Shyam Konnur talks to FSOG about his journey through Mr. Gay India. He tells us why he decided to participate in the competition and how his family and friends supported him throughout.
Why I took part in Mr. Gay India 2020
Honestly, I had no idea that I will be taking part in the pageant. I was always so focused on my duties as an activist I hadn’t really paid attention to what was waiting for me. Also, I never thought I would be participating in the pageant but it was my friends who saw the potential in me and encouraged me to register. The faith they had in me and the fact that they believed I could win the pageant is what inspired me to take on this journey. Then I realized the doors this opportunity would open for me and my organization, MIST would be enormous. The fact that winning this contest would help me get one step closer to fulfilling the dreams I have for the people of my community is when I truly saw myself aiming and wanting to be Mr. Gay India 2020.
It meant a lot for me to be a part of Mr. Gay India
It was in 2014, the year that Sushant Divgikar won Mr. Gay India. That was when I discovered the pageant and I have been sincerely following it ever since. Entering the competition did mean a lot to me because as I mentioned this would be a huge platform for the cause I have been working on.
This would help me widen my prospects in terms of connecting with the world and sharing success stories of India. Also, it meant a lot for me to be able to showcase a slightly different side of me, my other talents and interests. I am a very simple boy from a village from Bangalore trying to make a difference in this world in whatever way I can. It means so much to see myself on such a great platform, breaking stereotypes and hoping to inspire more people like me to come forward and have the courage to own what’s meant to be theirs. That is why it meant a lot to me to be a part of the competition.
I had never really thought of myself as someone who would be able to make to pageants and competitions, hence being honest I haven’t followed any other pageants except for Mr. Gay India. But now I have started to work on it and will be more connected socially.
That one person I look up to
I would like to give the credit to the previous Mr. Gay India 2019 Suresh Ramdas for being my mentor in this process. I have always looked up to him and during the process of training and preparations. I tried to observe and learn as much as I could from him. After all, it was in his footsteps that I was following. There could not have been a better mentor than him.
Since we have entered the competition he has been constantly guiding and supporting us throughout the process. Not only me, but my fellow contestants have also been reaching out to him. They help me understand what is required and tell me how to prepare for the competition.
One lesson that I will always remember that he taught us is that it is not all about winning but we must also learn to enjoy the process and the opportunity that we have whatever the outcome may be.
“It is not all about winning but we must also learn to enjoy the process.”
Learning new things
Being a very simple and ordinary person as someone who has always only been involved in community activism. Many things that I had to do during my training and then during the competition were very new to me. Some of it I was learning for the first time itself. Even if it was a basic thing such as apply make-up or professional photoshoots, all of it was new for me.
Learning how to be presentable in front of the camera and why it mattered so much. The process made me realize the importance of giving time to myself. Investing more time in bettering my talents interests. It made see a different side of me that I did acknowledge fully, it brought out the more fun side of me so to say. There is just so much I had been missing out on. This opportunity made me aware of what I was missing out and that is, the time I need to give to myself. There is a lot of potential in each of us but in our day-to-day life we seem to neglect ourselves, and Mr. Gay India made me see that potential in me.
The biggest challenge
The biggest challenge for me during the competition was the talent and sports round. It has been over 15 years since I lost touch with my hobbies or even found time to practice any of them. I was so focused and committed to my work I barely made time for myself. Hence, I never really got the time or chance to continue pursuing any new interests. I did not have time to practice the talents I had.
There was a lot of preparation that has to go on before the competition. So during those weeks, when I was training for the pageant, I practiced and worked towards polishing my old talents and learning a few new ones. It was during my school days I took part in any sports activities for the last time. I had to push myself a little harder to get out of my comfort zone. And coming out from it was like starting all over again and it was a challenge in itself.
My friends and family were the ones who actually encouraged me to take part in the contest. So when they learned about my participation they were more excited about the competition than me. Also, some of them were shocked when they found out about it.
Not only my friends but also people who knew me through work and other acquaintances reached out to me. Wishing me luck and letting me know how much my participation meant to them and encourage them to take part in competitions. The messages on social media have also been so uplifting. All of their love and support made me feel like I was already a winner even before the competition really began.
Winning Mr. Gay India
The moment my name was announced I was amazed and confused at the same time. To be honest I was completely blown away by the feeling of victory and accomplishment to really acknowledge how I felt. There was so much joy I wanted to express but also felt speechless at the same time. It truly is an overwhelming experience. But most of all I feel grateful and motivated.
Mr. Gay India is a great platform for the LGBTQ community
These events are a way to open new possibilities, to make better relations and be able to contribute more to the community. It gives you a platform to put your cause or your message out to the community and others. But at the same time, it is also an opportunity for the people within the community to be heard, recognized, valued, encouraged and motivated.
There is so much talent within the community itself and there are not enough opportunities even today for us. Events like MGI, give the chance for members of my community to come forward and put out their talents, their passions and make something productive out of them. Every win and every victory will encourage us to become stronger and own our personalities more confidently.
I believe that we need to have more platforms like FSOG, where people can view or read about queer issues, updates within the community and how changes are being made. Platforms like FSOG not only help reach people of the community within the country but also internationally through online media as they are the easiest means of communication.
They help connect people from all over the world and make the community stronger. There are so people even today who have not come out to people around them and movements like these can provide them a safe space to reach out to. Also, the discussions happening makes everyone in the community feel included so that nobody is left out. It is always great to have such movements so that we can make this a safer, and caring world for all of us out there.