Italian Photographer Vincenzo Floramo caught up with Mogok Pauk Pauk, the celebrated transgender fashion designer from Myanmar and captured her story as well as some snapshots from her daily life.
Vincenzo Floramo writes:
Mogok Pauk Pauk is called “Fairy God Mother” by her friends and her story is one of passion and dreams fulfilled in the face of big obstacles.
It all started in Mogok, a city famous for its rubies, where Mogok Pauk Pauk moved to when she was only five years old. Even though Mogok Pauk Pauk was born a boy, she loved to dress up in clothes for girls and wear makeup and she would help her mother with the family hairdressing business. She became the target of scorn and bullying because of her feminine interests, but she didn’t let that stop her.
By the time she was 16, Mogok Pauk Pauk was already a very sought after makeup artist for brides and traditional dancers in Mandalay and Mogok. However she had bigger dreams and moved to the Yangon, to make them come true. She said, “In Yangon I had to share a room with other people, and sexual harassment was the order of the day, to the point that I was often forced to change accommodation for fear of being raped.”
Mogok Pauk Pauk started a relationship with a rock singer, but it fell apart when she discovered that he was cheating on her.
“I know it might seem hard to believe, but I’ve always felt like a woman, a Burmese woman who has never sought easy sex, but a relationship of love,” she says. After a couple of adventures, true love only arrived when an actor from Yangon entered into her life. As this new relationship blossomed, she gained confidence and became more focused on her work.
In 2006, she finally decided to move to Milan, Italy to attend design classes at the Burgo Fashion and Design Institute.
“The early days were really tough,” she explains, “I had to search for accommodation, the studies had already started full time and I had to deal with the language barrier in a strange land.”
In Milan, Mogok Pauk Pauk developed her talent as a fashion designer and when she returned to her homeland, her creations started to attract attention. Today, she is one of Myanmar’s most famous fashion designers. Mogok Pauk Pauk believes in supporting other young designers, so she has created a scholarship which is promoting new talent. With this programme Mogok Pauk Pauk hopes to fulfill another dream, “ Creating a village in Myanmar where art is able to represent the country’s artistic values and traditions.”