Michael - you're an amazing model and Emerson grad. Talk to me about your modeling journey and career path.
Oh my God stop it! Thank you so much! You know what’s funny? I literally never saw myself as a model. I’ve always really struggled with body image and not feeling like “I’m good enough,” like so many people do on a daily basis. That’s totally one thing I love about you because you are so open and forward with your journey in regards to body image. But I think a lot of that had to do with living a facade for twenty years of my life. I’m extremely happy with my life now that I came out almost four years ago. I think when you start to live your true life it kind of brings an aura of confidence. I went from being very self-conscious to kind of just owning my sexuality when I was ready to. I graduated from Emerson with my bachelor's degree in marketing communication. I am extremely proud to have gone to that school because it taught me so much about not just business, but morals and ethics, too. Right now I’m kind of sifting if I would like to do something with tv development or if I would like to model full time. I just moved to New York City so I think I’m in the right place to get things going.
What got you into modeling?
I would say I started to model to showcase that even though I’m different, I can still hang with the “big boy straight models.” Me being gay doesn’t make me any less than anyone else and I would like to show that! I think anyone who comes from a marginalized or misrepresented community have a lack of representation in this industry and I think it's important for people of all different races, cultures and sexual backgrounds have a chance to be successful too.
What are your likes and dislikes about the industry? What would you like to see change?
Well I wanna be careful with my words because I don’t want anyone to take what I am saying as offensive. (laughs) But I think the lack of representation for any person of color or for any member of the LGBTQ community that owns who they are in this industry needs to change. Period. We can all sit here and play ring around the rosie about this subject but statistics are statistics and people of color are misrepresented in the modeling world. We need increased visibility and inclusiveness for people of color more than anyone else.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, how does your experience in the art world differ from someone else's?
Oh my god. Well, first things first, I may be a gay man, and that makes me a minority but it is extremely important to acknowledge that I am a white man. And that makes me privileged in comparison to anyone else who can't hide behind the status of a “white man.” But I live my truth every single day. I wear makeup. I wear crop tops. And guess what? I own it. I chose to be myself and I am gay. I refuse to pretend to be straight in order to blend in with everyone else. I think we need to see more members of the LGBTQ community who are bold and aren't scared to be themselves. I never had anyone to look up to as a gay man because there was such a lack of visibility. Sure you know, you have some people who came out after the fact that they went mainstream but at the end of the day, you shouldn't have to live a lie in order to be successful in this industry. I could hide behind my privilege but I don't want to do that. I walked into this industry day one owning myself and I want that gay kid from Ohio whose dad forced him to play football but would rather read vogue to have someone to look at and say “you know what? There’s nothing wrong with being gay!” I think that had I seen someone doing that while I was growing up I would have come out earlier.
What in the art world would you like to see improve for members of the LGBTQ community?
Again, I think just increased visibility. There are many men and women in this industry who feel they need to play a role in order to be successful. But why the fuck do you need to pretend to be straight or not discuss that aspect of your life to book gigs? Listen, if modeling doesn't work out for me, it doesn't work out. But if it does, I would like to be able to say that I owned my status as a member of the LGBTQ community from the day that I walked in. I would rather fail and know that I failed because I maybe made people uncomfortable with discussing my sexuality, but that is a projection of their ignorance and not mine. If I do make it, being able to show every man or women in this country that they can be whoever they wanna be would be way more fulfilling for me.
How does art benefit you in your daily practices? Does modeling have a physiological impact on your life, either positively or negatively?
I think art really makes the world go around. I think without art there would be zero substance in this world and that is why I love you! You create magic that is amazing to see and I think that is so important. But you know, I think there is pressure to be perfect because you see so many people who are and you're like “oh my god what can I do to be better?” But it's also important to do your own thing and ignore the outside noise for your own psychological well being so that is really what I try to do for myself. But seeing other people who you think have it all can totally at times make you feel negative about yourself. But you are you and it's important to remember that you are perfect being you! And the people who you think are perfect, more often than not, have their own issues as well.
What are your hopes and dreams for the art world in the future? What problems do you hope are addressed?
Increased viability and inclusiveness for people of color first and foremost. That needs to be the priority right now. We need the future kids of the world to see all different types of people, so that will encourage them to feel like they can make it in this industry too. The modeling world is not just for white heterosexual people. Inclusiveness for all people, across all industries? I would say that’s my dream.