SOUL Sisters [cover feature]

Three best friends, Willam Belli, Marco Morante and Ashton Hirota, working side by side, on their “little queer block in the heart of Hollywood.” Family values

BY MARK ARIEL  |  PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

Fashion designers Ashton Hirota (Ashton Michael), Marco Morante (Marco Marco) and drag queen and recording artist Willam Belli met over a decade ago and have quickly become a family unit. Their work spaces are situated side by side in Hollywood and they “genuinely love and support each other and want to see the other succeed,” says Hirota in an interview with THE FIGHT.

“I met Ashton about eighteen years ago… I was working as a stylist with American Idol and bought a few pieces from his collection. We became friends and co-workers soon after that,” reveals Morante.

“Marco and I became soul sisters fairly quickly,” says Hirota. “We found out we worked at the same art store in high school in the 90s but worked different shifts and never met each other. Ultimately we realized very early on that we were stuck with each others neurotic  asses.”

“In our industries there is so much petty, competitive energy that it’s a blessing to have such talented and caring peers—they have become a daily support system.”

“Willam came in later but quickly found his way into our hearts,” reveals Hirota.

“The thing I love about Willam so much is that he really supports his peers. Each season I show a collection—and Willam is one of the first people the day of the show to text me what he wants to buy immediately. This is so beautiful to me because while most people ask for things, William never has. Even when I say I’ll make it for free—a Venmo notice will pop up shortly after him leaving the shop. Even for this shoot he made sure he was wearing things from Marco Marco and Ashton Michael (that he had in his closet already) I genuinely love our little queer block in the heart of Hollywood and appreciate those bitches so much.”

Willam concurs, asking “what drag queen doesn’t want two extraordinary designers as gaybors?”

“The fact that we are all on the same two city blocks in Hollywood has been a beautiful crossover,” says Hirota.  

“Willam has a full production studio space in which I have shot my look books for collections. At the same time when Willam needs a last minute  fashion emergency, Marco and I  are always a convenient few feet away to make it happen for her. Plus Willam always has the best snacks!” 

“The key factor with all of us is the selflessness of it all. We genuinely love and support each other and want to see the other succeed.  In our industries there is so much petty, competitive energy that it’s a blessing to have such talented and caring peers—they have become a daily support system. Whether its solving a creative block or bitching about some irritable work circumstances, we are there for each other.  Marco and I worked under the same roof for nearly a decade at one point so our support for each other could be as simple as throwing back a few beers and snowballing some ideas around.”

“I think creatively we all like to experiment with what we do, and our proximity just expands the potential for collaborative opportunities.  It’s also just more fun,” says Morante.

“I just want to emphasize how grateful I am for all my chosen family outside this fabulous messy trio,” says Hirota. 

“In a world when a lot of people don’t want to see you succeed, my circle is full of those who ONLY want that . Cherish your peers, support them, inspire them, listen and love them but most of all don’t take them for granted.”  


Contact info: Ashton Hirota, www.ashtonmichael.com. Marco Morante, www.marcomarcounderwear.com. Willam Belli, IG @willam.