Saturday, 9 May 2020

Interview with Michelle Relayze

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Michelle Relayze, a fashion model from Spain, beauty pageant queen, transgender activist, Miss Spain at Miss Trans Star International 2019. Hello Michelle!
Michelle: Hello Monika! It is a pleasure, to be able to share with you a bit of my history. I am honored that you want to know about me and be able to reach many more people.
Monika: Michelle, you look like a million dollars! Could you say a few words about yourself?
Michelle: Thanks Monika! Of course, I will tell you about myself. I have the honor of being the current queen of Miss Trans Spain and being able to represent this beautiful country in two international competitions: the Miss Trans Star International held in Barcelona in 2019 and in future in Miss World International in Italy.
I am a woman who had the support of my family. I was born in Lima, Peru and I lived in many places in the world. I work in a large hotel as a creator and image designer, and I am an activist for our rights. I like that people can see in me a strong person with a goal. My passion is to work and feed my soul.
Monika: Did you have a happy life in Peru?
Michelle: My life in Peru, a macho country, was not easy. But I had the support of my family to whom I owe everything and where I am now! I had bad times but if I am born again, I would ask to live the same thing again because I have already learned to fight!

Photo credits: Sebastián Peinado.

Monika: After leaving Peru, how did you end up in Europe?
Michelle: Before I had lived for some time in Uruguay. I came to Italy first. In Florence I managed to work as a model as I did in Latin America. Then I ended up living in Barcelona, Spain because it was my destiny, I guess.
In Barcelona, I am at home, I have a job, boyfriend and community that loves and respects me.
Monika: Barcelona used to be called the Mecca of transgender women. How is it these days? Is it a still friendly place for the trans community?
Michelle: In general, Barcelona and Spain are friendly and have respect for diversity. I feel respected and valued as a working woman there.
Monika: Did you model in any fashion shows?
Michelle: In Barcelona, I participated only in specific events because I worked fully in my marketing profession as a hostess at the emblematic Axel Hotel, where they gave me the opportunity to create events and competitions with new artists like drag queens and singers.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many trans women lose their families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out? 
Michele: I had to live a lost life like that of my father. He did not understand that he had a daughter, but I always remained firm and I held my head high. I convinced myself that you cannot make everyone happy. My way was not easy at all but it is the price you pay. 
Monika: How did your boyfriend accept your past?
Michelle: My boyfriend is a man who respects and values ​​my struggle. It gives me a lot of security to be able to be myself without hiding things from the past! If someone loves you, he loves you with your past, present and future.
Monika: You started your beauty pageant career in Peru ...
Michelle: Yes, although I left Peru when I was 20 years old, 4 years earlier I had managed to take part in a contest that facilitated my participation in Miss Universe. I got the 1st Alternate Queen there and  won three additional titles: Miss Best Smile, Miss Photogenic, and Miss Best Body.
Monika: The 2019 Miss Trans Star International was your first big beauty pageant, right? How did you prepare yourself for it?
Michelle: Yes, it was my first international contest, representing Spain. It took me two months of preparation: catwalk, dress, test speech rehearsals, a lot of hard work. At the same time, I had to focus on on my work at the hotel and on events for the LGBT organization called Stop Sida, to which I offered my image and voice as an activist. I love working with people, talking to them and giving them confidence. I love this work and I am proud to belong to this community.

Monika: Did you have any sponsors that supported your participation in the pageant?
Michelle: I had many sponsors. I was the first Miss Trans Star Spain to have the support of many important brands. My dresses were by José Fuentes, my hair, Will, Huala Bikinis, my makeup artist David Molina and my face the aesthetic clinic Divinamente. I am very grateful to all those companies and individuals for believing in me, taking care of me, and making me shine.
Monika: What was the atmosphere among the pageant contestants? Did you have a chance to make friends with some of them?
Michelle: Before the contest, the organization team always told me that it would be a great experience! I came to the pageant mentally ready to compete because I had been preparing myself for 4 months! It was amazing to meet all the girls,  each with a different story and fight.
In my case I had a magical connection with Miss USA - Alejandra Tristán, Miss Switzerland - Hilary Davila, and Miss Sweden - my beloved sister Danielly Drugge.
The strongest and most emotional moment was the day of the show. In rehearsals I could not contain my tears of emotion but when the show was on I did not want it to end that day!

Photo credits: Sebastián Peinado.

I had a brilliant team like the whole Olympics crew: hair stylist, dresses, makeup, and an assistant. So when I heard that my my sister Danielly does not have anyone to support her, we talked about it at lunchtime, and we both cried hand in hand. I told her you are not alone, girl; you have all my team and you cannot be left on your own!
Monika: Amazing! Have you thought about taking part in Miss International Queen in Thailand? 
Michelle: I was offered a possibility to take part in the Miss International Queen but I felt that it was too close to the Miss Trans Star International in Barcelona, so I rejected it.
In addition, I wanted the Miss World Pageant in Italy to be my last international contest.  
Monika: Why?
Michelle: I consider that it will be my last international contest because I want to dedicate myself fully to my new project, which is going to be on television. It will be my new challenge.
Monika: What will be the TV project about?
Michelle: I would like to bring to the television my contest of new talents of the drag queen world, to show the hard work that takes and the life story behind each character. 
Monika: In 2018, Angela Ponce represented Spain during the Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok, Thailand. She was the Miss Universe’s first ever transgender contestant competing against cisgender women. Would you consider doing the same?
Michelle: I had met Angela Ponce before her contest at an event, and we exchanged some words on Instagram. So I was amazed  when I saw her at the Miss Universe. She was crying with emotion and pride! I wrote to her and expressed my own pride as she made the history!
Once I represented Peru in a summer contest in Punta del Este, a city and resort on the Atlantic Coast in Uruguay. It was a pageant for cisgender women called the Miss Ocean Club. Nobody knew my story, and I didn't win but it was a nice experience. 

Michelle (no. 8) at Miss Ocean Club, Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion brands, colours or trends?
Michelle: My style is varied, I like dresses but also short dresses that mark my figure! I have my designer Luis Barahona that creates dresses for all my events. My formula is transparency and good looking body, I love them. And I cannot miss any accessories, including a belt.
Monika: You have a perfect figure! How do you do it? :)
Michelle: I was always very disciplined with my body. I take care of my training because I love to eat well! It is also a bit of luck since I am thin and of small body structure, and of course the surgery helped me to release my freedom.
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pill whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Would you agree?
Michelle: As for contraceptives or in our reality a surgery, I believe in freedom of mind and acceptance. When someone loves someone, it does not matter because a cosmetic surgery only modifies you but it does not change anything in you! 
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any role models or trans sisters that you followed?
Michelle: In my childhood I had many role models like my mother or sister but someone who deeply impacted me most was the famous model from the United Kingdom, a Bond girl - Caroline Cossey. It was a kind of fantasy to find my hero.

Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Michelle: In my transition I had the support of my family, and two unique people. One was my best friend for whom I feel like my soul brother, his name was Mayo.
Secondly, my trans mother Sashi, a woman who lived many years in Italy. When I met her in Peru, we were competing in the Miss Universe pageant. I did not undergo any surgeries and I was full of  doubts but she always gave me the best advice to take care of my health above all and avoid  any unnecessary changes to my body. She always valued the natural, for which I am very grateful to her.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, dreaming about the participation in a beauty pageant?
Michelle: What I can say to the girls is that if you can be a Miss Universe, then you can be a great professional too. Do not place any limitations on yourself. I never stopped dreaming! 
Monika: Thank you, Michelle! Good luck with your pageant in Italy and exciting TV project.
All the photos: courtesy of Michelle Relayze. 
Main photo credits: Sebastián Peinado.
© 2020 - Monika Kowalska

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