What’s On & What’s Underneath
By Andrew Armano
On Mekahel, underwear model and designer, and reality TV celebrity, is a rising star. He took some time to talk with OutClique. On and I had a very bi-coastal conversation; it was a poolside-to-poolside facetime conversation. We laughed about the virtues of life in LA and South Florida, and we joked about the hurricanes here and the fires there. On joked, “Well, nowhere is perfect.” This turned out to be a prescient quip as we discussed the double-edged sword of seeking perfection in our personal and creative lives.
Andrew Armano: I’m really glad you had time to talk with me. I love your underwear, Mo Underwear, and I am dying to talk with you about that, but let me start with your show Putting On. I’ve been watching it on Revry TV and it’s so much fun. I just want to tell you right off the bat, you have such an honesty about you. And I find that really touching.
On Mekahel: I’m the most shy person you can imagine, even though you wouldn’t know it from my media presence. But, I pushed myself with Putting On and really I opened up so much in Season 2 because of my husband. He helped me be OK showing the real me.
AA: That is really beautiful. And that’s a sign of a really great relationship, when your partner really helps you blossom. In what ways do you think that he helped you become more open on the camera?
OM: My whole life I was chasing perfection, but he showed me there’s no perfect thing in life. Nobody’s perfect. Nothing is perfect. He taught me to just love the imperfect, and that’s allowed me to open up.
AA: It was a process of accepting yourself as you are?
OM: Yes, he showed me it’s OK not to be perfect — he loves me even though I have sides that I’m not proud of. If he can love me the way I am, then I can accept myself the way I am.
AA: That is so beautiful. How have you grown as a professional since starting your line?
OM: I have a team now and I rely on them. When I started, I did all the designs on my own. It was just me. I didn’t ask anybody. I didn’t care about anybody’s opinion. But, now, I do care, and I listen to my team and my husband. I’m reaching out to people outside of my office just to make sure that I’m listening to everybody, but not losing myself in the process.
AA: Right. It’s an interesting balance, to be open to the feedback, but to remain true to yourself.
OM: That’s what I learned — it will always be my vision at the end of the day.
AA: Tell me a little bit about growing up in Israel.
OM: I’m from a small town next to Tel Aviv, Israel. It’s amazing. I need to be all over the world because of my career, but my heart stays back home.
AA: I have been lucky to travel a lot, but Israel is absolutely where I am going next. My favorite episode of Putting On is the one where you and David (husband) visit Israel.
OM: Oh my God you have to go. It’s beautiful. Just wait for pride season if you go because that’s summer and it’s amazing. Before the pandemic started, I was going home every three months to be with my family and friends. Now I haven’t seen them in months, and I’m missing them terribly. My mom just sent me cookies — just arrived 10 minutes before we started talking.
AA: That’s so sweet. My mother used to send me little gifts all the time. There’s nothing like that. I know you’re living in LA right now. How do you like it there? Do you prefer New York over LA?
OM: It’s a tough question because I’m a very LA person. I love the glam and the good weather, but New York is in my blood. I moved to New York when I was 20, and it just got my heart.
AA: I totally relate to you because I used to live in Manhattan right after college. It completely shaped the man I became. I love life down here. I love the open air, the sunshine, the water, the ocean, but still there’s always that part that misses the city.
OM: Since you said that, here’s a little bit of a scoop for you: for Season 3, we are planning to move back.
AA: That’s exciting! On the topic of your show, I’ve just been incredibly captivated by you. There are several moments in your show where you made clear, conscious choices to put your husband, family, and treasured friendships ahead of the show and publicity. You chose your personal life over the TV show itself, even when it’s not what your producers wanted. I find that very admirable, to be honest. Are those difficult choices, or is it just something that comes second nature to you?
OM: For me, it’s not a question. I’m so thankful that the show is taking off and it’s my dream come true, but nothing is more important than my family and my husband. My career is my dream, but my relationship and family, that’s my life. So, if I need to choose, it’s going to be them before the show. If the producer or the network can’t agree on that, I guess it’s not meant to be. Career is amazing, money is great, and the more, the better, but not at a price.
AA: I know that living a life in the public eye can be full of challenges, not the least of which to stay grounded.
OM: Sure. There is always drama around me, but I don’t let it enter my personal life. Truthfully, there were moments during filming which I could have chosen to create drama for the show. But, I didn’t.
AA: On the career side, tell me a little about your vision for your underwear line for the next couple of years?
OM: I focus on my vision of simple, masculine designs that appeal to all kinds of men combined with a comfortable, practical fit. Making sure my underwear feels good as well as looks good is important. Every sample that I create, we have men of all body types trying them on to see how they fit, look, and feel on all shapes and sizes. All men deserve that.
AA: That’s fantastic. My guiding principle as a photographer and writer is that “simple is not easy.” Simple looks easy, but it’s actually incredibly difficult, so I have a lot of admiration for what you are doing.
OM: Thank you. I want the designs to appeal to all men, and I want men to feel confident and comfortable with themselves. And nothing’s more sexy than that. It doesn’t matter if you have muscles, or have a so-called perfect body. I think that this ideal is changing in our community. It used to be about needing muscles and a certain look, and that is not true. It’s 2020, let’s wake up! Oh my God, if you have confidence, you are the sexiest.
AA: I really admire that you’re conscious that, as a public figure, you are a role model that emanates a sense of joy and inclusiveness.
OM: I love people. I don’t want people to be hurt. I am sad when I see how our community sometimes hurts each other with stereotyping or how we treat each other. I hope to be a part of changing that.
AA: I see a change happening in the gay community, a push to be more inclusive. I’m really encouraged by that.
OM: There is a change, but it just needs to be faster. We need to change, not just talk about it.
AA: I know. You’re right. You’re right. I could talk to you for hours. I’m serious. You’re just so much fun and so amazing, but I don’t want to be rude and monopolize your time too much.
OM: Oh my God, stop. I’m having the best day.
AA: The feeling is completely mutual. I hope someday you make it over here to this area.
OM: I’m dying to come to Miami and Florida. It was supposed to happen this summer, but I was like, I can’t go. So, hopefully soon we will get a vaccine and then I can be on the plane again. I’m so used to traveling, so I don’t know how to be in the same place for more than two weeks, but I’m definitely going to come over and we have to see each other.
AA: That would be great. Thank you. And, if you ever need anything or I can do anything over here, feel free to let me know.
OM: Thank you so much. Thank you.