Cecillia Perez-Matos & Michelle Santill-Perez
By Samantha Henderson
For former Venezuelan President Carlos Andre Perez’s daughter Cecillia Perez-Matos, 32, coming out was not an easy task, especially as the child of a prominent politician. In a personal blog post, the attorney details her struggle realizing and revealing her sexuality. She also highlights as a significant point a family heirloom, a ring, which took on even more significance when she married hair stylist and educator Michelle Santill (now Santill-Perez), 29, and began to wear it as her wedding ring. The couple had a legal wedding in New York City, followed by a ceremony on December 28, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.
They met by chance when Perez-Matos accompanied her boss home in order to fetch some forgotten paperwork. Michelle was delivering shampoo. It was a brief meeting, but a significant one. Cecillia re
calls, “I had friends visiting from New York in the car. They were waiting for me, we were going out to dinner. When I got back in the car they both took one quick look at me, and asked me if I was OK. I was a different person than the person that had walked out of the car just a few minutes prior.”
Two years after that, the couple exchanged rings—Perez-Matos taking the vintage one, which is a platinum diamond baguette, and Santill a custom Colombian emerald and rose gold H&H band inspired by the Cartier Tank Ring—at the Glidden Mansion in Cleveland (Santill’s family lives in Ohio.). And there’s a little more to Michelle’s ring than just the metal and stone: “On the inside there is a hidden emerald with the words ‘all day all night’ engraved. This was the song that was playing the night I drove to my boss’ house and I met Michelle.”
The former first daughter proposed a year before the ceremony, right around the December holidays—meaning it was inevitably a little hectic. After first attempting to get the Santill family to join her in New York, she realized it would be far easier to plan for Ohio, where they would already be for the holidays. Obviously unaware of Cecillia’s intention to pop the question at a nearby vineyard, Michelle was in a rush to get home and out of the snowy weather. But after some deft maneuvering by her brother and Cecillia, Michelle found herself on the balcony, surrounded by her family, her now-wife, and a guitarist singing “Make You Feel My Love.” Naturally, she said yes.
In an unfortunate turn two months after the engagement, Cecillia was rediagnosed with cancer. “I had been diagnosed a little over three years before this time and had already successfully fought it. I had also lost my mother to cancer not long before. So this was a reality that I was ‘comfortable’ dealing with.” Michelle was not, but now that her wife has survived a surgery and chemotherapy continuing into this year, they have come to a happy conclusion: “If we have learned anything from the events of this last year is that our relationship can survive ANYTHING.”
And by no means did they let it put a damper on their stunning and intimate December wedding. Their fashion choices demonstrated just how well the pair complement each other. Michelle wore a Vera Wang mermaid-style gown and made sure to wear flats since, as Cecillia explains, "On a good day, Michelle is about 9 inches taller than I am so she is NOT allowed to wear heels." Cecillia wore a custom Brooks Brothers white pantsuit, a paisley vest, and the best part—emerald cufflinks to match Michelle’s ring.
The Santill family attended, as did Regina Valdes, close friend to Cecillia and daughter of artist Manolo Valdes. During the ceremony, an officiant read a blessing from Buddhist Master Chufei Tsai. A notable wedding present? Carolina Herrera sent the couple invitations to her Fall/Winter runway show, which they attended this past Monday during New York Fashion Week.
The early days of marriage have brought even more good news, as Cecillia joined the Berman Law Group earlier this month, all while doing well in treatment. Undoubtedly, this pair knows how to "survive," but it may be more apt to say that this happy marriage may have put them in a position to thrive.