Thursday, September 30, 2004


Local model and athlete Michael Lunde will travel to New York in December to see if he will be Mr. Gay.com.

‘Makaha Boi’

Michael Lunde outgrows his anonymous
screen name to become a finalist in the
national search for Mr. Gay.com

Michael Lunde is ready for his close-up. Ever since he was named the U.S. and Canadian region winner and one of five finalists in the Mr. Gay.com 2004 contest, his profile has shot up on a popular Web site that reportedly has more than 3 million members around the world.

Lunde candidly admits, "This story might be a shock to some of my beach buddies in Makaha and guys I play basketball with."

It's not because he's been in the closet -- Lunde came out to his family and closest friends 3 1/2 years ago, and the 25-year-old, 6-foot-1 model and athlete, while not one to flaunt his "gayness," is very much involved in the local gay community.

It's just that he's not your usual star-struck publicity seeker. His involvement in the Mr. Gay.com contest, he says, "was strictly on a whim. I decided to throw my name in there and see what happened. I use the Web site to meet people. It's not just personals, but it also provides all kinds of info. I figure around 300 to 400 local gays can be found at any time in the chat rooms."

Gay.com is the flagship Web site of San Francisco-based PlanetOut Inc. Its marketing report states that upward of 30,000 people are in chat rooms at peak times, around 4 million post profiles and accompanying photos, and the site attracts up to 6,000 new members daily from the international LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) community.

In addition to chat rooms, the site offers a business and resource center, backing up Gay.com's claim of it being "a 'gay culture primer' for the uninitiated."

Lunde, previously known only as "mikallangelo" and "makaha boi" to his Gay.com buddies, will join regional winners from Perth, Australia; Cologne, Germany; Madrid, Spain; and London in New York City in early December to find out who wins the $25,000 grand prize. Online voting by members ends tomorrow.

"When I entered, I didn't expect to win the U.S. and Canada regional," Lunde said. "I never once campaigned -- members just went to my profile on the Web site. Local members probably recognized my name."

Lunde has worked through the ranks of Jack Law's Pacific Bar Associates. Employed at Law's gay Waikiki landmark, Hula's Bar and Lei Stand, he started as a server, then moved up to bartender, manager and then manager of promotion and sales.

These days, he mainly supports himself with modeling jobs. While he's done some local work, as a member of the Seattle Model Guild, most of his work takes place in the Pacific Northwest, where he's done work with such high-profile clients as Nike and Nordstrom.

"I believe in the right to love who you want, marry whoever you want. The saying on a popular T-shirt, 'Marriage is a human right, not a heterosexual privilege,' is what I believe," says Michael Lunde, Mr. Gay.com candidate.

SO WHAT does Lunde reveal in his profile? Well, he loves Neil Diamond, his flirtatious personality is his best attribute, he considers himself a Christian and a "homebody/nester," and he has no tattoos or piercings.

"I tend not to speak strongly about anything, and although I may feel strongly about some things, I pretty much stay nonconfrontational and respectful of others."

Lunde states that "my views are my own," and his circumstances in accepting his homosexuality are strictly his own as well. "For instance, me coming out right away to my family -- telling them I wanted to experience dating men -- for some people, it may not be right for them. My father told me that he still wants grandkids, and I want kids, too, one day.

"I've gone through a lot, and I admit I don't have answers to everything. But it was important that I embraced the change and show a good face. I believe in the right to love who you want, marry whoever you want. The saying on a popular T-shirt, 'Marriage is a human right, not a heterosexual privilege,' is what I believe.

"I want to live my life to the best of my ability and not end up feeling bad for myself."

Lunde's learning to handle his popularity with a level head. He jokes that he now "wants to be the next governor of New Jersey," not having to worry about outing himself like James McGreevey, who resigned after revealing his adulterous affair with a male state employee.

Lunde will be the cover subject for the national gay lifestyle magazine Instinct later this year. And while the bulk of the magazine's photos tend to be beefcake in approach, Lunde promises "no Speedos."

Since his parents' divorce when he was 3, Lunde "pingpongs between my father here and my mother in Chicago."

He went to Pearl City High School for a time, finishing his schooling in Chicago, where it appeared he was the perfect big man on campus -- an all-star shooting guard and captain of his basketball team and senior prom king.

While working with Law, Lunde started a local gay softball team. "I'm still a jock at heart," he said.

Lunde got his start in modeling when his mother (who did some apparel work for the Chicago Bears catalog) took him to her agent's office. "When I first got my feet into it, it was more for fun. I originally thought this is not for me, along with the stigma of being a guy model. I became more serious when I moved to Seattle for a time."

Lunde remains low-key and "very family-oriented."

That certainly came into play under tragic circumstances when his younger brother, Jesse, was killed in a traffic accident in Chicago at the same time he learned he had won the regional competition.

"I had just gotten back from the Gay.com parties in Los Angeles and San Francisco that were part of the contest, and I had a couple of phone messages. The first one was from Jesse, who was calling from his cell phone while driving home from his deputy sheriff's job. It was three days before he was supposed to come out to Hawaii to visit, and he said he was looking forward it. He even sang a bit of 'White Sandy Beach,' Braddah Iz's song, from the CD I had left behind from my last visit.

"The next message right after that was from my mother, saying I have to come back home right now because of the accident.

"We were very close. I also have an older sister and a baby brother, Joshua, who's 18 now. What with all that's been going on, I know I haven't dealt with Jesse's death yet. I definitely regret that he didn't get a chance to see Hawaii and didn't see my home.

"This is definitely where I want to stay. I know my work takes me away now and then, but Hawaii is home. And I want to thank everyone who's supported me, especially here, during this ride."

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