NX MEET: Ezra Michel

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday February 28, 2022

Ezra Michel
Ezra Michel  

EDGE and Lexus NX Beat have partnered to profile six of today's hottest LGBTQ+ recording artists. Click here to see the full video featuring Ezra Michel and Sam J. Garfield, and read the EDGE interview with Ezra below.

Trans singer-songwriter Ezra Michel literally and artistically embodies a story of identity sought, earned, and claimed; his first single, "Man of My Dreams," is a stirring testament to how he didn't simply sit back and look for his ideal man, but became that man, on his own terms.

Michel is also an actor, breaking new ground on the small screen as trans masculine character Andrés on the Telemundo comedy series "100 dias para enamoranos" ("100 Days to Fall in Love").


EDGE: It's a wonderful thing that your first single, "Man of My Dreams," was dedicated to yourself because you had become the man you'd dreamed of being. In what other ways has your trans identity shaped and influenced your music?

Ezra Michel: Well, I think that I'm always going to be speaking from the perspective of a transgender man, which influences my entire life, and my worldview, and the way that I view myself. Everybody's journey influences the way that they see the world, and how they create. It's just a really big part of who I am, that I like to acknowledge. So, you know, even if the lyrics aren't specifically about my trans identity, my trans identity is woven into anything that I create.

EDGE: Are there musical elements you feel are inherently "male" or "female," and do you try to weave them or contrast them in new ways in your work?

Ezra Michel: I guess. I mean, how I would kind of reframe that to fit what I understand about gender and stuff, would be more about feminine and masculine energy. It's been a journey to accept the feminine aspects of my voice and my music, and the way that I am in the world in general.

Because I'm a transgender man, my feminine traits used to feel like the worst thing about me, because it felt like the one thing that was stopping me from walking through the world as a man, and as I've been able to transition and have my presentation be read as male as I'm walking through the world, I've been able to allow my feminine energy to be free and not, you know, feel like I need to contain it, and keep it down, and keep it suppressed.

Once I was allowing myself to be free within myself, and let my energy be what it is instead of trying to constrict it or curate it based on what I think other people [would think], my music really changed. I started being able to write way more freely, and the things that came to me were so much more exciting. I started wanting to listen to my own music, and that was a big thing for me, because when I was younger, I would write stuff and I would just be like, "Yeah, this isn't for me." I always needed to write music no matter what, but then I became my own fan once I started really loving myself. I think is there's an obvious correlation there.

EDGE: Maybe on the other side of that coin, I've heard the thought expressed that when a trans woman begins to embrace her identity and live as a woman, she might find her social capital evaporate — the social capital that she had when she was presenting and living as a man. Have you felt that in society, in your professional work, and in other areas of your life, that you've gained some of that capital now that you have embraced your masculine gender?

Ezra Michel: That's really interesting. I think that question would pertain more to somebody who didn't transition at 18. I've been walking through the world, my entire adult life, as a man. And, yeah, being socialized as a woman up till that point, I definitely can see the difference between how I was treated as a teen girl versus how I've been treated as an adult man. But I think because I never really experienced walking through the world as an adult woman or being perceived as an adult woman, especially in this industry, I can never fully be able to compare those experiences. But I do acknowledge my male privilege that I have. My identity definitely gives me a perspective that I think a lot of cisgender men don't have. Male privilege certainly helps.

EDGE: I talked to Sam J. Garfield the other day, and I've seen video of the two of you working together in the studio, so obviously you have worked to some extent with other LGBTQ+ artists. Has that helped you grow creatively?

Ezra Michel: Oh, yeah. You know, as I've gotten more confident, secure in my own direction, my own voice within my art, I've been able to really collaborate with other folks. That's been really exciting, because art used to feel so isolated in my own little bubble, my own world. It was my escape. It was secret, and it was sacred, and I didn't share it with anybody.

And now it's become this way of connecting with folks around me. And so, yes, I work with Sam on music, and I've worked with my partner, Bob, on videos and things for TikTok, and things like that. My best friend Mars and I create together. I have a friend, Ray, who I'm starting to collaborate with. I'm collaborating with my musical inspiration that started the whole thing — her name's Kimya Dawson. She did a bunch of the soundtrack for the movie "Juno." She randomly started following me on Instagram, popped into one of my lives when I happened to be covering one of her songs at two in the morning. She just happened to be there, and she just, like commented, like, "No way!" And I was like, "What are you doing here? What do you hear?" There was like 30 people in the live. And then we started writing together.

EDGE: I love this quote of yours: "Music can connect in a way conversation can't." What are the things you want to say in music that otherwise you can't convey?

Ezra Michael: it changes with every song, but I think that the foundation of my message is that things aren't as serious as we maybe think they are. And yet, being alive is challenging, and it comes with so many obstacles and things that we have to overcome. It's good to acknowledge all those things, but it's also important, I think, to find the funny. I try to write from a perspective of merging the funny with the real.

EDGE: You've had a recurring role in the Spanish-language comedy "100 dias para enamoranos" as a trans-masculine character, Andrés. Would you want to play a cis-male role, or do you feel it's more important to represent trans men on screen?

Ezra Michel: I think both. I would like to represent trans men as much as possible, and I'd be open to playing anybody. Really, truly anybody — as far as gender goes, I'd play a cis woman, I'd play a trans woman, I'd play a trans man, I'd play a cis man. I really feel passionate about deconstructing the notion of gender as a rigid thing. I say I identify as a trans man just for the sake of language and communication, but my general concept of gender is that I don't really have one. It's just sort of like, "Yeah, I mean, I wear clothes and I have hair. Okay, cool, man." I would never like to restrict myself based on gender.

EDGE: That's like what you were saying before about different qualities in yourself — acting can open up doors to those different rooms in yourself. But then, do you feel that it's possible you might identify as non-binary at some point?

Ezra Michel: Yeah, I identify as non-binary as well. So I guess my, like, clean label would be non-binary trans man.

EDGE: What is your hope/wish/goal for the LGBTQ+ community in the next 10 years?

Ezra Michel: Just more of everything that we're already doing — more acceptance, more tools to take care of ourselves and move further away from survival and more towards thriving and, like, ascending. Exceeding. I feel like a good word for it is just freedom — more freedom.

Follow Ezra Michel at his website, and on Facebook, on Instagram, on TikTok, and on YouTube.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.