it’s hard not to get caught up in the drama of the moment. “It’s harsh, and it’s realistic. One guy got eliminated, and the guy tore off his [Next Gay Top Model ] shirt and stormed off the stage,” he says.

So it’s serious stuff, and that means this Straight Eye among the Queer Guys may have to take his responsibilities as a judge seriously.

And I have tried. On Valentine’s Day, I had my first chance to meet the wannabe models at SCORE on Davie. I dressed for the occasion: tight midnight-blue button-fly denim with a cropped black short-sleeved shirt that shows a bit of belly button when I raise my arms. The whole outfit said “hetero-but-not homophobic”. That should always be the goal of a stylish man: to strive for an elegance that lets others know who you are, but lets them be themselves.

Bruce has some insight into this—he came out three years ago. The toughest part was telling his father. “When I told my dad, he was shocked,” he says, “but then he shook my hand, and since then he’s making the effort to be part of my life.”

And what does Bruce’s father think about his son’s Gay Top Model ambitions?

“Well, he’s going to be there. He doesn’t exactly know what to expect. I don’t think he’s ever been to the gay bar. He’s probably got ideas that he’ll show up and everybody will be wearing strap-on dildos and carrying leather whips. But it [having him there] will be neat.”

Now that’s a beautiful thing.