Jen, Race2Share


“I started appreciating myself more when I stopped worrying about getting soaked under the sun. The more I spent time outdoor training, the more I got better and stronger! I was very conscious at first because of the comments I would get about ‘being dark,’ but I learned to shrug them off when I started seeing positive results from all the training I had done. Founding Race2Share has been a learning process, with its own birthing pains that eventually translated to gains. This was my most defining moment as a woman: that there is no pre-requisite on gender when you run an organisation -- it really ‘just’ requires full commitment and passion to make it all work! What inspired me to start R2S is the deep eagerness to utilize sports as a platform to reach out to a community and gather individuals to make the sporting environment more inclusive for everyone. One of my favorite moments was when we raised funds (thanks to the supportive community in Singapore!) and send all our Filipino Domestic Worker members to participate in one of the major dragon boat race in SG - we didn't win any medals, but being able to play in that equal field against strong dragon boat teams was a monumental WIN for us.” - Jen, Race2Share


“I’ve always been insecure of my stretch marks because of media beauty standards — fair skin, hourglass shaped bodies, head-turner make-up, toned butts. But I see that nowadays, there are a lot of campaigns where women are proud and they embrace their body, skin color, and where they just love themselves. I got moved and it got me asking, ‘Why am I insecure of things that make me... ME?’ Now I believe that I shouldn’t be insecure about my stretch marks because it’s something natural and it is something that defines me. I’m learning to love my tiger stripes and my body. So this is my progress in my own little way — coming to embrace and love myself. Everyday gains to refine me; I got these stripes to define me.” 


“I am tired...all the time. I grew up hearing words like floja and flaca vaga, Spanish for ‘lazy’ and ‘skinny slacker.’ I have always tried to work as hard as everyone around me, and that makes me feel extremely tired and, for some strange reason, sad. 
During my pregnancy, the symptoms worsened. I was not only feeling exhausted all the time, but my hair started falling out excessively and I started feeling depressed because I couldn't find the energy to do simple daily tasks. By my second trimester I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I learned that women with thyroid dysfunction had double the risk of miscarriage, so my doctor prescribed me with medication that would help with my pregnancy. Luckily I didn't lose my baby and now have a beautiful baby girl.

Some time after delivering my daughter and some more blood tests, I found out that I have something called Hashimoto thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that I probably had my entire life without knowing. 
After learning about my condition, I don't see myself as lazy anymore; I now like to think that I am a warrior. I'm not taking medications at the moment because I have to wait until next year to get my health insurance back, but I somehow find the energy to care for my daughter and play with her every day. She gives me strength I need.”

Gia of Fiesta Tours

“When I am most happy and confident, that's when I realize that I am beautiful and strong. When I am passionate about something, that's when I really feel like I'm at my best, like traveling. It opens my eyes to how big the world is and it inspires me to understand the different cultures that exist today. After four years working for a multinational corporation, I took my masters in International Tourism Management in London, a course that made me embrace my love for my own country, the Philippines, and being a Filipino. Each class I took encouraged me to write about my mother land and made me work hard to put it on the map. In 2017, I started working at the travel agency that my mom founded 35 years ago and I am very excited to launch my latest project this year, La Guia, a culmination of all the lessons I gathered while I lived abroad. My long term goal is to be the Department of Tourism Secretary, as I think the Philippines is such a beautiful place to live in and more people should be aware of that. Talking about work, my love life, my family and friends, or even my hobbies, I feel like my beauty really resonates as these aspects of my life give me a lot of strength.” 


"Seventeen years of countless local and international football tournaments, a love-hate relationship with my knee injury, late nights and long hours working on a graduate degree, an on-going task of building a healthier me, a fast-running day job and five-year plans that are constantly changing, if not upgrading. Life has been a tad bit busy for me but like I always say, it only gets more valuable as it gets harder. For me, beauty and strength go beyond facial features and the ability to run miles. It’s all about being able to create a stronger element within you that allows you to overcome just about any challenge the universe throws. Creating a consistent and positive mind, body, and soul will always be KING. To every woman of every race, keep hustling and always do you. You are my inspiration."

Bia, Film Director

“It’s difficult to be a woman of color in [North] America. I have to fight against prejudice and people keep saying I look so young. That’s great in a way, but I can’t help but feel underestimated for what I can do. It’s been a constant struggle for me growing up—proving myself—but now that I’ve learned so much, I’m still perceived as a child. I try to not let that get to me, in a way it’s like having an invisibility cloak or being the dark horse who suddenly wins the race. I do think I offer a decisive leadership on set that is also respectful and compassionate, which is missing in the world right now. I actually take pride in having a different style. I create the type of dynamic that I wish to see in the world: a crew with women in the key roles, where each person is valued and respected, and I direct films about women. If I want to see that in the world, it has to start with me.”  (c) Apa Agbayani

Gwen of Gwen Rakotovao Company

“I didn’t decide to combine dances, being both Malagasy and French it was not me to be trained in one style, to be very ballet or strictly jazz. I had so much range of movement in my body that I could not fit exactly in a specific technique. So it was a need for me to do my own dance. It was not really a choice. The solo show ‘Esperanto’ is my story and also the untold stories of those like me who were not born in the land of their ancestors. I’ve always wanted to talk about coming back to one’s roots through dance, how cultures define us and also divide us but that we can connect with our human spirit and be together. I want to explore that and make it happen.”


“My passion is aesthetics; to bring out the natural beauty in every person using my brush and make-up set. I just love it when my clients are more confident after doing their makeup -- be it for a prom, a debut or a wedding. Beauty is when a person encounters something with his or her senses and experiences appreciation, and yes for me it is my strength because experience and pain have taught me to open my eyes to different perspectives and then empathize with people who are currently in my once depressed situation. The adversities that I have faced to be in my current state are the typical comments of ‘the path you are going is a waste of time’ but I would like to think I’ve proved them wrong.”


“Beauty to me is defined by how hard you worked for something. I guess that stems out from my being competitive. That’s why body building appealed so much to me — it being crazy difficult — and it also has everything I enjoy like nutrition, lifting, and the more girly side like putting on make-up and a bikini. For my competitions I learned to be artistic with what I wore and I had to bedazzle it myself. My background in architecture helped me, too, because it has the same application of art and science as in body building. To achieve a symmetrical body, having good genes helps, but it also entails having to form something beautiful physically based on science. I found my beauty in this sport because I know I work my ass off, literally and figuratively, for it. A new challenge arises when the motivation or the goal is gone, and all you’re left with is self-discipline, and that’s what you continue to develop.” -Jillianne, Body Building Winner & Architect

Kris of the

"Before my enthusiasm with makeup began, I was merely an observant. I would watch my mom get her makeup done until eventually, I would get my turn on the chair. Not knowing much at a young age, I watched artists put on the wrong shade of foundation on me - something that was a lot lighter. And it was really through the series of hits and misses that I wanted to learn to do it on myself. No matter how beautiful the makeup was, I'd feel uncomfortable staring at someone that wasn’t really me. It would be too pale but at that time, being fair was more beautiful than being tan. Fast forward to ten years later, although I am now good at putting my own makeup, when the time comes that I need a makeup artist, I always tell them 'I go for the bronze look.' Besides hoarding makeup, I love seeing people happy in their skin. Seeing people unapologetically happy. I love that. I love the innocence in it and I wish that on everyone."


When I started playing football, my mom would always be concerned with how dark my skin would be. She wouldn’t really stress that sun exposure wasn’t good for my skin (which I found out the hard way so always wear sunblock) but rather I wouldn’t look good in darker skin. However, I embraced my tan and felt beautiful in it. Being tan meant that I was out all day enjoying the sport I love or I was having fun at the beach. Being dark wasn’t much of a sacrifice because being able to play football gave me the empowerment I needed to fully accept and love myself. I was lucky that I was surrounded by teammates who never made our dark skin an issue but more of a thing to be proud of. The color of our skin was a testament to our achievements and commitment to football and I will always find that beautiful."

Nicki of

"I grew up watching a lot of Princess movies and it wasn’t until Moana that I felt empowered. She was all about going out of her comfort zone and chasing her dreams. She was scared at the beginning but did not give up. She showed me leadership and confidence. She isn’t the definition of 'media beauty', which is normally skinny and fair-skinned. Her movie was the closest to Philippine culture and it made quite an impact on me. I realized my own beauty when I went out of my own comfort zone whereas I used to be an extra in presentations and out of the spotlight. I am now happy performing through dance, theater, and cosplay. It doesn't cross my mind anymore that I am chubby or tanned; I am beautiful. It feels different and I'm happy to give joy to other kids. Beauty doesn’t just rely on the appearance but is also evident when someone is passionate."


"Life is hard. Sometimes no one buys from the store. My dream is for my kids to go to school. There's an elementary and high school nearby but the nearest university is in the city of Baguio four hours away. My eldest child is 18 years old and I hope to be able to afford to send him to college. My youngest is 7 months old."


"Nine years ago, my gynecologist diagnosed me with PCOS, a hormonal imbalance that wreaks havoc on the reproductive system. Apart from having difficulty conceiving, common symptoms include: weight gain, mood swings, and a higher risk of diabetes. For years I thought myself to be a victim—thinking that there was nothing I could do to change my fate. It took a strong support system, but I fought the doubt monsters inside, and decided to make a change. While sometimes it feels like it, we are more than prisoners in our own bodies. Most times, we just need to fight back." 


"I used to be scared of wearing vibrant colors thinking they wouldn't go well with my skin tone. But at some point I realized that having brown skin is not a crime. I don't recall the exact steps I took to get the confidence I have today but now I wear every single color there is."


"I'm a sister, a daughter, a wife, a businesswoman, a teacher, and a multiple-sport athlete. I'm also confidently brown-skinned and often sport short hairstyles. I wasn't trying to be a boy with short hair, playing sports. I was just being myself. Likewise, I wasn't trying to be light or dark skinned, I was just living. You can't put your life on pause out of fear of other's perceptions of you and you can't let other's perceptions of you dictate who you are. The Philippines is a country with a complex past, a melting pot of various cultures, identities and influences. It's long past due that we're confident on who we are as a people, collectively, and the multitude of shapes, sizes and colors that we come in. That diversity and historical complexity adds to our beauty, and we need to help each other realize that."


"A week after I gave birth, I found a tiny bit of pus in my CS wound. It wasn’t a big deal - my husband and I laughed about it after I dramatically proclaimed: my body is a crime scene! But months after, I’ve found myself thinking about this truth. I’ve survived a multitude of violations against my skin and body. From being called brownie by my blonde-haired classmates in kindergarten, to being sexually abused by my swimming teacher in 5th grade, being followed home by a man because he was offended I didn’t thank him well enough after he complimented me, to an old college friend’s horrid excuse that he was taught 'no' actually means 'yes.' It took me 20 years to learn to love myself again, scars and all, and I think I’m getting better at it."

Juro of

"I released the first batch of Moreno Morena almost one year ago on Twitter without having much expectation for it. A couple hours after tweeting the four layouts, it started to get traction, becoming an overnight sensation in all essence of the term. Strangers were retweeting it, expressing their support and even desire to join the cause. The response was overwhelming, which gave me all the more reason to continue the project. I'm grateful I'm able to portray dark skin in a way that resonates with so many people. Growing up, I wasn't able to see many portrayals of dark-skinned people like me that makes me feel the way Moreno Morena does. I'm just glad I have this chance to maybe change enough minds so that future generations will know only pride when it comes to how they look."


"You always wish the next milestone will lead you to your purpose --graduating from college, working, getting a higher paying job, getting married. It’s always been an elusive idea to me and somewhat a source of frustration. It's honestly embarrassing that I worry about finding meaning when many can't even find food to eat. But as they say, "the struggle is real," and I wonder if there are others out there who share the same sentiment. Reminding myself to be grateful helps me get by. I ask myself what success is for me, not as defined by society. There is no one formula to living. It's okay that I don't know. It's okay that I don't have things figured out. But I have to try. Try anything. And if I fail, that's okay, too."