Men in formalwear. Men in swimsuits. Men with plans to make the LGBT community stronger.

The Mr. Gay World USA pageant was replete with a diverse group of contestants determined to make an impact.

The competition was held at Sunshine Cathedral over the weekend of Nov. 12-14 with the finals Sunday night. Preliminary competitions cut the field of more than three dozen down to 12, including crowd favorites Mr. Nevada, Mr. Rhode Island, Mr. Massachusetts, and Mr. California. There was nothing but love on stage, because while everyone was competing for the crown, contestants didn’t feel like they were competing against each other.

Eventually it came down to Mr. Massachusetts and Mr. Maine, who became besties over the course of the pageant. After months of preparation, a weekend packed with activities, and a nearly four-hour ceremony on Sunday, Mr. Maine, Tony Ardolino, was crowned.

“I felt like Cinderella,” he told SFGN just moments after winning. “I know that sounds so cliché but as a little gay boy from the east coast you never think that something like this is going to happen.”

Ardolino is an actor and activist who will prioritize mentorship during his reign.

“I want to do a Big Brother/Big Sister project with gay youth, and focus on LGBTQ media and representation. Representation is so important. Not just LGBTQ but diversity, body image.”

Making the night even more special were his two biggest supporters in the audience: his mom and dad.

“To see my parents with a crown, it’s magical. I feel like I’m living a fairy tale right now. Words can’t describe it. I’m over the moon.”

With his polished performance and stage presence, it’s hard to believe this was his first pageant, and he leaned heavily on his parents every step of the way.

“He’s been making all those costumes himself,” his mom, Rose Marie, told us. “He was running down to Michaels [craft store] and doing all that stuff.” She says that shows his dedication to authenticity.  “He’s like ‘should I buy or should I make it?’ I said it’s better to make it, that way it came from you.”

“It’s been constantly building this,” the new Mr. Gay World USA said. “A lot of my costumes I made myself. My dad helped me, my mom helped me. I went to their house every day figuring out how we’re gonna do this.”

After being crowned he got a new sash for his new title, and his dad was wearing his Mr. Gay USA Maine 2021 sash.

“They put it on me!” His dad’s love was emanating. “We love each other. That’s what we have in this world: each other. I’m so happy for him, I’m happy for my son.”

He will represent the USA in Cape Town, South Africa, at next year’s Mr. Gay World pageant, and both his parents will be there to support him.

“If you would have told my 13-year-old self that this is happening one day I would have said you’re crazy. I have been so blessed to have my mom and my dad. I love these guys.”

Until then, he’ll use his boundless talents and killer smile to bring visibility to make lives better.

“Our community is so magical and something worth celebrating.”