A 35-year-old American school teacher, who had seemed the odd man out among professional dancers and models, was chosen Mr Gay Hong Kong 2013 by a panel of judges as well as voters with his pledge to found a non-profit organization for Asia’s marginalized LGBT community.
Morrill, who has been living in Asia for over a decade, was described by the organizers of the five-year-old event as being on a “powerful mission to shed light on the realities of people living with HIV”.
He has volunteered with several non-profit organizations, the work ranging from green rooftop gardening to poverty reduction campaigns.
Morrill pipped four other finalists, including the favorite, 23-year-old Tommy Leung, a professional dancer who draws his inspiration from Lady Gaga, at a gala in Armani Privé in Hong Kong Saturday and will now represent Hong Kong at the Mr Gay World in Rome in 2014.
‘This may be the end of my reign, but for me this is just the beginning of my journey to inspire more youth and to fight for equality and gay rights,’ said Benjie Caraig, Mr Gay Hong Kong 2012, relinquishing his title.
Caraig had been the first runner-up at the Mr Gay World 2013 in Antwerp, Belgium in August.
‘Thank you to everyone who voted, came out to support and helped put together Mr Gay Hong Kong 2013,’ Morrill said after being declared the winner.
‘All I can say is thank you, and watch out, because boy, have I got some stories to tell! Thank you and good night.’
Last month, the finalists and others had braved a super typhoon, Usagi, to turn up for the penultimate round of the contest with the theme ‘There’s more than one way to be a man’.
Mr Gay Hong Kong 2013 will be the ambassador of an LGBT cause or charity as well as the Red Ribbon Ambassador working with AIDS Concern of Hong Kong to raise awareness about HIV prevention and promote safer sex in the LGBT community.
He will be also featured in Hong Kong’s LGBT magazine Dim Sum and take stewardship of Tongzhi Tsai, the Mr Gay Hong Kong Organization’s campaign against homophobic bullying in schools.
The Mr Gay Hong Kong event is remarkable for the participation of non-Chinese expatriates with the title sometimes going to them.
Caraig is from the Philippines. In 2009, when the event started, Rick Twombley, a fitness professional from Atlanta, became the first Mr Gay Hong Kong.
Leung, the first runner-up, was also voted Mr Popularity and best in the swimwear and formal wear rounds.
Anthony Pura, the second runner-up, is a 29-year-old model.