Dru Bruin emerges as bear icon
If you don't know who Dru Bruin is, you aren't alone. The handsome, rugged, man's man model hasn't completely cracked the mainstream consciousness yet, but give him some time and this affable model will soon be on everyone's radar. Bruin has been making appearance at leather, fetish, and bear parties across the country, as well as appearing in some of gay media's hottest publications.
"I'm having a good time, and enjoying myself immensely," Bruin told EDGE from his Philadelphia home. "I don't expect anything and I just try to relish the moment.
Bruin is currently the darling of the burgeoning bear community, a subset of the rainbow pact that is finally coming into their own. Bruin's macho image, body type, photographic charm, and physical appeal have made him THE bear pin-up, which has even surprised Bruin.
"I have to confess - when I was younger, I didn't have much experience with the bear image."
Bruin's awareness, however, as changed.
"The bear community has really exploded with men of all types; there is a homo-masculinity that is part of being bear. The more I was exposed to it, the more I enjoyed its positive, inclusive quality."
Bruin had been working as an illustrator and graphic designer when he was first approached to do some modeling
"The guys from Butch Bear were interested in doing images having me model for some print work," Bruin noted. "They seemed like good guys; they were honest and straightforward and I decided to go with them. I had a photo shoot with them and had a great time. "
Bruin enjoyed himself, and that evidently showed in the shoot. Butch Bear's team was so pleased with the pictures they put Bruin on the cover of their 2010 calendar. And the rocket took off from there.
"From that came more work, more shoots, more photography," Bruin said. "And whenever a calendar like that is published, there are always events to kick it off, there are launch parties, calendar signings, so on and so on..."
The friendly and pleasant Bruin has had a blast meeting fans from all across the country, and his charisma wasn't lost on club owners or promoters.
"Soon, people were asking me to make appearances at events," he said. "So a year and half later here I am, doing more modeling, hosting contests, fundraising, all that sort of thing. I guess I have gained a lot of notoriety!"
Bruin acknowledges his popularity may be part of a larger trend.
"I have been at the right place at the right time," he said. "In the 90's, it was that Abercrombie and Fitch look, they hyper stylized imagery. Today, I think guys are going back to being lower maintenance, more earthy, maybe more masculine. I guess my looks fit right into that, it fits into my style...To be honest, I might be a body builder but I've never been a high-maintenance kind of guy."
The low-maintenance Bruin is having fun with his new celebrity, clearly reveling in meeting new people, traveling to new places and having a load of fun along the way.
"I am at an age in my life where I am not too concerned with how people think-and am old enough and wise enough to know that you should have fun," he said. "When I was working as an artist and illustrator, I didn't have a lot of social interaction or travel. So now this is fun. I enjoy getting to go to [New York] or flying around the country. It's a different kind of adventure."
Bruin credits the overwhelming adoration of his fans with why the experience has been so amazing.
"My fans, and the entire bear community are great," he said. "One aspect they universally agree on and love-is that you can be a little less of the A-list type and more of the everyone-is-welcome crowd. It is all about community and fun over the right brand of clothing and..."
In fact, Bruin claims to enjoy the smaller events over the larger blow-outs for just that reason. Interacting with his fan base and meeting new people are genuinely why this bear has blown onto the scene.
"I love doing events at small towns, where they are pumped and excited to see you. "
When not traveling, the down-to-earth sex symbol and his partner split their personal time between Rehoboth Beach, Dela., and Philadelphia .
"I ended up in the Mid-Atlantic region after college," Bruin noted. "I want to the University of Texas, and my first job out of school was in Washington. Every summer we would head to Rehoboth to go to the beach, and I really liked the town. I wanted to live in a small town and Rehoboth seemed perfect."
Rehoboth's affordable beach lifestyle away from the city (to not feel like the suburbs) charmed Bruin, but he also noted the town had enough of a cosmopolitan streak an out gay man could comfortably walk the streets.
"Rehoboth is an oasis, it is this gay friendly artist enclave in the middle of really nowhere...," he said.
Having a partner, Bruin admitted, does present challenges when you are gay icon.
"It is similar to anyone in media who has a partner who is a sex symbol," he said. "I have to make time for him-and coordinate our schedules. It has been a bit of a ride for him too. As things evolve-communication is the key."
Bruin credits his partner, and friends for being supportive during his rise to the top.
"My straight friends are the most enthusiastic - it's vicarious for a lot of people," he said. "I find that I need to give people more credit, that my modeling career isn't so taboo or shocking. That people find it sexy, and funny, and daring, and unique... That this is something that people laugh about..."