Friday, April 19, 2013
Meet Mercedes! An Interview with Suddenly Fem’s newest TG model (by CiCi Kitten)
Spring is a great time of year. The snow melts. The rain stops. And everything seems brand new. So what better time for Suddenly Fem to introduce their newest tgirl model. The Spring Fashion Catalog was released last month introducing Suddenly Fem fans to the stunning Mercedes.
The Spring Fashion edition may have marked Mercedes’ first time in front of the camera for Suddenly Fem, but it’s far from her first time in front of a camera. Several years ago, Mercedes was talked into attending a large casting session for an upcoming movie. But there was one catch… it was in public place and the girls had to be in bikinis. Mercedes almost didn’t go. But a woman told her that she should go for it. “Wherever she is,” Mercedes says today. “God bless her.”
As you might expect, Mercedes arrived to find herself surrounded by straight bikini girls and hot dancers. “I didn’t let it stop me though,” she recalls. “It just lit the fire inside me. The promoter told me to relax. ‘You got this,’ he said.”
She hit the stage to the delight of the crowd. And delighted them even more when she admitted to one and all that she was… “a woman with balls!”
Now you might think that would have worked against her. But it didn’t. Mercedes finished in the Top 3 and got a part in the movie, “Bikini Bandits.” On the set she got to meet and hang with fellow actors, Dee Dee Ramone, Corey Feldman, and others. It was a dream come true for a girl who always dreamed of being seen on a bigger stage. A girl who describes her growing up years with one simple word, “rough.”
And I think a lot of people reading this blog can relate to her story.
Mercedes moved around a lot as a child. She comes from the South – Mississippi, Florida – but she doesn’t really have a place she calls home. She is a product of both a mobile military family and the foster care system. She is no longer in touch with either of her parents.
When she was young, she was considered gay. But, as she says, no one really knew what to do with her. “It was hard,” she says. “It was very difficult. People wanted me to be invisible. But I wanted to be seen.” She was still young but she’d already realized, “I’m going to act. I’m going to model.” She never told anyone of her dream, but she was determined to be in the spotlight.
Failed relationships fueled her even further. At one point, Mercedes discovered that her boyfriend was hiding a framed photo of her when she wasn’t around. He was ashamed of her. “That’s why being seen is so fulfilling to me. I’m here whether you like it or not,” she says. “You don’t want to be seen with me? Okay, now I’m going to be seen by thousands.”
She got into acting because she didn’t feel like an average person. She couldn’t see herself working at McDonalds. Now she’s listed on IMDB! But after “Bikini Bandits,” she sort of went on hiatus. She registered with talent agencies but she didn’t get many opportunities to act. She did however do modeling – including runway modeling. “I’ve always been comfortable in heels,” says Mercedes. “I’m more comfortable in heels than in flats. I can run in them!
Her professional life came full circle when she got in touch with Tyler DeSouza and Suddenly Fem. It was like the bikini audition all over again. “I saw the ad,” she says. “I thought it was interesting, but just like with the bikini movie, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t act on it. A month went by. Two months. Three months.”
She kept the ad in the back of her car… and in the back of her mind… for months. Then a friend mentioned it. That seemed like destiny to Mercedes. She thought, “This is a sign.” So she set up a tripod and camera, and took some photos of herself. She had them photocopied the next day and sent them off. Next thing she knew she was getting the phone call she was hoping for. She found out that Suddenly Fem was interested.
“Very interested, they said.”
Of course, things don’t move that fast in the fashion world. Mercedes’ first shoot didn’t come up for another 8-9 months. But that gave her time to do some photo training. Learning how to pose. How to react to the camera. Learning to work with her body… in heels!
“I love modeling,” she says. “It’s a natural niche for me.” But she discovered it’s not as easy as it looks. “There’s so much to think about. Postions. Face. Hair. Makeup. Angles. Lots of twisting and turning. It’s pretty intense. And we go for 5 or 6 hours straight. Some of my training sessions lasted from morning to night!”
She enjoyed working with Tyler though. “He’s a good guy. A good teacher. He knows what he wants. We went 9 to 9. It’s a long day. But it’s fun. I love the training. I love the reward. When I see he’s happy with the photos. Feeling that he’s satisfied.”
I asked Mercedes if she had any advice for other tgirls. And, at first, she seemed hesitant. She said – and it’s true – that it’s hard to give out blanket advice to an entire community when everyone is at different stages and everyone has different goals. But at the same time, she likes the idea of being an inspiration to others.
She is inspired by strong female performers – Madonna and Safire are two of her favorites. Strong women who exude confidence. They inspired her when she was young… and they still inspire her today. (Mercedes has actually corresponded with Safire and is looking forward to meeting her in the near future.)
Mercedes thought a little more about the advice question. “Some girls don’t want to be seen. They have wives. I have no shame. But some can’t do it and I understand why.”
Still, she does add that in this high tech age, there’s no reason to feel alone or isolated.
“You don't have to live your desire or your life in a shameful way in this computer age,” she says. “Get acquainted with a buddy or friend online and have fun with it. If nothing else, you will always have a support system.”
Overall though, things are getting better for the entire transgender community. “It is getting more acceptable. There’s ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ They use a lot of comedy. I guess that’s they way you get through to the straight crowd. By being funny. But the TG life is different. It’s not all fun and games. We live it 24/7. You have to have your armor on. Head up. Even if you’re totally passable someone’s still going to know. Someone’s still going to say something. So you have to be mentally strong.”
“I guess that’s what I want to say: Do what you do and have fun. Don’t let life bring you down.”
And then, as if to illustrate the point she told me a story she’d heard about an older man who was 75 years old. His wife had just died. And he had a sex change!
“It was something he always wanted to do,” Mercedes recalls. “And I’m like, good for him. Go for it You want to go full time… go for it. Don’t wait for someone else to say, do it.”Do it!
As a writer/blogger who’s talked to a lot of tgirls, this is something I’ve learned. Very often people can inspire you without really trying. All they’re doing is trying to live their lives as best they can in an honest way. But that, in and of itself, is inspiring. Mercedes is one of those people.
“It’s very gratifying,” she says. “I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that I’ve changed their life. You just never know. I’m insecure sometimes myself. But then you see that somebody out there is paying attention. That someone out there is willing to learn and open their hearts.”
“That just … I don’t know…” she pauses. “That just makes me smile inside.”
Mercedes’ next Suddenly Fem photo shoot is this summer. You can look for her rocking the latest Suddenly Fem Fashions in upcoming catalogs and on the SF website.
Posted by CiCi Kitten at 8:53 PM