Personal trainer Ricky Devine White has been crowned Mr Gay New Zealand.
The 36-year-old from the New Zealand region of Marlborough took home the title in Auckland on Sunday, and said he wants to use the new platform to advocate for LGBTIQ inclusion and equality.
“I now can be an ambassador and a voice for the LGBTIQ community and really speak to some of the prevalent issues that we have in our community,” he told Stuff.co.nz.
“I’m trying to take [the title] to the world and promote how wonderful it is to be in New Zealand and to be such a forward-thinking country.
“One thing that I’m really passionate about is fighting for human rights.
“For me, I would say that in time, what we perceive as normal now, we won’t have to use the phrase ‘gay’ anymore. For example, gay marriage will just become marriage.”
He added to New Zealand’s AM Show, “In 20 years, I want New Zealand to not actually have the word ‘gay’ so that it becomes a society where there’s no ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ or ‘transgender’.
“We’re all just one people.”
It’s official! It is with huge pride and joy I announce that yours truly has been crowned @mrgaynewzealand 2018. I am taking a moment to breathe right now and take everything in. There has been a massive amount of support over the last weeks and months, messages of best wishes and pep talks every day. Thank you for all those who voted and sent love. The last two days have been full of challenges, interviews, and LEARNING! The other contestants are all amazing role models, leaders and all stand for their beliefs within their own and our communities and I know they will continue to do so! Thanks for being you! Mr Gay NZ was possible with the generous support of @endinghivnz @startoutau @ssangyongnewzealand @ldvnewzealand @eikonmag @skycitylive #mrgaynewzealand2018 #mrgaynz #gaypride #rainbowlove #newzealand #gay #mrgayworld #mrgayprideaustralia #marlborough it may be the last comment but it’s the most important! Thanks husband @art_devine_white and thanks mom @sharonruthgardner
He told the program he came out at age 21 when he was on deployment with the Royal New Zealand Navy.
“I came out while I was on ship. I was in a very small place sharing a room with 16 other guys,” he said.
“The navy was a place where there’s so much comradeship and so much support so it was easy.
“Some of the older sailors definitely had a lot of questions: ‘What does it mean to be gay? Have you been gay all the time? Is it a decision?’
“The New Zealand Navy is really accepting.”
Devine White is a passionate advocate for HIV testing, and recently modelled with his husband Arthur in an awareness campaign for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.
He’ll go on to represent New Zealand at the Mr Gay World pageant in South Africa in May.
The competition will see contestants from 34 countries, including Australia’s Jordan Bruno, vie for the title of Mr Gay World and become a spokesperson for global LGBTIQ equality.
I’ve done some really cool things in my big 36 years of being in this world. But none so rewarding as volunteering to help end HIV. In the process of doing so it has taught me to be even more open, honest and most importantly more vocal about SAFER SEX and REGULAR TESTING. Thanks @trakstagram @endinghivnz for the oppurtunity. #endinghivnz #endinghivnz #gay #safesex #hivtesting #gayfitness #posterboy