After rigorous competition, Mr Gay South Africa 2012/13 was announced recently. We caught up with the sparkling young 23-year-old Jason Rogers to talk to him about what it feels like to be considered South Africa's ultimate gay man, and what he plans to do with his new responsibilities in the future.
1. Firstly, how does it feel to be given the title Mr Gay South Africa?
It's unbelievable! So much work has gone into this, and since being announced as the winner, there has been so much support from the community. I hope to carry the title with pride and responsibility.
2. Could you give a brief description of what the pageant entails and the competition you were up against?
The aim of Mr. Gay South Africa is to find the best person possible as an ambassador; someone who not only is physically appealing and sporty, but who is smart, caring about the community and someone who lives a healthy lifestyle, someone the community can look up to. I feel honoured to be chosen as this person but at the end of the day I'm still just Jason. I want people to be inspired and see that it doesn't matter where you come from, if you work hard you can achieve anything.
The competitors were all amazing, all deserving of their place as a finalist each with strong aspects and an individual. During this whole event there was never really a frontrunner, all were such great individuals and we formed great friendships with each other. All doing great work in the community, just being a finalist they helped make a difference, my words to them and everyone else is - you don't need a title to make a difference.
3. What's the first thing on your to-do list as the new Mr GSA?
First on the list is sleep and a really big piece of chocolate cake… after months of salad we will let it slide this one time! But in all seriousness, I'm going to take time to plan my actions to make differences in the community. With good planning anything can be obtained. I'm going to continue with my work through the charities as this was something I really enjoyed and will be looking into new areas to reach the youth, so watch this space! Also from here I am going to focus on preparations for Mr Gay World to do the best I can and make South Africa proud.
4. What do you hope to achieve in your year of reign?
There are two main focuses that I want to concentrate on during this year, and they are the struggling youth of this country. Everybody deserves to be love, we were made this way for a reason and they need to know that. The other focus will be on the African communities where homosexuality is not tolerated and for which humans are being murdered - for something they cannot change [being gay], in these areas correctional rapes occure which we as a community cannot accept. Through all these works I hope to inspire the LGTBI community to stand together and promote unity.
5.What is your advice to other LGBTI on achieving their dreams in a world that's not always so understanding/accepting?
Love yourself and accept who you are, if you have this, there is nothing you can't achieve. Believe in yourself; you were made with power, character and the will to achieve so use it. Respect who you are as an individual and know there will be those in the world that struggle to accept it. Forgive them for the ignorance and never let them bring you down. You are stronger than bigotry so never give up.
6. Can you tell us about any moment during the whole competition that stands out for you?
The entire journey has been amazing, there were really so many great points.
In terms of tasks and activities the one I enjoyed the most was the horse riding - Dullstroom has been blessed with such beauty and tranquillity, it was a great way to take a pause and appreciate what we have during this hectic time.
The response to the charity work also stood out as so many people opened their hearts to make a difference in the world, similar to this was the response to my coming out story, receiving messages of gratitude, it gave me the strength to go on and do more knowing there are people out there who need it.
On an intellectual level I had a conversation with Brian that I will always remember about interpretation of translations of the scriptures and about a paper he wrote during his studies in theology.
7. How will you be spending Christmas and New Year?
Unfortunately being in the medical field I will be working through December, but on those specific days, it will be spent with friends and family here in Pretoria. They helped to make me the man I am today and are my support group. I wouldn't be here without them.