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Mika Brzezinski has sat in Wilbert Ramos’s makeup chair before hosting “Morning Joe” almost every week day for 11 years. He’s a miracle worker, according to Brzezinski, who joked her face without Ramos’s artistry is “all one color.”
While known as a skilled contourer and hairstylist, Ramos’s backstory compelled Brzezinski to dig deeper. So in honor of Pride Month, Brzezinski interviewed Ramos about his very difficult journey coming out and how he ultimately found his calling.
Ramos was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. He loved painting, art and his tight-knit family. But he knew there was something different about him, and as early as first grade, he felt an attraction to boys.
“I used to cry a lot,” Ramos, 45, told Brzezinski. “I used to pray to God to change me ...”
Ramos’s parents were very conservative. His dad owned a mechanic business and worked with muscle cars. Nobody ever talked about Ramos’s budding differences. In fact, he lived as a straight boy.
Then around age 16, everything took a turn.
Ramos decided that enough was enough. He was sick of being in the closet. He came out to his closest friend: his mom.
“I loved my mother so much and I did everything for her. But when I told her, it was a 360. She said the worst things. I wasn’t expecting that from her,” he recalled. “Same thing with my father. He was quiet. He never said anything, but he never helped me. They both abandoned me.”
Ramos was effectively disowned by his parents. He went to live with his grandparents who were loving, but poor.
Eventually, Ramos attended the University of Puerto Rico, where he studied humanities and fine arts. He had no money or support, so he slept in the parking lot. He had friends photocopy their books so he could study.
Forty percent of homeless youth in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ, and they cite family rejection and being thrown out as the top reasons for their status. Ramos was determined not to be a statistic.
“I was trying to prove my family wrong always,” said Ramos. “… I was taking all of that bad energy to prove them wrong.”
During those years, Ramos also took ballet. And through dance, he learned how to do hair and makeup at an amateur level. He also met his husband, a fellow dancer named Bismarck Maisonet.
“I was the one who proposed in 1993. I was really aggressive,” he said. Because gay marriage wasn’t legal at the time, they officially tied the knot in New York City in 2012.
Unfortunately, Ramos, who officially moved to New York City in 1996, said his mother never accepted him.
“I tried,” he said. “My father’s very nice now. But not my mother. Just because I’m gay.”
Ramos, however, persevered, earned his beauty license and went on to style Court TV personalities including Nancy Grace. He worked on actors in HBO’s “True Blood,” and a variety of news personalities on CNN, Fox News, Turner Broadcasting and more. Eleven years ago, he sent his resume to NBC, where Brzezinski was looking for a hair and makeup artist. He has worked almost exclusively for Brzezinski ever since.
His husband Bismarck is also a makeup artist, but for "Fox and Friends". He and Ramos have a son, Dorian, who is 14 years old.
“I believe in family,” he said. “To me that’s big because my mother took that away from me. I was always in need of having that feeling.”
Though it cost him a relationship with his mother, Ramos does not regret coming out at 16. He advised others who are currently in the closet to live their truth.
“It’s very difficult, but don’t go to the corner and cry and cry. Clean your tears. Prove everybody wrong,” he said.