|Mike Prater, Mr. Mid-West Leather 2011|
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – I had the great privilege to sit down with and interview Mr. Mid-West Leather 2011, Mike Prater. We talked about his title and his perception of the leather/kink community in his small town. Talking with Mike, about how being a titleholder was a life-changing experience and how connections made with others in the community during his title year have forged deep and profound friendships that will last a lifetime. I was genuinely moved by these pronouncements. As I talked with him, it made me yearn to be a part of this incredible family of friends. After all, like many leathermen/women, I am a sentimental sap and I respond well to emotional triggers.
Here is his interview:
Paul: Tell me about yourself, when did you into leather?
Mike: We are talking a long time ago, probability when I was 29 or 30, so we are looking about 26 or 27 years ago. I stumbled upon a Drummer magazine, I was fascinated by the pictures I saw. It was the SMBD aspect of it, there wasn’t a lot of bondage in there but there was a lot of SMBD in there. Then I moved to Evansville (Ind., from Owensboro, Ky.) and there was a small Leather group here. I became fixated with this group. It was years after that I gradually became a main player, and then I meet The Conductors (a leather group from Nashville, Tenn.). I went to their second leather run in Nashville, Tenn., and I just stumbled on it actually. It is the whole smell of the leather, the way it looks, if it is tailored right, there is something so masculine about leather and just expanded for me over the last 27 years.
Paul: What are your kinks/fetishes?
Mike: You know when you get online I get that question a lot, people are curious, sometimes I say it is easier to say what I am not into. As far as kinks and fetishes, my kink is different than your kink but sometimes I don’t consider some things kinky, I consider it foreplay, because if you do it so much it is no longer kinky. I don’t consider water sports kinky, I don’t consider flogging that kinky any more or spanking, because it is my foreplay. If I had to pick one major kink/fetish it would be breath control. I kind of live by a model that your pain is my pleasure.
Paul: I recently saw a poster of yours that showed you with two leather puppies. Is puppy play an interest for you?
Mike: Yes, I am interested, but there is more to it then I thought. It is more than just a tail sticking out of the ass and a rolled up newspaper. I did attend a class at CLAW to see about being a handler. It’s a work in progress.
Paul: What does a leatherman mean to you?
Photo by Paul Brown
Mike at International Mr. Leather 34.
Mike: To me it is very sexual, very masculine and exudes confidence. Now leathermen have changed and we do a lot of charity work. You know a fundraiser doesn’t get me hard (more evil grins and a laugh).
Paul: How is the leather/kink in your area?
Mike: (pauses) Well, considering I live in a small town, it’s hidden but it’s here, we have munch club here, so it is more pansexual then it is anything else. It’s here, but subdued, people are coming out but they are hard to find. Of course, I have a group of friends that are more into kink that I do not play with.
Paul: Have you ever thought about trying to revive the leather community in Evansville and if so how?
Mike: Well, I have been in contact with the local bars about doing a leather contest. I have tried to get the leather community to take over a bar. When I go out to the bar with my friends, we are always in leather. I also have thrown a CLAW nation fundraiser with great success.
Paul: What made you run for a leather title and why?
Mike: Once again, years ago when I was looking at Drummer magazine I became aware of IML. Now I was interested in it and then of course, I saw these pictures of all these beautiful men. You find out you belong to a certain section and you want to be there but you never thought about the title you just knew there was a contest. As the years progressed, it was always in the background, while doing things with the Leather community and I decided to step forward. I had thought about it for years and this isn’t something I just all of sudden I decided to do. We are talking 2003 or maybe 2004 that I had the idea that maybe I would do something. One the reasons people run for a title is that they have a message and they want to get it out. That is one of the ways to it, their platform shall we say and to step up as a leader of the community or as an ambassador. So maybe all along I had that goal and never realized it.
Paul: How has being Mr. Mid-West Leather changed you?
Mike: I see a lot of camaraderie in the leather community. I have always felt like I had a leather family but when I became Mr. Mid-West, there was more of a bond. As far as sex went, I had less sex as a titleholder then I did when I wasn’t, I was too busy working with the community. I found out I was busier with the community. The higher you get the more work you have, that is what I believe so I used it to get out the message I had and talk about leather and maybe mentoring someone who is coming into leather. So it really did not change me, it allowed me to take what was inside and bring it out.
Paul: How do you want people to remember you as a titleholder?
Mike: I don’t necessarily want people to remember as a titleholder, I want people to remember me as a person. When they think of me, I want them to think of something good that I had said to them, maybe words of encouragement or something that made them smile, like I said, not as a titleholder but as a person. The titleholder doesn’t make you, you make the title. If you believe that the title makes you, then when you give up your title the following year, then you believe you are nothing. That is simply not true.
Paul: Do you think leather titles are still relevant and why?
Mike: Yes, you know I understand a lot of people look at it and think it is a little narcissistic or they think that it is a pageant, maybe a pretty boy circuit, trusts me I am not a pretty boy. I think of a titleholder as an ambassador of his community. We are links to other leather communities. We share ideas, knowledge and community spirit.
Paul: Tell me about your experience at IML?
Photo by Paul Brown
Mike: Well, a lot of work. I was a good contestant till the last night. (yet another evil grin and laugh) I became very close with everyone there the class of XXXIV, the camaraderie we had made it all worthwhile. I know that is cliché but, I was living the dream, it was so surreal. When I stepped up on the stage, it was exciting and nerve racking.
Paul: How has competing for IML changed you?
Mike: It has opened me up a little more to the leather community, sometimes at my age we become a little jaded. When I watch some of the young ones come in that need guidance, makes me want to get out and help a little more and I kind of see some of these young ones feel as I do with no one to talk too. Some of the older ones you want to get know a bit more, it’s like finding lost family. Maybe it is like going to a family reunion with people you don’t know. Then you discover them and want to stay in contact. So it opened me up a bit more to the Leather community perhaps. I am still me that hard ass leatherman but as for inside with the leather family. (pauses) It is like a straight family – A mother and father and they are having a child, watching it being born. If you never have been though that, when you go to the leather community and see all these young people coming out in the leather community to discover, what you discovered 20 some odd years ago. There is a sense of belonging. Does that make sense?
Paul: Yes it does, it makes prefect sense to me.
Mike: So that is probably it.
Paul: What advise do you have for someone running for a leather title?
Mike: Be focused, know what you want, be in control and know your leather. If you want to run for a title, you need to know why you are running for one. You have to know what you are going to do with that title. If are going in for simply narcissistic reasons, you are wrong. As part of the leather community, it is sexual but it changed in the ‘80s. So when the leather community stepped up, not only we about sex, we also about our community.
Paul: Thank you for your time and is there anything you want leave with everyone?
Mike: Remember one thing, when you are out working in the community, never forget to have fun.