Designer Rey Ortiz on RuPaul’s Drag Race to Dressing Lizzo, Kylie Jenner – The Hollywood Reporter


Rey Ortiz was fired at the start of the COVID pandemic. At the time, he was working at a furniture and electronics store in LA, selling toilets—yes, toilets—by day while sewing designs by night. Many of these designs weren’t meant for any particular person, just the result of his sometimes overactive mind. But there was a choice for candidates RuPaul’s Drag Race. In May 2020, on his birthday, he was released from the store.

“And I can honestly say my phone hasn’t stopped ringing since then,” says Ortiz. The designer now counts Lizzo, Latto, Mary J. Blige and more among the stars who have worn his pieces. “I would never, ever, ever have given up my job for fear of not having an income. If I hadn’t been pushed, I would never have tried it.”

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Born in Puerto Rico, Ortiz, 41, has fashion in his blood. With a mother and grandfather who sewed for a living, the child, who was one of five, discovered an interest in art and illustration at an early age. After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design with a Masters in Art Animation, Ortiz entered an MTV digital skills competition show. engine roomwith his team taking home first place.

Television competitions are a recurring theme in his career. After learning to sew from a seamstress in Puerto Rico, he moved to Texas to teach at the Art Institute in Fort Worth. He quit that job when he was put on the cast Project Catwalk spin off Under the Gunn in 2014. He was eliminated after his first challenge in the series.

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“There’s no way we won’t see Rey Ortiz again and there will be some surprises in the future,” he said in his sign-off. While the claims were bold, the 6ft 3 designer didn’t touch a sewing machine about the experience for four months. But the rejection turned into fuel. “I think the reason I’m doing well today is because I was not only able to do better as a fashion maker, but also as a person,” he says. “I was trying to get all the joy and appreciation of designing in real life. Not in a competition where people were there to judge me.”

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In January 2015, Ortiz went on the gamble. He had made friends RuPaul’s Drag Race Star Alyssa Edwards helping her look. When he heard that Bianca Del Rio (winner of season 6 of the drag contest series) was performing at a bar where Edwards also worked, he asked Edwards if she would arrange for him to “tip” after the performance “could give” Del Rio with a free dress he made just for her. It worked: The dress fitted perfectly, eventually becoming the look Del Rio chose for her cameo in Season 8, and sparking a relationship between the two that spans almost a decade.

From left: Rey Ortiz with RuPaul’s Drag Race Star Alyssa Edwards wears one of his dresses.

COURTESY OF REY ORTIZ

Ortiz became part of a competitive group of designers and clients Drag Race started wearing regularly. Some have shown their creations on big red carpets as well as mainstream stars: Joshuan Aponte’s work has been worn by Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, while Diego Montoya has collaborated with Lady Gaga, creating looks that have been worn by Shangela and Jenifer Lewis at the Oscars 2019 and won an Emmy earlier this year for his work on the HBO reality series Were here.

It was Ortiz’s turn – a few months after she left the store – in the form of a leopard print bodysuit worn by Kylie Jenner in the August 2020 “WAP” video. “That was my first taste of a big moment without a drag queen. ” he says.

Lizzo in a tailored pink ensemble by the designer, who appeared at MTV’s VMAs in August; Kris Jenner (left) and Kylie Jenner wore custom black corset dresses by Ortiz in a recent photo announcing a new makeup collaboration.

THEO WARGO/GETTY IMAGES FOR MTV/PARAMOUNT GLOBAL. JENNER: THE MORELLI BROTHERS/COURTESY.

Then it was a ton of looks for Cardi herself, including her metal showpiece for the 2021 Grammys.”[Stylist] Kollin Carter was always calling me about Cardi about this or that,” says Ortiz. “He told me he was calling me because I design for drag queens and the things he needed were similar: It has to stand out, it has to move, it has to have a point of view.”

Stylist Zerina Akers found his work searching for a designer who knows how to engineer for performance and can work on a fast turnaround. “He does everything for his customers. He’s always evolving,” says Akers, who has dressed Megan Thee Stallion, Jazmine Sullivan and Chloe X Halle in Ortiz’s designs.

Ortiz says of his development, “I don’t dress drag queens because they’re my target audience, I dress people I respect. To me, these are people who matter, doing things bigger than themselves.”

This story first appeared in the September 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to login.





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