Bench Meets Wesley Machado

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Shirt & board shorts by BENCH
Shot & produced by Cholo de la Vega
Grooming by Wesley Machado
Shot on location at Punta Bulata Resort & Spa

In the early 2000s, the Brazilians had invaded local fashion. While many of them were “Brapanese” models that banked on their effortless abs, half-Asian accessibility, and quickness to learn Tagalog, there’s Wesley Machado, who saw more promise in Manila than pouting his way to fame.

Leading man looks have made Wesley the ideal male mannequin, landing him fashion spreads for Rogue Magazine to an AXE ad with Benchsetter Solenn Heussaff. But with a decade’s experience as a champion hairdresser known for clean, classic ‘dos and a slew of wins as an MMA fighter, he’s the sort of guy who’ll take cuts and bruises over the snap of cameras.

“MMA is my passion but hairdressing will be there for the rest of my life,” says Wesley, who B/BLOG shot at Punta Bulata, an island resort in Negros. Away from the vacationing hordes, it’s the perfect getaway for a model-slash-something with offbeat dreams. Just a few of them: putting up a salon, rising to ‘styling celebrity, and finally seeing the movie where he plays a gay merman. As if he wasn’t multifaceted already.

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Shirt by BENCH

Hi Wesley! You’re a hairdresser, model, and MMA fighter. I don’t even know where to begin…

I was doing hair before modeling, before anything else. When I was 14 year’s old to 24. Then, I stopped to do modeling.

I arrived in the Philippines in 2008 as a model. As a model, you keep changing. I went to China, around Asia, then decided to come back here as an MMA fighter. That’s what I do on the side. I don’t really make money from that. What makes me come back is that life here is pretty easy compared to Brazil.

How did you learn to cut hair anyway?

I studied it, I did a course. Along the lines, things went well and I could see that, wow, I had the skills. It took time. I never stopped and I just liked it. I used to compete doing classic hairstyles. The other day, I was shooting a TVC for XO Candy and I couldn’t just stand around. I cut four peoples’ hair. I did it for free. I just had fun. You’ve gotta like what you do.

Any rules you have when styling hair?

The challenge is that you don’t use so much product but you make it as clean as possible. Clips need to be hidden, not visible at all. If you need 100 clips, use 100 but don’t open them. That’s how you’re judged in a competition. You’ve got to be standing there at the end of a wedding or party and still have your hair intact. Whatever you do, you’ve got to be simple, clean, and creative.

Among your three specialties, what is it you want to focus on now?

I’m pretty much focused on hair stuff. MMA is pretty serious, too. I’m trying to combine three things at the same time, but the focus is 70 percent on hair. For now.

And what’s the big picture for your career in hair?

I would love to put up a salon. I just can’t afford it but I would love to. That’s the plan.

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(L-R) Shirt & board shorts by BENCH I Underwear by BenchBODY

You just need investors, I suppose?  

I’m finishing a portfolio where people will see what I’ve done. I’ve done a movie, TVCs, the hair competitions where I got a lot of awards. Five times, I’ve gotten awards as a hairdresser in Brazil. Three wins out of four fights in MMA. That’s quite the story there.

And do you specialize in a certain type of hairstyling?

Mixed. I find myself doing haircuts, as well. Coloring. Even makeup, but makeup is not the focus. I think it’s a beautiful art but it’s not really what I like to do. I really love styling hair—classic hairstyling. As a hairdresser, there are a lot of events in hair competitions. Artistic, classic, and many others, but the classic hairstyle is the most challenging. I was first place five times.

It was really hard in the first four years as a hairdresser, as with any career. It takes time to start to do good. But then when I got it, I got it. I started making money after that. I just decided to stop because I wanted to start traveling. And here I am.

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What made you come to the Philippines in the first place?

There’s great possibility out here as a professional. Especially in the three things I’m trying to accomplish. I’m not going to lie to you—when I decided to come here, it was to improve my boxing. It’s a good place for boxing. But I knew since then, I would have to pay the bills through modeling. And along the line, I’ve seen great possibility in what I could accomplish as a hairdresser.

Are you going to learn Tagalog?

I think eventually, since I want to stay in this place for good.

You don’t miss Brazil at all?

My family’s there. Parents will never understand what sons do when they go follow their dreams. In fact, my dream is my family. It’s a little more complicated but we don’t want to go there. They will understand at the end of the day.

How did you get involved in MMA?

I tried Muay Thai in Brazil, then I went to Indonesia, I got an invitation. That’s how I started fighting.

What’s the worst injury you’ve had?

AC joint separation. The doctor told me I didn’t need surgery. It will heal just by itself.

What about your moneymaker?

We have mouth and face guards.

But you don’t mind getting your face beat up?

If I minded, I wouldn’t do it.

Maybe you’re just crazy.

I think you have to have a little bit of crazy. I’m a very calm guy who really loves adrenaline.

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You also seem like a guy who can learn things quickly. What else do you want to soak up?

I want to learn French and Italian. I don’t now why. Mamma Mia! I did theater before, that was nice. It’s never too late to be an actor. A lot of fighters became actors (laughs). I was an actor before I started fighting, actually. I did it in Brazil and China. I had a big project. It’s a movie called Empire of the Deep. I was a gay merman. Just to give you an idea: it was like Avatar with a lot of CGI. I haven’t seen the film yet, unfortunately. It was [shot] in 2010 when I was in Beijing. That’s where they make a lot of films. It was a Chinese production with US direction. They hired a very good director from the U.S.

How does a gay merman figure into the movie?  

In the film, there was a war between human beings and pirates, the bad guys. I was a merman who used lipstick and who looked after the pirates in jail, making sure no one got away. I was supposed to have some fun with these pirates, as well. The Chinese wanted overreaction in the acting. That was the biggest job I ever did in this industry because they invested a lot of money. We got a big star to do the movie—Olga Kurylenko, I was next to her working.

I just hope it can come out soon. It would change my life, pretty much. I don’t know what the Chinese are doing with this film but I want to believe it’s still going to come out.

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