Metro Weekly

Leather Liberation: A Report from MAL Weekend 2024

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend 2024 drew thousands of leatherfolk, kinksters, and fetish fans who geared up and partied down.

MAL Weekend 2024 - Photo: Todd Franson
MAL Weekend 2024 – Photo: Todd Franson

The line of leather and latex looks snaking out the door of the host hotel, down to the corner and around the block, boded well for turnout at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend.

It was the opening day of MAL, now revving into its fourth decade as the region’s foremost leather event, organized and hosted by the Centaur M.C. Inside the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill awaited a buzzing convention of unconventional exhibitors, vendors, performers, and revelers from around the U.S. and abroad, gathered for the annual three-day celebration of queer liberation through leather, fetish, and kink.

By day two, the queue at the hotel entrance had eased, though the crowd in the lobby was just as thick with masked puppies and unicorns mingling among the leather daddies and mommies, rave twinks, and muscle queens. There was Mr. Eagle NYC looking fine at the bar, a hunky local anchorman navigating through the crowd, and porn star Cutler X — hotter in person — riding down the escalator.

Spiked with a steady stream of specialty cocktails, and club beats over the lobby speakers, the scene bordered on stimulation overload, but the vibe stayed sexy, peaceful, and positive.

“I’ve never experienced such a level of acceptance and love,” Daniel “DanBear” DeLuca, Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2023, told Metro Weekly, describing the embrace he has felt from the leather community. “There’s nothing left in the closet, and that has rounded me out as a person. The leather community made me who I am.”

DanBear was on hand to enjoy the weekend festivities, represent his title, and serve as a judge at the 2024 Mr. MAL Contest. But, before that, he and the other assembled titleholders, along with club and community members, and gawkers like us, would all convene for the weekend’s centerpiece — Leather Cocktails, in the ballroom just off the bustling Exhibit Hall.

MAL Weekend 2024 - Photo: Ward Morrison
MAL Weekend 2024 – Photo: Ward Morrison

A convivial meet-and-greet with the atmosphere of a fetish family reunion, Leather Cocktails also serves plenty of fierce fashion, with attendees donning formal leatherwear — as exemplified by one commanding character dressed in a pink sequined leather suit with a full cape and captain’s cap.

Of course, the nine competitors in Sunday’s 39th Mr. MAL Contest served fierce fashion of their own, in addition to fierce competition for the title. The winner goes on to represent the region at International Mr. Leather in Chicago this spring.

Competing in Bar Wear, Jock Strap, and Formal Leather categories (following an interview and pre-judging round on Saturday), the contenders each brought unique, diverse viewpoints to the stage for their pivotal final question. The panel of judges brought their expertise, and, in several cases, their own titles, including former Miss Freddie’s, Sue Nami, who slayed her Rihanna medley lip-sync midway through the contest.

Over three rounds, the contest audience swooned hard for the adorable Mr. Mayhem Leather and pretty-boy Mr. Leather Rehoboth. But in the end, it was confident, composed Mr. Virginia Leather, a firefighter known as Fire Daddy Ken, who took home the title, and the mantle of community champion, not in it just for the free drinks and hookups but to help raise funds and awareness where needed.

“Something that was very important to me through my year was to show everybody love and acceptance, no matter what,” said DanBear, who used his Mr. MAL platform to promote inclusivity and diversity. “It’s about passing the title on to the next person who’s going to continue to show the community love and support, and do as much as he can for them.”

For information about MAL 2025, visit

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