A journalist, a transgender, a lupus survivor and a plus-size model. Their common ground? Being a woman. For the National Women’s Month, Levi’s celebrates the stories of women who shape their world with their vulnerabilities, struggles, profession and gender.
“I don’t apologize for who I am.”
Fitting the #IShapeMyWorld campaign, international plus-size model Kat Gumabao shared her journey before she was able to run the catwalks in Paris and New York. As a kid, Gumabao would be teased about her body. She remembered having to ignore whispers mocking the fat kid.
“It never really affected me because I always came home to parents and family who loved me very much.”
Growing up, she tried every form of diet, including starving and intaking pills. One thing led to another that resulted in the spiral down of her self-worth. Her salvation was her friends and her faith. Her faith was the nudge for her to realize what she deserves and that she is worthy.
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. Why? because people treat you the way you dictate them. If you will allow them to stomp on you your whole life, they will stomp on you.”
In the US, Gumabao faced the stigma of how Asians are supposed to be small-framed. During her initial casting calls, Gumabao felt small, but it was her newfound love for her body that fueled her career. As a body positivity advocate, Gumabao urged, “If you have something so strong that comes from inside you, nothing in this world can limit. If you have that voice, that passion to share your advocacies, as long as it’s something you want to do and it’s something that is triggered by this passion, this love, this deep burning sensation in the bottom of your heart to share it to other, no matter what happens, I swear, you will succeed.”
“I don’t apologize for my principles.”
Al-Jazera correspondent Jamela Alindogan recalled her coverage of the Marawi siege in 2017. Slide by slide, she told her encounters with children in evacuation centers and how being a mother and journalist burdened her with guilt. Guilt when she leaves her home to go to a dangerous place to tell the stories of other people, and guilt when leaving the conflict zone and going back to the comfort of her home.
At this point, being popular, being beautiful is simply no longer enough.
“I started an organization called Sinag Tala center for women and children in conflict years before this war broke out. It was meant to provide toys for children in conflict zones. A lot of people dont know that those who become rebels in many areas–like Jolo, Basilan, Tawi-tawi–never held toys in their hands. They grew-up with guns.”
She showed photos of children who were taught what kind of bullets and bombs are dropped into their city before even learning the alphabet. This first-hand experience of seeing the city’s destruction and suffering of people made her use anger to propel into action.
“At this point, being popular, being beautiful is simply no longer enough. We now live in a world where we have global leaders who have no respect for institutional authority,” said Alindogan who surmised that being a woman meant living a life of use and service to others.
“I don’t apologize for defining womanhood.”
Heart Diño’s story of coming out to herself and her family, and eventually transitioning into a woman is not a yellow brick road.
“Most girls, when they are born, they get to wear pink, they get to wear dresses, they get to wear barbies and polly pockets but not me. When I was born, I had to wear blue. I had to wear polos and shorts. I had to play with GI Joe’s instead of Barbies but ever since, I’ve known who I really am.”
She shared how Darna was her childhood hero–not because of her beauty, but because of her courage to live two lives. That resonated well with her as a kid who had to live a life that her family expected of her and a life that she wanted for herself.
“Over time, I asked myself, ‘Why can’t I be who I am? Why do I hide like a thief in the night?’”
It was during high school that a teacher outed her to her mom. This did not make Mrs. Diño angry, but made her worry about Heart’s future and how the world would treat her.
When she entered UP, she had the chance to rediscover herself through UP Babaylan, the organization who supported her to run as councilor for the University Student Council. To champion gender equality, she was further convinced to run as chairperson. Diño owed it to UP Babaylan to run because the mere act sent a message that transgender people are capable of leading.
“We should not be limited by our sexuality,” stressed Diño.
“I don’t apologize for my illness.”
Some might remember Tiffany Uy from her graduation essay she posted on Facebook, her name made the rounds on social media when she graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines (UP). It was that action that made her realize how inspiring sharing her vulnerabilities could be.
She called back to memory how she felt invincible before her body betrayed her with the auto-immune disease, lupus.
“You have to mess up this girl’s body and make her go crazy, and that’s what it did,” said Uy on how lupus got her confined multiple times and weakened her to the point that she could barely walk.
“It’s a sickness that looks okay but basically inside, there are so many struggles that people are not aware of and that’s why we have to use this platform to be able to spread awareness,” she added.
Recently, she completed the Spartan Race 2019, a feat that made her reignite the passion she had for the things she wants to do in life.
“Having this sickness, it taught me that loving myself is really a process of understanding and a process of accepting my flaws,” wrapped up Uy.
Centering on the theme Living with no Apologies, the four Filipinas are at the center of Levi’s #IShapeMyWorld campaign. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #IShapeMyWorld to share your story of overcoming obstacles and changing other people’s perceptions of what you can and cannot do. Tell the story of how you broke through the limits that other people set. Tag Levi’s on Facebook and on Instagram (@Levis_PH).