LGBTQ male models break down gender norms on new boundary-pushing site.

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.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

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Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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