Hollywood Designer Michael Shirley, a #RealDeal Interview
I was fortunate to get a few minutes to catch up with celebrity designer Michael Shirley. Find out what motivates this creative powerhouse and learn how he rebounded from a disappointment to come back stronger than before. Robyn Hussa Farrell, Editor, #Real Deal
Please tell us about yourself and what you do?
My name is Michael Shirley, and I am a Hollywood based artist, lifestyle blogger, broadcast journalist, and fashion designer. I have been writing my blog, I Hate Michael Shirley – The Life & Times Of A Hollywood Socialite, for 6 years and started soon after I moved here. It’s about me and the things I love – fashion, music, and art. I also have an online boutique called Michaelwood, and 2 clothing lines which I design and operate myself called Doctor Couture and Mic by Michael Shirley.
Doctor is a luxury sportswear brand for a more of a jet-setting, fashion-forward clientele that range from newborns to 40-year-olds, while Mic is a super affordable rock ‘n’ roll-inspired brand for the rockstar in all of us and ranges from $15 – $30. And on top of all that I curate an online art gallery of my own work and work of other artists called Lionheart Gallery, and do a little social media consulting on the side.
How did you get into / interested in fashion design and your work?
I really started getting into fashion and clothing when I was around 13, but it took me up until a few year ago to really feel comfortable with my own style. I’m 6’3 and thin and have a really long torso and really long legs, so a lot of normal clothes didn’t ever look right on me when I was growing into myself, which made me feel slightly awkward as a pre-teen.
I got recruited by a modeling scout when I was 16 and did runway shows, store and newspaper advertisements for what is now Macy’s, then signed with a modeling agency in Chicago during college. In college, I also had a friend that enjoyed making clothes that I would doodle designs for when I was bored during class, and it was really cool to see my designs come to life and have stuff nothing like what anyone else was wearing, so I knew after I had made a name for myself in the journalism world, I then wanted to start my own fashion line.
And so after I got hired to write IHATEMICHAELSHIRLEY.COM, I felt comfortable jumping into the fashion business, because I had a lot of friends in the industry that I was learning from and I also had a following of people who were fans of me just for what I wore, by that time. So, I just started designing things I would want to wear or dress my family and friends in and people have seemed to really like it!
One aspect of our mission at Mental Fitness, Inc. is about connecting kids to role models and mentors. Who were the role models in your life?
Yoko Ono is my biggest role model and has been since I was in high school, she does it all – and being that I do so much, I need people like that to look up to. I also find her to be so selfless and I love how she lives for art and peace in this perfect harmony. I just can’t find anything I don’t love about her. I’ve always loved superheroes too, but was rather passive as a kid, so I had this huge job crush on April O’Neil from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, because she got to hang with the superheroes and show the world these awesome stories that would have never been known, had she not been in the position she was in.
Other than that, I’m kind of an awful person to ask about this, because I’ve always been really attracted to outsiders and the beauty in the strong, yet broken side of life. I’m not sure that those are always the best role models to have – but I felt it made me stronger choosing to have really bold and edgier influences. I love and use a lot of iconography in my art and clothing designs, so I attribute that a lot to my love of Andy Warhol.
What do you define as beautiful?
To me beauty is beyond definition. It’s more of a feeling you get or give.
How do you define inner beauty?
To me, it’s this invisible light inside a person that brightens a room and effortlessly puts smiles on peoples faces.
What is happiness?
Loving yourself, and feeling satisfied in your accomplishments and life – knowing you’re lived it how you wanted to.
You seem to do it all — how? Seriously, you have a zillion products, sites, things you do … what is the secret to juggling it all and accomplishing your dreams?
WELL – juggling and accomplishing are soooooo very different for me. I have just always been endlessly creative and naturally driven. I believe I can do anything. I think if I wanted to be president, I believe I could if I worked hard enough and dedicated my life to that goal. Obviously, I’m too late in the game now and would never have interest in anything like that, but I believe the we – at least in America – can do or be anything we want if we put our minds to it. I think that’s what makes this country so great as a whole.
We built this country on dreams, and dreams are what make every day a reality. There is also an aspect of “luck” to it as well – right places, right times. But the harder you work towards something, the more inevitable it is that you will end up in some of those places and times at some point. You have to be brave, and be able to accept criticism and use it to better yourself and your work. I am also a really big believer in manifesting things into your life. If you put out that energy and effort and work towards something – it will eventually come to you. You have to always believe in yourself. That may be hard sometimes, but knowing what the world around you is doing is empowering in itself.
As for juggling – I’m still trying to manage all that, but I’m getting a lot better at it than I was. I hate routine and rules make me want to brake them, so I have to set realistic and intriguing goals for myself, because it’s really important to me that I stay interested in something for it to be successful. Not too long ago I was feeling really overwhelmed with having blogs, a boutique, 2 clothing lines, and an art gallery – not to mention all the social media outlets there are to keep up with, so for a long time I thought about how I could fix this problem.
Ever since I put out my first accessory collection, I have fantasized about how cool it would be to see my store’s sign all lit up in a mall with customers walking in and out, so something clicked and I thought – MAKE A VIRTUAL MALL TO HOUSE ALL THIS STUFF! So, I created TheMallOfMichael.net and it has completely solved my problem. I just love it. Even if it weren’t mine, I would enjoy going to it, because it offers everything I love – fashion, music, art, inspiration, entertainment… and there’s even a food court! I’ve never seen it done before on the literal level in which I’ve done it, so I’m pretty proud of that idea.
How have you dealt with adversity in your life / career? When you had moments where you were “down” — what strategies helped you recover or discover your new course?
The best thing my mother taught me as a child was to never let anyone walk all over me, and I don’t. When I was a kid I got picked on for being overweight, and I really wasn’t even that big – just bigger than the other kids, and I even remember telling some girl who was mean to me when I was like 7 that she would wish she could be my friend one day, and at my 10 year high school reunion a few months ago, that girl came up to me and told me that I was the one person she was hoping to see at the reunion.
As for career – I’ve been through it all. I’ve cried in huge meetings with 5-10 people staring at me while someone shredded into me, but as soon as those meetings were over – I gained my composure and would find that person and very calmly and strongly stand up for myself and get really raw with them – which showed them that my tears were not tears of weakness, but tears of passion.
I’ve had people write horrible things and lies about me online which have made me want to crawl into a whole and never come out, but eventually I realized those people were just bullies hiding behind a computer screen, and named my blog I Hate MichaelShirley” to show them that I didn’t care what haters thought of me, and ever since then – the online bullying slowly faded away and I haven’t given negative attention any thought.
My biggest obstacle was in 2010. I was doing red carpet reporting and had just filmed a pilot for my own web series and signed on for a full season when half my face was paralyzed by a nerve virus called Bell’s Palsy. The effects can last from 10 days – forever, so naturally I could not do my work and was dropped from everything.
It was this huge, cosmic slap in the face to work for over 10 years for something – accomplish everything you’ve worked for then suddenly have it all taken away from you and know there is nothing within your power that you can do to change it. I also went through a broken engagement at the time and it was a really dark period in my life, but I focused all my energy on my passions – fashion, music, and art, and created my clothing lines, opened my boutique, recorded an EP, and started my art gallery.
It was really therapeutic to focus on the things I could do that I loved, rather than the things I couldn’t. I’m happy to say I am 95% better according to my doctors the last time we spoke, but it has taken 4 years to get that far. I use to think “Why me?”, but now I realize we all have our crosses to bear in life, so to speak, and all of the awful things I had to go through just made me stronger and a better person.
Are there ways that you use arts (creative art, performing arts, martial arts), mindfulness or yoga to cope with difficult / stressful moments? Could you give a few examples of stuff that works for you? Any phrases or quotes that you think of?
Music. Music can change any mood I’m in. If I am sad, I put on really happy music, and slowly but surely – that anxiety will start to fade within a few songs. Obviously there are some things that transcend moods, so for things like that I really do use creating as an outlet. It’s good to focus on other things when you are down about a situation you can’t personally change. My favorite quote, if you could even call it that, is “YES” by Yoko Ono. It’s more of a state of mind or way of thinking, but I just find that word inspiring. “No” has to be my least favorite word in the dictionary. I don’t even really understand it properly.