The Detainee’s Daughter: A Q&A With REVOLT Stylist Miquelle West
Some people know her as a celebrity stylist, but Miquelle West had humble beginnings in Detroit, Michigan. She travelled to New York right after high school and attended Parsons School of Design, where she interned with American stylist and costume designer Patricia Fields for five years. She worked her way through a world she knew she belonged in right from the beginning; bouncing from Sex and the City to Sharon Carpenter, Beyoncé to Madonna to Ray J, unleashing her flair for fashion through the process. She’s currently an in-house stylist at Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Revolt, and if there’s one thing Miquelle is sure of about her life, that would be fashion.
But some people know her beyond that. These people know she’s daughter of a convicted parent. In 1993 her mother, Michelle West, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, aiding and abetting a drug-related murder, money laundering, and false statements to institutions with deposits insured by the FDIC. May 3rd of that year was the first time Michelle never got to pick up her then 10-year-old daughter from school, and Miquelle has been fighting to free her mother, who she believes was wrongly accused, ever since.
Through Inmate Stories project, run by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, Michelle’s story got an instant audience. But more than that, she got sympathy and love for being such an amazing mom — because really, buying fashion mags and collecting snippets of what her daughter could use while behind bars is nothing if not a testament to a mother’s love.
As Michelle serves a double life sentence plus 50 years, Miquelle is out here, fighting for her mother’s freedom and for real justice to be served. Now, Miquelle gets the spotlight.
What’s your favorite baby/toddler photo and what do you like best about it?
When I look at this photo it reminds me of my early days in the fashion world. I’m happy I was able to experience modeling as a child, because I didn’t reach the height requirement to model professionally as an adult.
What was your childhood like? And what’s that one simple, ordinary thing from your childhood that is now a major aspect of your life?
I had an amazing childhood prior to the age of 10. My everyday life was lived like a princess. Who knew the days I spent creating looks for my Barbie dolls would now be a major aspect of my life? I create looks for my clients as a stylist.
Were you a fashionista at school? Or were you shy and preferred to keep it at home, tucked in closets?
Some people acquire the term “fashionista”. I was born into the world of fashion, so throughout my entire life “fashionista” has described who I am. I was voted “Best Dressed” in our mock elections during my senior year in high school. It definitely wasn’t something that I kept at home, tucked away in the closets.
In one of your interviews, you said, “I was a little girl when I fell in love with fashion. I played dress up in my mother’s closet.” Do you think it was an advantage that at a young age you already know what you want to be?
I think it has worked to my advantage that I always had a real interest in fashion. My high school guidance counselor assured me that working in the fashion industry was the direction I should take after graduating. I started working in retail at age 16 and I am still very much in love with the career that I chose.
You mother never got to pick you up from school on May 3rd of 1993, right? What was that like for you as a 10-year-old? How did you find out about her imprisonment?
I was traumatized by the physical loss of my mother. I knew something was wrong when I walked into my grandmother’s house. The police had trashed my grandmother’s home. She told me that she had been cleaning. I told her that I thought cleaning made things look better, not worse. My mother was gone, but her purse was still there. I knew something was wrong because my grandmother and three aunts were sitting at the dining room table looking like someone had died. I knew my mother was in trouble. She was always there to pick me up from school.
Do you ever think, “Is there anything I can possibly say that would set my mother free?”
I say it in a lot of my IG posts: #FREEMICHELLEWEST. I want to scream it loud enough for President Obama to hear me. I look forward to posting #MICHELLEWESTFREE one day soon. That will be the best day of my life.
Could you tell us more about what #FreeMichelleWest is? And how others can help or show their support?
#FREEMICHELLEWEST is the name of my mother’s clemency campaign. Each time #FREEMICHELLEWEST is used on social media it brings awareness to the cause. A movement is in progress to bring my mother home. There are many ways people can show support. First, you can Go to our Change.org petition. Second, there is a Michelle West fundraiser on Crowdrise. Third, you can get #FreeMichelleWest t-shirts on the Free Michelle West web site.
What is it like fighting for your mother’s freedom?
When I am fighting for my mother’s freedom, I am fighting for my life too. Because my life will never be normal until we are reunited. The most important thing in this kind of journey is having the support of people like yourself. This interview is shining a much needed light on our situation. Our ultimate goal is for my mother’s clemency petition to reach President Obama’s desk for his approval to set her free.
In her HONY feature, your mom said, “She’s not ashamed of me, but she just doesn’t want anyone to see this khaki uniform.” Have you ever thought, “I wish I could dress my mom”?
I don’t think my mother will let me dress her, so I envision us going shopping together. She’s the queen when it comes to fashion, I seek guidance from her at times.
Lastly, I’m not sure if your mom can read this but if she can (and I hope she can), is there anything you want her to know that you haven’t said yet?
I can never thank you enough because I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for you. Even in your present situation it has never been about you. You have always dedicated your life to me and I will always love you for always putting me first.
In August of last year, the West family received a disappointing news that Michelle’s case doesn’t meet President Obama’s Clemency Project due to one of her charges — aiding and abetting a drug-related murder.When the murderer testified against her, he got full immunity, but Michelle remains behind bars. Since the age of 10, Miquelle has been seeking real justice. Now, she’s still fighting for her mother’s freedom. Clearly, the battle of this mother-daughter is something that must reach President Obama.
Part-poet, part-writer, and full-blooded human megaphone of the oppressed, Tammy covers heavy topics like civil war and human trafficking. To keep herself sane, she also writes about pop culture, travel, entrepreneurship, and anything gay. She gets by with the vintage smell of typewriter and sound of tattoo machines.