Michelly X by Iwi Onodera, 2019
São Paulo, SP, 1972
Michelly X is one of the most sought after fashion designers by singers and actresses in Brazil. Self-taught, she realized in her adolescence that paying attention to the looks in magazines and television programs, she could reproduce it with all the details in a few hours. Since then, she has created amazing costumes, often inspired by the 80s and 90s. Michelly also has a long history in contests, dressing herself and other candidates. She was crowned Miss Brasil Gay 2000.
interview by Igor Furtado, published on 23/12/2020
Michelly in childhood, at Miss Brasil Gay 2000 and in an editorial for Vogue Brasil
Can you tell us a little about your childhood and adolescence?
I was born in a neighborhood called Anália Franco, east zone of São Paulo. During childhood I studied at a school of nuns in Tatuapé, where I started to organize shows and parties from an early age. Apart from crying at home from time to time because of insults, it was a nice childhood. I still didn't knew anything about my sexuality and gender, but I always liked to do "girly things", like playing with a doll hidden in my friends' house. As my mother let me wear big hair, people always confused me with a girl. Seeing that I was different, she took me to some psychologists to check if everything was okay, but more out of concern for my well being. As a teenager, I assumed I was gay, but I had a great prejudice against myself. At that time, I thought it was ugly and wrong to be homossexual. I was ashamed, but over time I accepted myself and understood that it wasn't really a question of sexuality, but of gender. Often the families reject us, we are expelled from home and end up having to survive. But my entire family, my parents, brothers and uncles, always supported and respected me, which was essential for me to have a successful trajectory.
Where did your interest in fashion come from and how did your career start?
I watched the first version of the soap opera TiTiTi and thought the opening was beautiful, in which there were several sketches. I was fascinated and started to draw the girls' dresses and faces at school. I'm a huge fan of Xuxa and at 16 I decided to create my own cover group. Alone, I did the make up and the paquita's clothes for the other members. That was when my passion for this universe emerged. We did some television shows and everyone asked about our costumes. One of these people was Mariane, a children's presenter who had just left SBT. Even though it was my first clothes, I said I sewed for other people. It was the first invitation, to dress her in the program Tudo por Brinquedo, where I stayed for a year and a half. With that, some other famous people started looking for me, like Carla Perez from É o Tchan! and Monique Evans, who eventually invited me to work with carnaval.
Michelly X at Miss Brasil Gay 2000
In 2000 you received the title of Miss Brasil Gay. How was your career in the contests?
Binho, one of the dancers in my group who was also a cover of Madonna, made me up for the first time in a show we did in Salvador. I put on a fringe and a cape and we were gagging with my appearance. From then on, he encouraged me to start dressing as a woman. When my cover group ended, it was a period of discovery for me, because I ended up getting closer to the world that today is called drag. A friend had already told me about a nightclub called Sound Factory, where they performed. As I knew how to put on makeup, I put myself together and went alone. It was an incredible night and after that I never wanted to stop. I made new friends and started going to several nightclubs like Nostro Mondo, HS, Sky, among others. I even won the Miss Sky 95, Miss Brasil Nostro Mondo 95, Miss Mundo Blue Space 98 contests. In 2000, I went to Juiz de Fora to compete with candidates from all over the country. I won representing São Paulo in the biggest transformistas contest that existed and still exists today, Miss Brasil Gay Oficial.
How do you see these competitions today?
At the time it was very important for my head and self-esteem, my ego. I always felt like an ugly boy. Because of this, the contests ended up being a therapy. However, a lot of money is spent and there are many fights. The girls did not accept losing to each other, they were really upset. Some threw away the second place trophies, others broke the dressing room mirror. Over time I started to get tired and see it as a waste of time. I've changed a lot, I'm 48 years old, I can't see the same way anymore. At the time it was something very important, but today I see it as a fun game. People think that winning a beauty title will transform their lives, but it’s not like cisgender Miss Universe. You don't become a Hollywood actress, nor do you appear on the covers of magazines, that won't give you that stability. I think they give a lot of value to something fleeting. This does not mean that I do not like to follow and watch, not least because for many it is a place of welcome above all, as they are not accepted by their families. I still go whenever I can to Miss Brasil, but it no longer adds up to my life, as it once did.
After the pageants you participated in several programs on TV. How did these experiences of national exposure affect you?
Of all of them, I was the Miss Brasil Gay who made more appearances and participations in TV programs, it is possible to do this research. It was an interesting experience, I believe that it was very different from what it would be today. At that time, it was common for presenters, like Silvio Santos, to refer to us in the masculine or to call us by our baptism name. If that happened now, it would be different, probably considered offensive. I never really cared about it, because who I cared most accepted me the way I am. I have an 85-year-old aunt who, from time to time, calls me Alexandre, but I know it's not with bad intentions. We have to understand, somehow, that it's another time.
Is Carnaval the most important and busy moment of your year?
I work a lot with carnaval because my specialty is sparkle. Applicating the crystals takes a long time. In this period, I end up making around 20 costumes each year for famous people, parades or performances, which is good for projecting my work, but not so much for making money in the long run. The artists gain a lot of presents, several powerful brands and large groups give their collections as a way to boost marketing. I'm a small studio and unable to do this, a lot of time and money is spent in materials and labor. As it is difficult to compete, we end up being more selective in relation to who we are able to serve during this period, in order to always offer the same quality standard. They always ask me last minute, so the deadline is short. We usually have two months, but sometimes we do it in a month, a week or even in 3 days, super intense.
Carnival costumes created by Michelly X
How is the process of creating a look? Which designers inspire you?
Each artist has a stylist, who usually comes to me with ideas and designs. Because of my experience, by understanding what they want, I already know which materials would work or not. Sometimes there are conflicts because the stylist understands more about putting on looks than building, modeling and sewing. It is important to know about the trim, elasticity, among many other things, when choosing a fabric. There are some who insist, but in the end everything works out. I have also created several looks with my design, without intermediate, for Xuxa, Ivete Sangalo, among others. It is something I prefer because I feel much greater freedom. A designer who was part of my life as a friend, but who I didn't get to know the work as much, was Clodovil. I designed and made some pieces for his last show called Ele e Ela, before he entered politics. Thierry Mugler, Iris Van Herpen and Elie Saab are some fashion designers who inspire me because of their playful and brilliant approaches.
Is there any filing of your production? Do you think about developing collections and fashion shows in the future?
My clothes are made to order, so it would be difficult to do something like an exhibition. Today most of the iconic pieces are in different places, with customers, broadcasters and samba schools. However, I would like to make a special book with images of my trajectory, as well as start developing collections soon. I intend to continue creating clothes for shows, presentations and advertising campaigns. I want to be able to expand beyond the artistic medium, expanding my brand to wedding dresses or pieces that are not made to measure. I still don't know if I'm going to do something very casual because it's not my forte. I believe that it would still be party dresses, connected to the idea of haute couture and meticulous manual work. As I work a lot with the LGBTQ+ public, during the pandemic I have also started selling some panties and bikinis to transsexuals and travestis, since I know all the tricks to make a perfect piece for us.
Looks in the studio, Michelly at Miss Brasil Gay 2000/2001 and editorial by Marcio del Nero