It was only last week that Matt got the amazing news. The 36-year-old dog walker from Brighton has managed to become this year’s Mr Gay England, a huge honor and responsibility for a “normal Brighton boy” as he describes himself. Walking dogs, going to the gym, preparing for the Mr Gay Europe contest… although his journey as an ambassador for the LGBT community has only just begun.
Having worked as a flight attendant for British Airways for ten years, Matt decided to quit the job so he could get a dog which was not possible for him while he was traveling around the world non-stop. Dogs being one of the big passions he has in life, he decided to become a professional dog walker.
“I love it. It’s the best job in the world. Dogs are just my passion. I’ve got two of them myself, Hugo and Lulu. They are really needy dogs and really cuddly which is just perfect for me,” Matt describes his love for the four-legged friends. Two years ago, he set up his own dog walking company, RoodDog. By now, he is walking up to one hundred dogs per week and trains them on weekends.
One might think the young man is totally worn out by the end of the day after all the dog walking, but Matt still manages to fit a daily workout routine at the gym into his days. Fitness is another really important part of his life. Not only because the dog walker likes to stay fit and healthy but mainly because it has helped him get through some really tough times as he explains.
“The last couple of years have been really hard for me. I was married for ten years and then, we broke up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best break-up. I lost my house, I lost my company, I lost my husband. So, I was really at the bottom.”
When other people probably would have surrendered facing so much trouble and losses, Matt decided that sinking was no option for him. Instead, he hired a personal trainer and a life coach and started to turn his life around.
“I felt like I had lost who I was, so I had to rebuild myself basically. At that point, I didn’t even know what movies or what music I liked. After a while, I became a lot more sociable again and I started being who I used to be,” he says about the changes he went through.
Having noticed these positive changes, Matt’s friends encouraged him to enter the competition to become Mr Gay England. Taking his chance, the normal gay boy from Brighton sent in his CV and his photos, and passed all the Skype interviews with former Mr Gay Worlds. In the end, all his efforts got rewarded. Since last week, he is officially the current Mr Gay England.
“I feel totally honoured to represent England. When I got the phone call, I was so happy I nearly passed out. And the moment I got my sash was just the best moment ever! I have never taken it off since,” Matt jokes.
But of course, being Mr Gay England isn’t just about wearing a sash and pose for the cameras as Matt well knows. “You are meant to be an ambassador for the LGBT community and it all comes down to leading a charity campaign. I love helping people, so this is just the perfect role for me.”
Pride Families is the name of the campaign he will be running during his year ‘in office’. Working with several charities and fostering institutions, he wants to raise awareness among the LGBT community that they have the same rights as everyone else to foster and adopt children. It was his own personal experience with fostering that made him choose the campaign.
“My former husband and I were really passionate about helping vulnerable children, so we became foster parents. I mean, of course, there were good times and bad times like it’s the case in every family but it was probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Throughout three years, we helped about ten children,” Mark remembers this great experience.
Being passionate about the issue, Matt hopes to change things. “I really want to promote equality in adoption and fostering within the UK to highlight that we, as members of the LGBT community can actually provide a loving and enriching family environment for children. I want to show our community that no matter whether they are single or in a relationship and no matter what their sexuality is, they can become foster parents or adopt children.”
Having only just started his year as England’s new Mr Gay, the “normal boy from Brighton” can’t wait for his work to really kick off. “I got one year as Mr Gay England and I want to leave a legacy. I want to make sure that I leave big shoes to fill when I hand over the title in a year’s time from now,” he states.
Other than working hard to promote his campaign in the UK, there is another important challenge coming up very soon. Having won the title in his home country, Matt is currently preparing for the Mr Gay Europe contest. Making everything fit into his days is the first obstacle the “busy boy” has to deal with.
“It’s very hard to fit everything in. At the moment, I get up at 5 am, go to the gym and then start walking dogs. I am not the best at multi-tasking but now I just have to do it. I literally revise, look things up on google and email the charities to arrange meetings while I walk the dogs,” Matt describes his current daily routine.
When he says ‘revise’, he means his preparations for the six-day Mr Gay Europe contest he will attend in the first week of August in Stockholm which will also involve a general knowledge quiz about LGBT rights and facts about every European country.
At the moment, he always carries a stack of index cards with him where he has written down the most important facts to keep in mind. “You need to be a cultured gay to fulfill the ambassador role, especially if you are gonna be Mr Gay Europe,” Matt says with a little laughter.
When he thinks about the upcoming contest, his feelings are mixed. “I’m nervous but I hope that I come across as a compassionate person. I mean, I am just a normal guy but I believe that I’ve got passion and drive and I am incredibly focused. So, fingers crossed!”
When all the excitement about being Mr Gay England, maybe even Mr Gay Europe, will be over, is the children and dog-loving Brighton boy thinking about fostering again?
“I got two dogs which are my family at the moment, but I definitely wouldn’t rule out the possibility of having children again. This time, I might actually look into adopting. I definitely would like a little family, but I need to find my Prince Charming first,” is what his plans for the future look like.
If you want to support Matt on his way to becoming Mr Gay Europe, you can vote for him here. Voting starts on the 17th of July and goes all the way through to the 4th of August.