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Interview Pieter van Aken, Mister Bear The Netherlands 2019

by Norbert Splint in Scene , 08 March 2020

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
length: 6 minuten

Pieter van Aken is also known as Pieter Bear and is forty-eight years old. He lives and was born in The Hague and is a master painter. Currently, he focuses more on restoring the paintwork of old barrel organs for museums and collectors.

He is leading an artist’s life, but despite of his busy schedule, he found the time to talk to us.

How did you get involved in the bear scene, and not, for instance, the leather scene or the BDSM crowd? Or do you alternate scenes?
Pieter: “I ended up in the bear scene because what happened at a Pride or Queen’s Day on the Amstel in Amsterdam, around 2005. In those days, I had a thin beard and my shirt was half open. I was trying to stand out among the beer-drinking crowd. I felt slightly out of place with my soft drink, and didn’t really connect. Acquaintances of mine were in the vicinity, but I found their comments judgemental and vicious. That sort of humor is not my kind of humor, I remember thinking.”

Pieter va Aken, photo (c) Different by Suus“All of a sudden, I saw Jan. Jan is an ex of my ex and is cosy and huggable, and has experience in life. He said: ‘You are at the wrong place here; you should go to the bridge.’ I asked him what he meant by that and he answered: ‘You should go to the bears bridge!’ He pointed to the bridge some sixty meters away. There were indeed some men I liked. I immediately thought: what a revelation! They were large, hairy, approachable, cuddly and within a minute I was talking to Henk, who later became Mister Bear Netherlands 2016 and Mister Bear Europe 2017.”

“It took years before I truly became involved with the bear scene. I was more into the sauna and going out to places where you could have a conversation. There was no question of dance parties, I always shouted that I did not like that kind of music, and dancing to it seemed the last thing on my mind. It turned out to be insecurity. I was always trying to get thin, because I thought wearing tight T-shirts was cool. I was popular enough, but that uncertainty continued to gnaw at me. Until a friend brought me to a small dance party in Belgium. There also was a darkroom and a play room... and there and then the bear in me was literally turned loose!”

“From that moment on I was less insecure about my body and went to Bear-Necessity and Furball. As a result, I gradually started to collect and wear more leather. When, through my good friend Simon, I was asked to take part in a photoshoot for bears at Suzanne van de Laar in Almere, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place after seeing the results. It did, however, take another year before I was ready to sign up for the Mister Bear election.”

How did you experience the election last year? I understood that the bears were quite diverse. Did you scratch each other’s eyes too, as is the case with other Mister and Miss elections?
“I experienced last year’s election in a very relaxed way, I was ‘zen’ with myself that I just loved taking part. The other two candidates were also relaxed, perhaps it is typical of bears: we are not scratching each other’s eyes out. It was a great team: a beautiful Arabian bear, a beautiful muscle bear and myself, a Dutch, down-to-earth bear. The election night was very exciting, we ended very close in terms of points.”

What happened after you won? Did you do a grand tour? Participate with demonstrations, perhaps? Pray tell!
“The first weeks after the victory were still relatively quiet. I did an interview for RTL about bear fetish, and slowly, the meetings and parties started. The Commemoration of the Dead at the Homomonument in Amsterdam was very impressive and special. I attended the wreath-laying ceremony of Axe (Mister Leather Netherlands 2019) and his partner Robin, who laid a wreath on behalf of the fetish community.”

“One of my goals was: to be visible! During the Pride season I attended almost all major Dutch Prides except Leeuwarden, Alkmaar and Venlo. I visited the Pink Wednesday with Henk Heijenga during the Four Day Walking Event in Nijmegen, on my bear clogs and with a pink beard and sash, and I walked the last part of the route with a pink dolphin balloon. We were the most striking and photographed couple that day!”

“I also walked Pride Walks. Often, these were quite emotional. It is good to see this phenomenon growing in the Netherlands. I would like to see my successors continue this. Not just partying every week, but also commitment to acceptance, equality and diversity. I was able to experience the Amsterdam Pride on a beautiful boat from ‘De Hollandse Uitvaart,’ alongside Mister Puppy Netherlands, Mister Rubber Netherlands and Mister Sportswear. We were literally in the centre of attention; we could not have wished for more visibility! I was also a member of the jury at the Belgian bear contest and in Antwerp at the Mister Boots fetish election. Furthermore, I was a guest of honor in Paris at the Monsieur Ours election.”

What, in your opinion, are the criteria a Mister Bear should meet? Are there any do’s and don’ts ?
“I think Mister Bear should not or hardly have a political preference. Be careful in expressing yourself on social media and be open to the other communities within the rainbow flag. Also visit these communities, if possible. Not being judgmental and huggable for everyone.”

“One of my goals, for instance, was to build bridges. We now also have a chat group called RUSF - the Rainbow United Sash Family - so all title holders in the Netherlands keep each other informed of events and where it is important to appear. Last December in Amsterdam in the Westerkerk, we, as title holders, have raised money for homeless GLBTI youth. I was there with Ms. Travestie, Mister & Ms. Leather, Mister Sportswear and Mister Bootblack International. Isn’t that great?”

Is there something you want to change about the bear scene - or the entire GLBT+ scene? Or: what should stay the same?
“After stepping down, I will continue to actively assist in the community. I would like to see us working together within the Netherlands, but also more with our European neighbors: after all, we are one big rainbow family. Because I often dress in leather and feel comfortable in it, I was told a number of times that I was not representative of the bear scene. That is nonsense of course. I am a leather bear and the next Mister may not like it and have a different style. Bears are very diverse, of all colors and styles. The colors of the Bear Flag are also the colors of the hair that bears have. Did you know?”

Mister Bear The Netherlands 2020-Election is part of the Amsterdam Bear Weekend, and will be held during Bear Ball in Club Panama, Amsterdam, Saturday, March 21 2020. More info & tickets:

UPDATE: Because of corona-measures, where gatherings for over 100 people are not allowed, the Amsterdam Bear Weekend is postponed to a date later this year.



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