By: Al Ballesteros
Photos by: Joseph Frigo

Jose Lopez Duvont of Puerto Rico is the reigning Mr. Gay World and was crowned in November 2022 winning the international competition held in South Africa. Lopez Duvont is the first Latino and first competitor from the Americas to win the Mr. Gay World pageant. Jose is an actor and model and won awards at the pageant for Best National Costume, Best Swimwear, being the most Photogenic, and the Social Media Impact Award.

Mr. Gay World is an annual contest for gay men, and it seeks to establish ambassadors for LGBTQIA+ and human rights causes, with winners of national contests competing as delegates in a variety of categories.

As part of the competition, Jose presented a social impact project to address the body dysmorphia he suffered from as a child, and to promote healthy lifestyles within the LGBTIQ + communities. Body dysmorphia is a serious condition that affects the general community and perhaps the LGBTQ community even more. We spoke to Jose about his mission to address body dysmorphia and other conditions which affect the gay community as well as his involvement in the Mr. Gay World competition and holding the title as the first Latino.

Adelante: How is it being Mr. Gay World?
Jose Lopez: The Mr. Gay World title changed my life tremendously. It provides me with a vehicle to impact the lives of others with my message of self-improvement through my Bodydismorphia platform that covers conditions such as bulimia, anorexia and obesity. These are conditions I experienced and was able to overcome.

The title is a huge responsibility because I’m now an ambassador and spokesperson for the causes I’m passionate about. I needed to be in the competition, stand on the stage and tell the world, look at me, I was once obese. I once stuttered and today I am standing here. This title allows me to provide visibility to our community and tell the world that love is not bad, hate is. Mr. Gay World is more than a beauty pageant that exalts the gay man, it is a vehicle to reach many lives in need of encouragement.

Adelante: Has the title helped your community work?
Jose Lopez: This title has allowed me to go places I could not have gone without the crown. Mr. Gay World has given me a much-needed boost to get closer to people, to help them. Mr. Gay World has been an educational experience and I’m learning more about our community living in various parts of the world. It has helped me reach and hopefully save people who may be suicidal, and to help encourage hope in others who lost it due to rejection, their sexual orientation or gender identity. The title also provides an international voice which I am fortunate to utilize for the good of the community. It’s about being a spokesperson, being an ambassador for good, not just in the LGBTQ community, but for all communities.

Adelante: How is it being crowned Mr. Gay World 2022 as a Latino gay man?
Jose Lopez: It means a lot. Even more than being the first Latino to achieve this title in 14 years, it is the satisfaction of knowing that dreams can be achieved. I’ve experienced how people inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community have help me become more confident. I’m very much appreciative of that.

Adelante: How has your community in Puerto Rico and friends in general reacted or taken this world title?
Jose Lopez: I remember that night when I won with great joy. Friends and the community in Puerto Rico demonstrated their support and joy when the news went viral in all parts of the world. When I was crowned, Puerto Rico shined because this was a team effort. I never imagined that I would be covered in important news and social media. I never imagined arriving in your country and being received just as you would receive Miss Universe.

Adelante: Tell us more about your community work.
Jose Lopez: Before winning the contest, I had already dedicated my time to volunteering at shelters for abused children, in addition to working on my platform Bodydismorphya. I give talks and guidance through social networks to people with eating disorders, suicide attempts and other conditions. I am proud to know that I have saved some young people, we have even found homes for young people abandoned by their parents because of their sexual orientation.

I am also an ambassador for MISTR working in HIV prevention. MISTR is a resource that brings doctors, pharmacists, and problem solvers together to make PrEP available to all who need it. I work on weekly newsletters focused on education and mental health on social networks and the internet. In addition, I run a gym and help people with obesity and other health conditions to improve their lifestyle.

Adelante: What was it like growing up gay in Puerto Rico? How was your childhood and your family around this topic?
Jose Lopez: Well, today growing up gay in Puerto Rico is very open and there are a lot of community resources for help, although there is still a long way to go. But in the past, it was not like this. I had to hide in the closet and be someone I wasn’t. This caused me to have a girlfriend and pretend to be different. I was very afraid that my parents would reject me, every time my mom saw me with a girlfriend, she was happy, and at that time that made me happy. I lived like this until I was 19 years old, when my father told me, “Your happiness is my happiness”, you are the light of my eyes, and I am going to love you just the way you are. From then, I began to live halfway out, and when I turned 26 years I finally opened up to the world and accepted my orientation publicly, in a world still in the midst of learning about the subject.

Adelante: It is reported that you suffered from body dysmorphia as a child. Can you share a bit more about what you were dealing with?
Jose Lopez: When I was 12, I was obese. At school I was bullied because of my weight, orientation, and speech impediment. I had anorexia and bulimia, to the point of attempting suicide on three occasions. I would hide in the library to avoid being teased. I would look at myself in the mirror and hate myself. People told me that I would never achieve my dreams of being a model or an actor. They told me to kill myself. Because of all this, I really came to despise myself.

To be accepted by society, I became skinny due to anorexia. In those days, it was taboo or a sign of weakness to talk about problems such as obesity, anorexia, depression, and other mental health conditions, especially when one may be afraid, they’ll find out you’re gay. The help was very limited, since I had limited resources. I had to remain silent and hold on till something changed.

One day I was on my way to end my “hell”, but I saw a gym, and something told me to go and enter. I took refuge in the exercises, and I learned to love myself as I was. Today I can say that exercise saved my life and now I can take this message to the world that if you’re struggling with this, you can get control and move ahead. I don’t regret what happened to me, because thanks to that experience, today I am able to understand this and relate to others and save lives through my story.

Adelante: Do you think body dysmorphia is a problem faced by many young people or people in general? Do you think this condition is more prevalent in the LGBTQ community, and if so, why?
Jose Lopez: Body dysmorphia is a mental illness that encompasses anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorders and many more conditions. It is also a type of obsessive-compulsive and related disorder that “pushes” people to seek perfection. This disease is much more common than we think and one of the reasons for high suicide rates in young people. Social media plays a role in this issue. We know that networks sell perfection for the most part and many young people want that, and they don’t care about the consequences. Today there are many challenges to losing weight, for example. These challenges can put one’s life in danger.

In the LGBTQ+ community body dysmorphia is very prevalent, and I can say it’s a little more delicate because we must add the forces of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the mix. There is persecution in many countries where homosexuality is punishable by death and a lack of education about the issue makes the issue more sensitive. There are no statistics where it is verified that in the gay community it is more prevalent, but I attest that it is. I say this because I have seen more recurring cases in the LGBTQ+ community.

Adelante: What advice do you have for those suffering from body dysmorphia?
Jose Lopez: Today, thank God, there is a lot of help that can be obtained even on the internet. Our knowledge of the problem is greater, which helps us to make things easier.

There are centers in many places trained to help. No matter your economic status, you can get help and if you don’t know how, I AM HERE TO HELP YOU. Thanks to the magic of social media, I have taken my Body Dysmorphia platform to every corner of the world, helping hundreds to move forward. But if you have access to professional help, it is the best option. Love yourself as you are… But seek help.

Adelante: What do you recommend for people who are being bullied? Inform adults or authorities?
Jose Lopez: I always say violence is not the weapon to defend yourself. Nelson Mandela once said: “The most powerful weapon in the world is education”. Society must be educated and teach that love does no harm, hate does. It sometimes is important to notify an adult or the authorities depending on the severity. Today, thank God, we live in a world where there are laws that help us. You are not alone.

Adelante: How is your career as a model and actor going?
Jose Lopez: Thank God it’s going very well. I’m currently in theater school and recording short films. One of my biggest television projects will be the series G Horizont, the first Gay Puerto Rican series to be released on streaming in the world. In this series I will be one of the protagonists and without a doubt it will establish my acting career. This series is scheduled to start filming at the end of the year and it will be very hot. As for modeling, I’m appearing in many fashion magazines around the world.

Adelante: What are your long-term plans?
Jose Lopez: My eyes are on the big screen and that is why I study theater and cinema on the island. In 10 years, I hope to be in the movies with an Oscar in hand and I only ask God to continue giving me a voice, to continue doing what I know, to help and serve.

Adelante: Are you in a relationship? Would you mind sharing with our readers a little information about this?
Jose Lopez: I have been in a beautiful relationship for almost two years. In my life, he is responsible for everything, and I mean everything. I love him with all me and he is my compliment. Without a doubt, I was very lucky to meet him along the way. In part, I am who I am because of my partner.

Adelante: There are a lot of “anti-gay” and “anti-trans” attacks by government and community groups in the United States right now. Why do you think this is happening and what can the LGBTQ community do to fight these anti-LGBTQ attacks?
Jose Lopez: What we are experiencing is very sad. We are supposed to advance each year. It seems every day they put walls up for us instead of bridges. It is sad to see the state of Florida going backwards in their recent laws and it hurts to see our brothers and sisters in the community experience that. It is sad to see how the gun laws in the United States create harm. Also, fear in the community is due to homophobia and transphobia. The conservative side is promoting hatred, and suggesting proper education on the subject would negatively influence children, which is incorrect. This is an erroneous message, creating a panic button. There is still hope at least in the presidency and I hope that the United States does not become a Nigeria, where homosexuality can be a death sentence.

We are fighting for our rights every day. When there is something major, we take to the streets by the thousands to create change and address the issue. It is ironic that today we must do that for basic rights, like just living in peace. We still see efforts by the government towards the positive, by the community in general, more of our presence on television, and even more support from the heterosexual community. So, not all is lost. We can’t give up.

You can follow Jose Lopez Duvont on Instagram at @joselopezpr.