Reigning Mr Bear NZ, Tia Bear, has won the title of Mr Australasia Bear at the annual competition this weekend, marking another milestone in representing his communities.

Tia is the first Māori to win Mr Bear New Zealand. He is also the first Mr Bear New Zealand to win the Australasian title in seven years. He now has set his sights on Mr Bear International in Bangkok in 2025. Talking to YOUR EX he tells us:

What was the experience like of attending Southern Hibearnation in Melbourne and competing for the Mr Bear Australasia title?


My experience at Southern Hibearnation was truly spectacular, it was a lot more than I had expected. It left me with lifelong friendships and bonds which are truly a blessing. I am thankful for everyone I met. From the first event to the final round-up, it was just amazing and opened my eyes to explore new things.

How confident were you feeling before the event?

To be fair I was very nervous and anxious about the event and what lay ahead. I landed in Melbourne on the Friday around 9pm, and had a massive panic attack coming out of departures, being in a whole new city, alone at a very busy airport.

Eventually, I calmed down and found my friend who was so kind to pick me up and take me to my accommodation, still having anxiety attacks throughout the night I barely slept.

I hoped that I would represent my culture my community and my family well.

Tia Bear wins Mr Bear Australasia.

Was there a point when you started to think you were in with a good chance?

I never once had thought I had a good chance, the class this year was so high, so talented and so diverse, I knew it was going to be a great competition.

The final night of the competition was very scary, I was so nervous, especially knowing the other contestants were so deserving of the title.

There were three rounds on the final night plus individual interviews with the judging panel.

Prior to your win, what had it been like to hold the crown of Mr Bear New Zealand?

To be Crowned Mr. Bear NZ was a big wow moment for me. I have been a part of the Bear New Zealand community for 12 years now. It was a great achievement for me as it means so much to who I am and how I identify. The Bear NZ community was a place where I found myself, and found people who cared for me and loved me unconditionally.

I owe so much to my community so for me to hold this title with pride. I will do my best to bring safe spaces, diversity, and equality to our community wherever I can. And make others feel safe in a space where they may have never expected to find themselves.

Since your Mr Bear NZ win what community events have you been getting involved with?

Since my winning Mr Bear New Zealand, I have attended pride events throughout Auckland and the North Island.

I have entered into spaces and conversations to help bring diversity by celebrating my culture and body confidence.

I have also raised money for Gumboot Friday. I am passionate about mental health and suicide prevention as both are prevalent in Maori and Rainbow communities.

Now you are Mr Australasia Bear what do you hope to achieve in this role?

I have some big shoes to fill, taking the reign after such a beautiful strong soul Graeme. For me, it’s all about showing up and being present. Being a face of diversity for the Bears, and staying true to myself whilst bridging gaps and bringing up topics that may need to be addressed to make everyone feel safe and welcome.

I also want to try my best to make it to all the bear events for the Australian State Bear Competitions. See and support the new up and coming’s from each state and here at home in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

I will also be competing next year in Mr Bear International 2025 in Thailand.

Outside of ‘bear activities’ what does life look like for you?

Outside Bear activities, life is relaxed. I spend time out on our farm in Pahurehure with our horses. It is a space where I get away from the hustle and bustle and calm my soul. Being ADHD and unmedicated, I find it hard to focus or even stay still. So the horses are my calm space.

I am engaged to my loving fiancé, and I am a stepdad to his two sons. I also work as a service coordinator, having recently stepped down from being a full-time barber.

Where did you grow up and what was growing up there like for you?

I grew up in Whangarei, life growing up in the North was a lot different to the experiences my friends here in Auckland had growing up. Life was very sports-oriented, especially rugby and touch.

It was a place where there wasn’t a safe space to be queer or different.

What did your coming out journey look like?

My coming out journey for me was hard. I hid my identity and hung out with the wrong groups. I was getting myself into trouble, dropped out of school early and ran away from home at a young age. I pushed myself away from my family because I was hiding who I truly was.

After telling my parents and family, I felt free. Free to be proud of me and comfortable to be myself.

Any advice for any wannabe Mr Bears out there?

My advice is to be your true self and be confident in who you are and what you stand for. Be kind and caring to all walks of life. Be that person you wish your younger self could have had to look up to!

Follow Tia’s journey on Instagram here.