Bear Bellinger is a total babe. The Chicago-based actor was recently nominated for a Time Out Chicago Best Supporting Actor award for his work in Adding Machine: The Musical. He’s also a company member of The Fly Honey Show, a body-positive crew of performers currently taking Chicago by storm.

But beyond his on-stage achievements, Bear embodies all of the qualities that we use to define “babe” here at Babe Squad. He strives to be himself in the face of hardship, sees beyond what is to what could be, and passionately pursues his goals. He’s captivating, eloquent, and determined. He has fought hard to get where he is today, and he’s still fighting–for more than his own success, too. He’s using his chosen career path as a way to shine light on important social issues and create change in Chicago and beyond.

“For some reason, I’d say about 85% of the Ubers I get in, people start talking about politics,” Bear says as he lets outs a laugh from deep in his belly. “I never bring it on, but I mean…I’m not going to not engage in conversation with that person.” He is a tall, beautiful Black man with an amazing, thunderous laugh. It sorts of vibrates in your chest the same way heavy bass does during a live music performance. We’re sitting at Longman and Eagle in Chicago’s Logan Square, the neighborhood Bear calls home, on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps not the best choice for an interview, considering the bustle and buzz of the environment, but Bear’s essence and chuckle overpower everything in the room.

Growing up in a poor neighborhood in Washington D.C., he paid his way through private prep school by singing in the choir at the Washington National Cathedral. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison on a coin flip and studied theater because it was what challenged him the most. Having experienced racial injustice within his college program, he ventured to Chicago, determined to battle these prejudices head on.

“The thing about theater is that it’s so easy [for a casting director] to say, ‘They just didn’t jive with me. They didn’t give me that something extra that I was looking for.’ When in the end they really mean, ‘They were too fat or too dark or not dark enough,’” Bear explains. “There is a fine line of figuring out what constitutes as discrimination and what constitutes as artistic expression.” In recent years, he has taken his fight for diversity and equality within the theater community to the front lines. He has written and published numerous open letters and articles, demanding change with every word. Most recently, he tackled Porchlight Theater’s casting of In The Heights, a musical depicting the lives of Dominican-Americans living in Washington Heights, New York. Bear’s activism does not stop with the theater community. He has also been a prevalent voice in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bear is tackling a lot of heavy shit in his day-to-day, but he knows how to have fun, too. Enter in The Fly Honey Show, part burlesque, part musical performance, with a hint of variety show thrown in. Bear has performed in the annual summer series, aimed at empowering all humans with a strong theme of self-love, for three years now. Up on that stage in just his skivvies, with a big-ass smile on his face, Bear not only proves that men can be artistic and sexy, he’s showing us that no matter what, we are all in this together. We have to fight to make this world a better place. With a hunger for change and a voice as loud as it is demure, the likes of Bear Bellinger may be what we need to turn this ship around and head for brighter shores. 

Bear Bellinger Fly Honeys

Bear with other Fly Honey cast members. Photo by Megan Lee Miller

How did you first get into theater? What spoke to you about it?

I grew up singing. I was a chorister at the Washington National Cathedral, starting at a young age. The prep school I attended was established specifically to serve the boys of the Cathedral choir. I happened to be from an underprivileged community, so the fact that I could sing helped me in that aspect. Once I got to high school, I kept singing. Everyone was like, “Do a musical!” So I started doing musicals and variety shows. Senior year, we did Les Miserables, and I was Javert. We were working on “Stars” one day, and my director made me sing it probably 10 or 12 times in a row. He kept saying, “You’re not doing it right!” I was like, “I don’t understand what you’re asking me to do!”

Afterwards, we had these theater awards called Cappies, and just about everyone in my production was nominated, but I was not. Since I’m such a contrary person, I decided I was going to continue acting in order to prove to everyone that I can do this. No one is going to tell me I’m not good enough. I literally decided that it would be the most difficult thing for me to do and went for it.

This article was originally published on the BabeSuad.com. Reposted with permission. Read the full article.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.