Coastal Virginia has been well-represented at international bear events this summer. Charles Kirtland was first-runner up for Mr. World Cub and Steven Tompa won Mr. Kilt International 2018. Today, we are congratulating longtime Hampton Roads resident Johnny Hierspiel as he earned the title of Mr. World Bear 2018. There must be something in the water here that groomed these title holders. Look for an in-depth interview with Johnny soon.
Let’s get to know Mr. World Bear, Johnny Hierspiel!
What’s Your Preferred Name?
Johnny Hierspiel, Mr. World Bear 2018
(Editor’s note: Below is a clip of Johnny competing in the Mr. World Bear Contest held recently in Lexington, KY.)
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Proudly raised in Hampton Roads.
How long have you lived in Hampton Roads?
I have lived in Hampton Roads since 1989. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and relocated to Norfolk in 2010.
What do you do for money/living?
I am a collection analyst and remarketing coordinator for a local credit union
How long have you been ‘out’ (if applicable) and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out in November of 2015. The hardest person to tell was my wife/best friend. I had been with this women for 6 years, we share 3 children, and we had a wonderful bond. It was very difficult to tell her that I needed to stop living a lie. I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t anything she did, and I wasn’t unhappy with our relationship, I just couldn’t live in the closet anymore. I can proudly say that we remain great friends and co parent extremely well together.
Who is your LGBTQ hero and why?
There have been a few people I consider a hero in our community. I think Dr. Charles Ford goes without saying. His activism and involvement in the community is so inspiring. It’s also very fun to pick his brain on local LGBT history. Next I would say a man by the name of Mr. Paul Lanner. Paul is Mr. Kentucky Bourbon Bear 2018, founder of a wonder nonprofit “Haunters Against Hate,” and producer for World Bear Weekend. I have never met someone who gives back so unconditionally. His work with Haunters Against hate is so inspiring and I want to be just like Paul when I grow up! LOL
Is a picture worth a thousand words? Explain your answer.
Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Think about it, looking at just one picture, one captured moment, you can literally get an entire story. Pictures make you feel, make you think, gets your imagination going.
What is the most memorable LGBTQ moment of your life?
I know some people may think I will say winning one of my titles is my most memorable moment. Even though those are irreplaceable achievements, my proudest moment was when my fiancé Tony Conrad proposed to me. It was my birthday and we went to Noelia Bella’s Lip-gloss and Lashes Drag Brunch. Noelia called me to the stage, much like she does all guests on their birthday. This time, however, I had my eyes covered by one of the girls. When I was allowed to look, Tony was standing there with a ring box in his hands. I immediately started to tear up. Seeing me like this, Tony never even got to ask the question, all that could come out of his mouth was, “STOP.” We began to hug and cry, all in front of a packed 37th and Zen. After a couple of minutes, one of the queen was like, I think he proposed, so whats your answer. Of course I said yes!
On what do you insist upon daily?
Besides, my morning coffee, I absolutely insist on hugging my fiancé Tony, every day. Far too often couples get into a complacent stage, so this is my attempt to minimize that happening to us.
What was your last social media post?
My latest social media post was via Facebook and I shared a post from Howard Bunger, producer of the Virginia Bears. It was the application for the 2019 Virginia Bear Contest. I have a real passion for the Virginia Bear crew and really want it to succeed and continue to grow.
If you could give your 16 year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell my 16 year old self to give up trying to be cool, and focus on your education. You will regret not excelling to your true potential in high school.
Do you have any suggestions for the local leaders of Hampton Roads’ LGBTQ organizations?
I would suggest to our Hampton Roads LGBTQ community to create more kid friendly events. There are a lot of gay or same sex parents who want to come together and show our pride, but are unable to bring their children. Sure, we have Hampton Roads Pridefest, but that’s just once a year. More events like Mj’s Easter egg coloring contest.
What is the best aspect of the Hampton Roads LGBTQ community?
The best aspect of our Hampton Roads Community is the people. We have so many great people who dedicate countless hours to make our community even better. They are what make our community so great!
Name one thing you would change about the Hampton Roads LGBTQ community?
One thing I would change about the Hampton Roads LGBTQ community would be to have more unity. We have a fairly large LGBTQ community, but we are all so spread out into little sub categories. I would love to see more intermingling. Have leather men at drag shows, drag queens at bear events, bears at the kink events. We are stronger together.
What LGBTQ stereotype annoys you the most?
The one LGBT stereotype that annoys me the most is the one surrounding bears. Far too often when I invite people to bear events I hear, “Well I am not a bear.” “I am not big enough.” “I am not hairy enough.” To me being a bear is more of a mindset then a physical attribute. The bear movement started to celebrate differing body types and celebrate inclusion for all. If you believe in these principles, then you are welcome around bears.
What non-LGBTQ issue do you feel most passionate about?
Charles Kirtland really got me passionate about environmental issues. His efforts to “save the bay” are very inspiring. He has taught me so much about the effects of littering and improper recycling. A trip to clean the beach to just help a friend out, turned into something I feel very strongly about.
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
A natural gift I would like most to possess would be the ability to inspire people. Inspire people to be better, kinder, and an all-around better person.
What quality do you most admire in a person?
I admire kindness the most in people. Not just politically correct kindness but true genuine kindness.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I would have to say my family. My family picks me up when I am down, they inspire me to be better, and they make me want to strive to be a better person every day. Without them I would be as driven.
What is your favorite curse word?
Fuck, my favorite curse word is fuck! I use it all the time. I use it as a verb, noun, adjective, the whole nine.
Why Hampton Roads?
Because Hampton Roads is home. Hampton Roads is progressive, tolerant (for the most part) ,and is home to many great people. It’s an area rich with history and culture. And it’s just an overall great place to live and raise kids.
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