James Anthony hadn't eaten a carb in a decade. Then he started eating whatever he wanted.

"I had this realization I needed to confront the tumultuous relationship I had with my body for my entire life," Anthony, the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot Bear, explains in an email.

He ended up gaining 60 pounds. He never felt better.


Anthony loved his bigger frame. "I felt more like myself taking up a larger space in the crowd," he says. Finally, for the first time in his life, he felt liberated from the chains of body dysmorphia and dieting.

James Anthony, the founder of Riot Bear. Photo courtesy of Riot Bear.

Anthony began chronicling his story in a fashion blog he launched in 2007. It featured self-portraits and personal stories reflecting his experiences in a new body. People started paying attention. Before long, he found himself with a group of fans and followers.

Realizing his story was resonating, Anthony wanted to help others share theirs, too. His blog evolved from one that told his own story to one reflecting the experiences of many. Riot Bear was born.

Riot Bear is a body-positive online community for men of all sizes, ages, colors, and identities in the LGBTQ community.

Model Tanner Jordan. Photo by Paul Lowe, courtesy of Riot Bear.

The platform is about fashion and style first and foremost, Anthony says. But that's only one component.

Model Jonathan Dorado. Photo by Paul Lowe, courtesy of Riot Bear.

“Behind every great look is a story and a journey," Anthony explains. "Style is about expressing the essence of who you are and where you're going."

The website, run by Anthony, features photo series and Q&As with its diverse models who challenge gender norms through their styles and stories. On Riot Bear, men open up about their battles with mental illness, gender fluidity, career highs and lows, and greatest insecurities (and accomplishments) through personal essays.

"For us, real male body types are not a trend."

"I stopped desiring who I couldn’t have and began envisioning what I truly want in a partner. I quit smoking cigarettes, I ended my blog, I started my own business, I made new amazing friends, I started flirting, I did yoga, I learned how to meditate, I cleared my room of junk, I took a much needed social media sabbatical." - Riot Bear model Manulani. Photo courtesy of Riot Bear.

Riot Bear empowers a community of men who've typically been overlooked and slighted elsewhere in the media.

Despite recent historic progress on LGBTQ rights and inclusivity, queer men are still overcoming homophobia and transphobia's deep-rooted and systemic scarring. They're more likely to live with depression, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders. They're also more likely to attempt suicide.

In a media landscape too often blanketed with white, straight, cisgender men with chiseled six-packs, millions of LGBTQ men feel excluded.

Riot Bear is changing the narrative, Anthony says, by giving those in their community a safe space to live openly and proudly. Fashion serves as a terrific medium to express that vulnerability and empowerment.

"Nothing is sexier than a scruffy guy fully in touch with the irony and joy of being feminine," Anthony says.

"Style is really about confidence, it's about not giving a fuck what people think. Style to me means power, it's liberty — it's a call to march to the beat of your own drum." — Riot Bear model Aki Choklat. Photo by Isaac Emmons, courtesy of Riot Bear.

"We love that we can wrap up our models in silk, rhinestones, and pearls. That juxtaposition is what we live for. A dude with a belly in a Gucci cardigan. Perfection."

Model Milo Evans. Photo by Paul Lowe, courtesy of Riot Bear.

Riot Bear isn't just for its models, though. The platform's greater impact can help spur change for men everywhere.

Through its photos and stories, Riot Bear aims to fight the forces of toxic masculinity — the expectation that guys should to be emotionally detached, violent, and sexually aggressive to be "real" men. It's an attitude that ends up hurting everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, says Anthony.

"Earlier in my life, being tall helped me in standing up for people who were bullied, as well as avoid any type of threat from bullies myself. You know it can be awful growing up." — Riot Bear model Andres Gomez. Photo by Paul Lowe, courtesy of Riot Bear.

"What makes [toxic masculinity] so dangerous and tragic is that we all know it's coming from a dark place internally," Anthony says.

"Self-hatred and abuse can bring out the ugliest in a man. We must defuse this behavior with compassion and courage."

"I've always been interested in sculpture. I think my earliest memory was at age 7, when I started with origami. After a while, I got to a point where I wasn't learning anything new and decided to try working with wax and clay which lead me to where I am today." — Riot Bear model Vincent Master. Self-portrait. Photo courtesy of Riot Bear.

Personal style may seem frivolous. But self-expression is a terrific way to heal, grow, and feel great in your own skin.

And doing so in a community that embraces your authentic self makes all the difference to these Riot Bears.

Model Charles. Photo by Paul Lowe, courtesy of Riot Bear.

“I’ve seen these photos open a portal for our models, feel confident in how they look, and provide a safe space to be vulnerable," Anthony says. "It doesn’t matter who you are — when you see yourself in this empowering way, it’s transformative.”

Learn more about Riot Bear and how to join the community here.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

Keep Reading Show less

Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

Keep Reading Show less