Joe Mannetti, 49
New London, Connecticut
Mr. International Daddy Bear 2009
Holder of numerous bear-pageant titles—including Mr. Southern California Cub 2006, Mr. Los Angeles Bear 2008 and Mr. Southern California Bear 2008—Joe Mannetti has long been a community fixture. An actor, public speaker, counselor and activist, his philanthropic pursuits include raising money for the trans community, addiction-recovery services and people with AIDS.
Mannetti first gained notoriety in the early 2000s as bear porn star Joe Falconi (a gig that cost him his job with with Gays and Lesbians Initiating Dialogue for Equality, ironically). More recently, Mannetti has popped up in indie films like 2010’s BearCity and 2011’s The Summer of Massacre. While initially reluctant to compete in bear contests, Mannetti says the opportunity to raise money and awareness for LGBT organizations was enough to make him give it a shot. “Putting the spotlight on something bigger than our furry pecs was what motivated me,” he notes. “Although there’s no denying that I worked out hard before each contest!”
As for his insider’s take on the world of bear pageants? “It’s all glamour, fame, fur, sex, and backstabbing worthy of the crappiest reality show,” he shares. “Seriously, I think that a title, in and of itself, represents nothing. It’s what the individual chooses to do with the spotlight that any title offers them that make it stand for something.”