American Brotherhood Weekend is an event held annually in Chicago, IL which is a celebration of the bonds shared by leather-folk and features the American Leatherman, American Leatherwoman, and American Leatherboy contests. The American Leatherman, Leatherwoman, and Leatherboy titles are national leather titles and contestants must identify as gay or lesbian to run for the title. A substantial amount of material in this entry comes from the ABW Website: www.americanbrotherhood.com
The American Brotherhood Weekend was founded by Mik Miller of Boston, MA in 1989 and originally constituted just the American Leatherman contest. According to Miller, the contest was supposed to be “for the rest of us,” and did not focus extensively on physique but instead on service to the leather community. Miller later added the American Leatherwoman, American Leatherboy, and American Cowboy titles. The American Leathergirl and American Cowgirl title also existed for a short period of time, but are now extinguished, as is the American Cowboy title.
In 1996, Miller sold the rights to the titles to Jim Cobb, who leased them to ABLE Productions owned by Cobb, Roger Flemming, Howard Flemming, and Vern Stewart. Cobb sold the American Cowboy and American Cowgirl titles to Dan Noel, American Cowboy 1995 (the last person to have held that title). The titles were sold again in 2002 to American Brotherhood Weekend, Inc., owned by Frank Nowicki, Schelli Dittmann, Max Steiner, and Scott Reikofski. In 2007 no contest was held while ABW was being reorganized. The weekend and the contest are now produced by Dean Ogren, Karen Ultra, and George Hester.
American Leather Title Family Role
American Leatherman, Leatherwoman, and Leatherboy (collectively the ABW Title Family) is a national leather title contest and the contestants and winners must identify as gay or lesbian and be US Citizens to participate. Consistent with Miller’s vision as the founder of the contest and weekend, the ABW title family is distinguished as a community service title. Titleholders are “good-will ambassadors” serving the leather community by attending events, contests, supporting other titleholders, judging, doing community outreach and speaking, and assisting in fundraising. ABW titleholders often work in conjunction with the international titleholders of the other title circuits.
The ABW contest constitutes a number of elements some of which are judged and others which, while participation mandatory, are not judged. Most recently 5 judges have been selected for the entire contest with straight scoring (all scores count) on all judged events except the interview. The interview is judged by the 5 selected judges and the 3 current titleholders and is scored using Olympic scoring (the top and bottom score are dropped).
While not formally judged and scored, contestants must fill out an application which contains information for administrative purposes and provides information to the emcees during the contest. Additionally, information on the application is provided to the judges for the interview for the purpose of informing the judge’s interview questions.
The auction basket is another mandatory but non-judged element of the contest. Each contestant puts together an auction basket valued at at least $300. Baskets are auctioned during the weekend for the contestant’s travel funds.
One of the things that titleholders do most is provide brief introductions at events that they attend. During the opening night of the weekend, each contestant introduces him or herself in about 90 seconds. Contestants are directed to wear what they think would make them look the hottest if they were out in a leather bar and whatever they feel comfortable in. This is their first opportunity to appear before the judges.
Each contestant undergoes a 12-15 minute private interview with the 5 selected judges and the 3 current titleholders. A variety of topics are raised at this interview, with some coming from the contestant’s application. The interview is scored by Olympic scoring–the highest and lowest score for each contestant is dropped.
Pull Back the Leather Curtain
This is a non-judged mandatory contest event that occurs during the contest and is designed to highlight a contestant’s interview answer that was particularly impressive or articulate. It is also designed to give audience members a window into the interview process which is otherwise private. Contestants repeat (to the best of their memory) their answer to an interview question that they gave earlier in the day selected by the judges.
Each contestant puts on a 4-5 minute fantasy giving the judges insight into their personality and who they are as a leatherman, leatherwoman, or leatherboy. The fantasy is designed to be entertaining and can involve other individuals and props. Contestants are given an opportunity to practice their fantasy and coordinate staging prior to the formal contest beginning.
In the hotwear portion of the contest, contestants show off their comfort in minimal or sexy leather and the emphasis in judging is how comfortable the contestant is in their own skin and in what they chose to wear. Additionally the contestant is asked a pop question on stage. Pop questions are usually chosen at random, and while they vary from year to year, are generally entertaining questions for which the contestant (hopefully) gives a clever or entertaining answer.
Formal Leather Image & Speech
Contestants dress in formal leather and this is their most serious and formal leather look. If a contestant was asked to attend a formal public function, an awards banquet, or give a keynote address, this is the type of leather they would wear to that event. Contestants then give a speech on any topic that they are passionate about and demonstrate their public speaking ability. Speeches at ABW run 3 minutes or less.
Tables of the previous titleholders and title years will be added shortly.