11 November 2017

Women of Creative Force advocate Social Change in their Personal Pursuits


Around the latter part of 2012, there used to be this Andy Warhol exhibit at the Hong Kong Museum of Art called “15 Minutes Eternal.” You’d enter through an escalator, which would be surrounded by a colorful awning showcasing some of Warhol’s well-known pieces. Once you get to the lobby, you have the option to get your picture taken, which would be displayed on-screen for a short amount of time before disappearing. The whole thing, of course, was a nod to his famous quote: “In the future, everybody in the world will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

While we’re no longer sure whether Warhol had actually said that, it’s a statement that seems to resonate in today’s world. Life has gotten more convenient, but less meaningful. We are a people on auto-pilot, our minds often shooting out to other places or concerns every so often.

It’s not hard, then, to see why we often obsess about the concept of making an impact – we do not want to be a mere fleeting presence, a mere 15 minutes. After all, why be a brief face on a screen when you could be a Warhol?

But what does it mean to make an impact? And how do you create it? While there may not be a definitive answer to this, we’ve had a fair share of people who have defined it through their own means, by their own terms. And we’re fortunate to be living in their midst, rising stars who might well be immortalized far beyond 15 minutes. They, after all, are not in it for the fame. They go beyond the conventional boundaries of success, looking to do things according to what they believe in. They create impact because they transcend.

That said, here’s to the four ladies who continue to push boundaries. May their stories give us the courage to craft our own.

Words by Pam Musni and Photography by Kimberly dela Cruz & Jilson Tiu

AC Lalata


When asked what she loves most about working in a dance studio, AC Lalata is quick to note that she doesn't have one yet, but would love to have one. For her, a dance studio is what many dancers call home. "It is just one of the many tools that can help you [become] a better dancer. You create new stuff, make mistakes, and improve," she says.

And with a slate of projects this year, it's something that resonates now more than ever. A member of the critically-acclaimed Philippine All-Stars dance crew, she's currently working to bring Europe's biggest dance competition to the Philippines along with her partner and team, as well as doing a dance video project for an international online booking company.


That said, it's interesting to think then that prior to pursuing dance, AC had studied hair and makeup for almost two years, earning a diploma. She also worked as an account manager for three years at a multinational company. "Within those years, I juggled my corporate and dance life. It was really hard for me physically because I had to wake up early every day. And after work, I traveled for almost two hours [to get] to my dance training [before going] home late at night," she recalls.

The grind eventually took a toll on her, to the point that she was no longer happy with her work. "Everyday, my zombie mode went on for minutes. [Then the] minutes turned into hours, hours to days, days to weeks, then months. It was turned off only when I was on my way to dance [training]."


Eventually, AC left her job, as she began to feel the emptiness within her. "Family and dance were the things that made me happy then," she shares. For her, dancing gives her the freedom to express herself more artistically, as well as to learn and improve character.

But more importantly, for AC, it's a medium to help and inspire other aspiring dancers out there, as well as a way to delve into her advocacies and help make an impact. "In the dance community, we can keep making dance events, workshops, [and] concerts... just to bring people together, and to express ourselves and inspire each other [to] be better not [only] in dance, but in all aspects of life," she says. So aside from her other projects, she's out conducting dance workshops for the less fortunate, as well as feeding programs. "I use dance as a medium for [almost] all of my projects," she says. "For me, dance is a universal language that is very relatable to all people with different backgrounds."


But while it might seem a little overwhelming to balance all these projects – especially for those looking to break out into similar industries – AC noted that in the end, it's all about being yourself. "If you love what you're doing, just go for it. Don't let other people tell you what to do... you can only know and understand yourself better when you make that jump. It'll all be worth it," she explained.

Bea Constantino


The bustling hub of Poblacion is a treasure trove of sorts, with hole-in-the-wall establishments becoming of bonafide adventurers. It's the exact kind of spot that keeps one inspired, something that mixes the everyday and mundane with a new kind of gritty upon consequent explorations. Case in point is Alamat, a restaurant that puts focus on "Pinoy rebels with a cause," as per fashion stylist Bea Constantino. "[And] they serve my favorite Tausug dish done right, called Piyanggang or chicken in roasted coconut stew," she says.

Inspiration, after all, is key to her line of work. Being in the industry for 14 years, Bea has styled for the likes of Solenn Heusaff, Kim Jones, and Paris Hilton, all of which requires an understanding of their personality and what suits them. "I always think being given the opportunity to style someone is an opportunity to learn from your client or muse," she says. "The women I've worked with [are] quite the force when it comes to their respective fields... I feel like I learn more from them than they do from me as to what the latest trends are."


But it wasn't always like this. Prior to being a stylist, Bea was a full-time dancer, having gone to New York to study the craft. Coming home was another story. "I was kind of lost when I got back from New York – I always knew I wanted to be in the creative field, in my home, helping something. All that time, I had no clue what to do with my life," she says.

Eventually, through a contact in the publishing industry, she was able to secure a role as a fashion assistant. The rest was history. "I was in dire need of a job, anything at all, and so I stayed and ended up falling in love with this job," she notes. "I've always believed that all the small pieces of our life's small or big events will eventually form a bigger picture, and I feel like the pieces are coming together today... the fact that I can talk about living out my vision is just insane."


And she truly is living it out, if her current projects are any indication. "I'm currently working on a few advertising projects right now; each ad presents a different challenge," says Bea. And what keeps her inspired? "I'm usually inspired by projects that inspire dialogue – either a TV commercial I'm working on, or my clothing line, which I started last year," she says.

Nowadays, she's tapping into her Mindanaoan roots, being a "staunch supporter and advocate" of anything from the region. "My family comes from Zamboanga City and Sulu, and this has led me to this newfound path of providing, in my own way, a small voice to showcase my hometown's amazing culture and heritage by way of something I know well - fashion and textile," she notes.

Such is the case with her brand, Herman & Co., which features Tausug textiles. And for Bea, styling is an exchange of energy, or a way to help transform another person. "[So] why not use that voice to at least have conversations about becoming more awake and aware?" she says. "[Instead] of slapping on denim jeans on a client, why not go for sustainable denim? I'm not coming from a 'save the world' place, but [it's] basically [all about] injecting some substance and intention into what you do."


But in order to do this, you have to know what you are looking to achieve. It's something Bea knows well, and something she'd advise those looking to enter similar fields. "Get clarity on your intentions. What do you want to impart? What will your legacy be? How did you contribute to making something better?" she shares. "Once you've gotten a clearer perspective, reach out to people you admire and ask if you can apprentice, or work for them even. Always trust your journey."

Elena Ortega


Makati Cinema Square is a place that verges on being an underground darling and a historical artifact. On one hand, the mall hosts some old gems from the 80's, such as Emer's Food Center. On the other, it's become the haven for cool antiques and galleries, which have begun to gain popularity. It's no wonder that it's drawn a number of creative types – types such as Elena Ortega, model and photographer.


Perhaps you've seen her on Instagram, or through her other projects. After all, she's collaborated with brands and publications alike, such as the B/Blog and Commonwealth. Having begun her modeling career back in college, she's been on a roll ever since. And although her photography career had started off only last year, she's been featured by The MISSBISH Photography Workshop – an editorial platform that focuses on female-driven content – for her work.

But while it may be tempting to merely reduce such work to an aesthetic standpoint, Elena thinks otherwise. "To a certain degree, yes, modeling and photography are fields for aesthetic purposes," she says. "But you can definitely use these fields for social change as well."


For instance, she cites the Red Charity Gala – which she had been part of a few years back – an annual fashion event that highlights designs from Filipino designers and is meant to raise funds for the Philippine Red Cross. As for photography, she notes how it is a "big tool in social change," being instrumental to ads and campaigns for social affairs as well as bringing light to other issues, such as war, calamities, and more.


Elena herself has worked on a few photo series, some of which can be found on her website. And she's looking to do some more – perhaps on topics she keeps to heard like the younger generation. She particularly feels strongly about how social media and bad influences have affected behavior and way of thinking, along with the pressure brought upon young models in the industry.

With her experience in the two fields, she's got the chops to make it happen. She begun her modeling career after a batch-mate approached her during freshman orientation and asked if she wanted to model. Although shy, she eventually said yes, hoping to gain more confidence in herself. "I went with her to a casting and met her agent, and it started there. Man, I had so much fun," she recounts.

Photography, on the other hand, was something she'd always been interested in, having gone into it a few years after modeling. It was, however, only a little more than a year ago that she started to take it seriously. For her, the two elements go hand-in-hand. "Modeling has definitely helped me frame my subjects better... I know sometimes it's not easy for models to find their best angle, so I will adjust and be the one to move around instead," she answered when asked if her work in one field influences the other.


Currently, however, she's taking the time to develop herself after an eye-opening past year. "In the past, I was one to get easily swayed by my companions, and sometimes these companions weren't the best examples," she notes.

After all, for Elena, in order to use your talents for social good, you need to figure out what you believe in and what you need to do about it. And it's something that doesn't happen overnight. "It's a process, I know," she says. "As long as you keep exploring and following your passions, then you'll be alright."

Jess Connelly


Jess Connelly thrives on creating music. Or anything related to it, be it her own share of tracks or their accompanying music videos. It is something that's been in her for as long as she could remember. She started writing at the age of 13, which was around the same time her mother had brought her to her first studio session. The singing came much earlier. "Music is the only thing I was ever I was ever good at, to be honest," she says.

Nowadays, you'll find Jess on various features and campaigns for her contributions to the music industry, as well as a slew of gigs. It seems like a long run from the kid who idolized Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and N*SYNC, but Jess notes how parts of those still endure in her current practice, especially her teen self's tastes. "In my teens, I gravitated more towards all forms of urban music. That style resonated with me the most and influences my sound until now," she says.


Getting to that point wasn't easy, however. Jess notes how she was always told that what she did wasn't possible, and that the only way to make a living off music was to join showbiz. While she did dabble into showbiz for a while, she realized it wasn't for her, and wanted to get into performing and music instead. "My best friend knew of a band who needed a new frontwoman, [so] I jumped straight into writing and gigging with them," she notes, when talking about her origins as a musician. "I gained a lot of experience through that, but my heart wasn't in the music. I [then] met producers through my friends within the scene, and started making and performing my own music."


With this experience, Jess is looking to change the mentality when it comes to succeeding in the music industry, as well as how others view artistry in the Philippines. "You don't need a co-sign from a TV network, or sell out to make a living. Quantity does not equal quality," she notes. Instead of content, for instance, she's noticed that in the Philippines others would rather chase social media numbers or 'virality.' "I want to influence people to do their own thing and go for it – not just in regards to music, but whatever you're passionate about. If I settled on all the people who told me 'no,' I wouldn't be where I am right now."


And it's this sentiment that shines with her upcoming project, the JCON mixtape, which will have about 10 tracks on it. Being Jess' first full-length project, it's looking to represent who she is as an artist. "The first songs I released were received well, but I feel like they barely represent who I really am," she says. "JCON is what my friends call me, and I want my listeners to get to know me better."


But while it also serves as a showcase of how she's developed over the course of her music career, it's also a testament to what keeps her up on her game – sticking to her guns. "I'm 100% independent, and my music has reached places and people beyond here, purely because I am consistent in what I believe in," says Jess. "I want the youth to know they have choices and don't have to stick to what they're told. If that means using my music to get that point across, I'm all for it."



4 comments:

The names of the girls shared above are really very good in their respective fields.
They all are the role model for other girls.
Thanks for making me aware of all these personalities.

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