“Everyone has a fetish.”
Interview: Paul Hofman
Axe Leito is a man with a mission. Together with the five other ambassadors Mr. Leather Netherlands 2019 is the figurehead of Pride Amsterdam. In an open-hearted conversation, the 39-year-old Leatherman tells us everything about his childhood, work and dreams. “Leather is my way of life.”
It was a pleasant surprise when he was asked to be a Pride ambassador this year. “I could barely believe it.” he tells us in the lounge of the new Student Hotel which is the host of this year’s Pride events. His friends weren’t surprised he has been chosen, in comparison to Axe himself who didn’t see it coming.
He comes walking in with a rush. His schedule is quickly filling itself since he was announced as Mr. Leather Netherlands 2019. Axe tells us proudly that he was the first Antillean that was given this title. Not that long ago you could have seen him in a very exciting but sexy act in the first Gay circus of the Netherlands. The act of Axe and his boyfriend evokes a lot of admiration. “We met each other about two years ago. My partner Robin is also a leather guy.” He reveals: “We’re getting married this summer. And yes, leather will play a big part in that too.” They can’t wait to say, ‘I do’. We complete each other perfectly, he says with a big smile on his face.
Axe was born on Curaçao where he grew up as an only child. One month before he was born his Dad died tragically. His mom got remarried and he spent his whole childhood on the Caribbean island. He’s the apple of his mother’s eye. Axe was thirteen when his family moved to The Netherlands and he spent his teenage years in The Hague, where he went to high school.
As little boy he only had one dream: becoming a soldier. Uniforms excited him ever since he was a child. That dream could become reality when he turned eighteen, despite the protests of his mother. “I saw that iconic picture of princess Diana and wanted to become a mine specialist. My mom didn’t like that. That’s when I promised her to let go of that dream to join the army instead.”
As a child he had some feminine habits. That’s not accepted in the Antillean macho-world. Quietly: “They believe very strongly that you can beat the gayness out of people. That’s when I learned to fight for my freedom and my self-worth.”
Axe was eighteen when he came out. Not that long after I started working at a leather store in The Hague. He discovered while working there that he’s into leather. “Leather is amazing. My boyfriend and I have a very big closet that can barely fit anything new. Luckily, we’re the same size.”
When he turned 24 four, he joined the army. He was transferred to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq where he was having a good time between all these tough guys. The army means a lot to him. He was in the military for fourteen years. Looking back: “I have experienced very closely how it feels to know you are doing something good.
As an example, he tells us how the head of the village was sick to death and came to the compound. “We could help him to get rid of his appendicitis. That was so beautiful, we won over the hearts of the village.”
About Afghan women he says: “In the camp they could put away their face covers. They got rid of their burka’s and that is when you saw how beautiful these women were. It’s such an impressive feeling to witness that without a safe space people can’t be themselves. That is what freedom is about.” He is silent for a while.
In the many years of the Canal Parade he has been on one of the boats. That this year he has the honor to join the ambassador’s boat is a dream come true, “This is my milestone”, and he eagerly waits for the day of the Parade. Laughing: “Every year I came a little closer.” Full of excitement he tells us about the magical moments he experienced when the boat sails from under the bridge into the canals. “That feeling is impossible to describe. It’s so fantastic!”
In the autumn of 2018, he is crowned Mister Leather Netherlands. A title that he wears with Pride. It brings him from Alkmaar to Zwolle. He is focused on one goal: break the taboo around having a leather fetish. He immediately added: “I want to build bridges between the different kind of fetish-scenes as leather, puppies, rubber and sports.” Has there been any inappropriate comments? “No, never.”
As Mister Leather Netherlands he knows how to bring attention to the leather scene. Enthusiastic: “My idea for a feminine version of my title appeared to be a big success. So, now there is a Miss Leather Netherlands which hasn’t been done before!”
He’s is very proud of the involvement in the yearly Remembrance Day on May 4th. “Last year I had the honor of laying the wreath at the Homo-memorial on behalf of the fetish community.”
The fact that on the Antilles there is still a taboo around having a leather fetish is something that saddens him. “We’ve got a lot of work to do there, we’re still far away of breaking the taboo. People look at it as something new and weird.” He manages to put things in perspective: “Leather and heat aren’t a great combination, though. You’ll sweat a lot in your leather outfit.”
That someone of color got the title Mr. Leather Netherlands was big news. It’s a title that you don’t get that easily. Axe gets interviewed on the Antillean radio and television, which helps him spread his message. “I had to explain everything over and over again. But it’s just a fact that every person has a fetish.”
He also brings more attention to topics like AIDS, PreP and safe sex in his interviews. After his performances on the island people shyly approach him to ask him where they can buy leather. “That makes me happy. Because, what’s so special about it, anyways?”
That leather is his way of living is something that isn’t seen as something strange in The Netherlands. “Actually, I had to come out twice. First as gay, and the second time as a leather man.” About the leather scene in the eighties and nineties he says: “Times where different back then, the leather men of that area were very masculine. You didn’t dare to talk to him out of the blue. That is something that has totally changed.” He proudly shows us a picture of a little boy on his arm with a leather cap in his head. “Leather is my second skin.”
In his daily life he works at border control, where he’s having a good time. “My boss doesn’t mind at all.” During Pride Amsterdam he will make sure that on lots of the events he’ll make an appearance. “I am someone with eye for detail and will use my power for a good cause. I am looking forward to it.”
In his new role as ambassador Axe is, without a doubt, going to make a difference. He can’t wait until he can start. “A book is more than just it’s cover. I have so much to tell.” We will hear a lot more of this cool, sexy and outstanding ambassador who brings leather closer to home. Visibility and acceptance are the main goals. A better advocate isn’t possible for the leather scene.
Pride Ambassador since 2021.