Get ready, because this final edition of Lavender After Dark’s “Quarantine Quartet” is hotter than a New York City apartment in the winter and hairier than the drain in a group shower after an Italian soccer match. For our last installment, we’re leaving our readers with a
bang GRRR! as four men from the Bear community (Pepa Mahogany, Dan Jiminez-Albistur, John-John Punki, and Kip Silva) speak about surviving during a pandemic– what they were doing before, how they’re keeping busy now, and– most importantly– the first thing they’re gonna do when the masks come off!
Pepa Mahogany, AKA Floyd Jenkins, was raised in Flint, Michigan and moved to Key West, Florida in 2007. Key West has been his home ever since. Pepa is the current reigning Mr. Key West Bear 2019. He has been profiled in Bear World Magazine several times, most recently in an article honoring healthcare workers. Enjoy my exclusive interview with Pepa Mahogany for Lavender After Dark…
JR: Hello, Pepa. Thank you for speaking with me.
PM: Hello Jed and thank you for having me on Lavender After Dark. This is a cool site and I enjoy the content, so it’s exciting to be part of it.
JR: That’s great to hear. So, what was the last social event that you attended prior to the coronavirus shutdown?
PM: The last major social event that I was at was in Las Vegas at the Colosseum in Caesar’s Palace for Mariah Carey’s “The Butterfly Returns” concert on Feb 28th. My husband and I took a short trip to Vegas to celebrate my birthday a week early. My birthday is actually in March, but it was the final days of her residency till she returned for Christmas and I really wanted to see her. The concert was awesome and we had a great time. We were in the second row right in front of the stage, and she even made eye contact with me. As a “Lamb” (what Mariah affectionately calls her fans), I was thrilled and completely in my element. She’s one of my fave singing idols so it was a dream come true. I do remember though thinking to myself as we watched the show, “I hope nobody has coronavirus up in here.”
JR: Wow! Yeah, I hear ya. The Emancipation of Mimi is still one of my favorite albums of all time! So, how are you staying busy during the pandemic?
PM: Well I’m still working, I work in healthcare so that alone has kept me busy…but on the weekends I’ll admit I’ve been a mixture of emotions with all the uncertainty and seeing all those affected by COVID-19.
I’m the current reigning Mr. Key West Bear 2019. I won back in November and this has been my first year as a title holder. I started out spending by time helping my community and fulfilling my platform. My goal was to contribute to a charity or hold an event each month of my reigning year. November was the SMART Ride where we raised money for those affected by AIDS and rode our bikes from Miami to Key West for a total of 165 miles in two days. It was an amazing experience and we raised $1.4 million! In December I started up Pepa’s Books for Tots which is a program where anyone can donate a piece of literature to a child for the holidays. It was very successful and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of that I’ve done.
January was greeting, mingling, and pouring wine to all the visiting guests that came down for the Key West Food & Wine Festival. I always help out every year and it was fun to do it as a “local celebrity” this time with my sash and all.
February was focused on the animals at the Florida Keys SPCA. After some training, I became a certified volunteer & was assigned to cat advanced behavior: That’s where we teach the cats cool tricks to help them get adopted.
Then Covid-19 happened and everything stopped!
So I found myself just doing what I can. I give patients more comfort when talking to them on the phone since I can’t see them in person, and I try to keep colleagues’ spirits up while at work. I’ve also been paying it forward by donating to different organizations such as Sister Season Fund and purchasing masks from local seamstresses that give the proceeds to those in need.
Otherwise I’ve been staying home, practicing social distancing and sleeping/watching TV.
JR: Understood! So, what’s the first thing you’re going to do when it’s time for the masks to come off?
PM: I think the first thing I’ll do is book a trip somewhere. I miss being able to travel and I definitely miss giving hugs.
Thanks again, I hope everyone is good and I’m sending big Bear hugs to you all! Stay safe! Always and forever, Pepa!
JR: Thank you from New York City!
You can visit Pepa Mahogany on Facebook
Dan Jiminez-Albistur is Mr. New York Unlimited Bear 2018 and Mr. Fire Island Bear 2017. Dan is a native New Yorker who manages a pediatric neurosurgical practice by day and moonlights as go-go Bear at night. As the first Bear to ever be nominated for the NYC GLAM Awards, he has coached and mentored others of all shapes and sizes who want to pursue dancing. He has been featured in Manhattan Digest’s “2017 Bears You Should Know”, in Bear World Magazine (Most recently in an issue honoring healthcare workers), and the online New York City nightlife magazine Thotyssey NYC. He is the creator of “Title Holders and Tiaras”- a 2019 fundraiser calendar featuring various title holders in an effort to spread inclusivity to people of all color, size, and masculinity/femininity within our community. As the director of the Mr. Fire Island Bear and the Mr. Key West Bear contests, he believes his mission to bring inclusion to the Bear community will never end. Watch this video that Dan made exclusively for Lavender After Dark:
You can visit Dan on Facebook
One of the busiest men in New York City, John-John Punki is a native New Yorker who currently lives in the East Village. He is a Leatherman, Bear, producer, and community-based political activist. John-John boasts the twin Titles of Mr. Rockbear 2015 and Mr. Eagle NYC 2017 and is Volunteer Coordinator at The Urban Bear. He has been profiled by many LGBTQ publications for his philanthropic and nightlife endeavors. One of John-John’s initiatives is to keep the community aware of current events and, more importantly, what we can all do to help on a daily basis. He has recently increased these efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit New York City especially hard. John-John’s most recent project is Punki’s Corner — a live Instagram Q&A series where he highlights various members of the LGBTQ+ and Leather communities. You can watch this video that John-John made exclusively for Lavender After Dark:
You can follow John-John on Facebook or Instagram.
Brooklyn native Kip Silva is the founder of and the designer for KStraps, a New York City-based vegan leather company. Silva started KStraps when noticed a high demand for fetish wear for bigger guys– but sadly, far fewer options. On December 18, 2019, KStraps held the very first bear fetish wear fashion show to be presented at Rockbar. He has been profiled in Bear World Magazine. In addition to making sexy gear that works equally well in the bedroom and at the “after hours” club, Kip took the initiative of designing custom-made face masks as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. PPE never looked so… FABULOUS! Kip also a major foodie who loves sharing gourmet recipes on social media. Check out this exclusive video that Kip Silva made for Lavender After Dark…
Check out some of Kip’s amazing face mask designs:
You can visit Kip on Facebook and see the KStraps page on Instagram here.