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Riot Bear seeks to change what defines beauty
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Joe Franco
2018-01-23

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The new year brings about resolutions from many of us. It is not uncommon to see others devoted to losing weight or finally getting in shape or giving up alcohol. Often, most of us simply fail.

That doesn't mean that hope is lost. James Anthony, the editor-in-chief of RiotBear.com, thinks that the answer is not more squats but less judgment—and his website is seeking to redefine the concept of male beauty for not just gay men but also the straight community.

"Beauty is not a rigid thing," said Anthony. "Beauty is really about attitude. This is about men who have style, personal beauty, a sense of fashion and taste. Ultimately, this is about walking the line between being over sexualized and elegance or coolness. I get very close to that line."

Riot Bear is the phoenix from the ashes of Anthony's former blog of the same name. He began keeping the blog after gaining more than 60 pounds. "I had gained a lot of weight. I was living in our world with a new silhouette and I needed to learn to deal with that in a positive way. I finally understood what body dysmorphia was," said Anthony.

He eventually lost most of the weight but from his experience he no longer believed in the traditional gay man's definition of what made a beautiful person. "What I wanted to do at Riot Bear was cast other people, people who maybe some of us wouldn't normally look at, as beautiful. These are men who are not always part of the 'mainstream' but men who are empowered by looking and being different from everyone else. It is a new standard of beauty," said Anthony.

Anthony said he finds Riot Bears all over the world. While the Riot Bear aesthetic is still amorphous and privy to Anthony alone, a look and feeling does begin to emerge. "I find models everywhere. I look on Instagram. I get submissions. I talk to photographers who know someone. I'm boy-crazy in general so I am always looking at men," said Anthony. "Riot Bear has some guys who are fit and maybe even pretty, but there is always a story behind the man."

This is true. Any visitor to RiotBear.com can see that the focus is twofold—there are the images and then there is the story. "I naturally come across diversity. These men are just in my solar system and I am lucky. They are like-minded. Working out of Brooklyn affords me that kind of experience," said Anthony.

Currently, RiotBear.com seems very Brooklyn-centered. However, not all of the men live there. "I try to catch the men while they are in town. Not everyone is from Brooklyn but almost everyone is photographed in New York. Perhaps in the future, we can enlarge that," said Anthony. It is the future, which seems to intrigue Anthony the most.

RiotBear.com may have humble beginnings but that is not the plan for what comes next. "I want photo shoots about anything, maybe not just people. I would also like to see Riot Bear partner with more companies and designers," he said. "I would love to get into video tutorials or vlogs on style or fashion."

Most notable are plans to offer curated events centered around "bear culture" although Anthony said he dislikes the pervasive use of that term. "What about the other woodland creatures? I get it, bear has some irony but some guys who maybe do not fit the idea of a bear are still bears in their own right," he said. "Even straight men are getting into this. The bear idea and the RiotBear aesthetic is more about a headspace—a headspace that has mutual respect and love of each other."

Ultimately, Riot Bear is about body pride and sexual liberation. "We need a space to discuss the serious stuff, too. We should be able to open up and talk about the issues modern gay men face, not just the idea of body pride or sex but everything," said Anthony. Riot Bear encourages showing some skin and showing off your body no matter what your size or shape or woodland animal of choosing. "I think showing off your body with pride, the one you have right now, is more radical than showing a dick pic," he added.

Anthony hopes that his style, albeit somewhat confrontational, can help others loosen up a bit. "All of this comes down to seeking your own happiness and your own validation," he said. "We should tell ourselves a different narrative. It is up to each one of us to see ourselves in a greater light and push through that darkness."

For more information, visit RiotBear.com .


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