Iridescent Girl Power

The second day of #Wonderfruitmusicfestival is the main attraction and I decided to wear something feminine, flattering to my body shape, yet strong and trendy. I also wore one of my favorite purchases this year from one brand I discovered on IG: an iridescent ‘Girl Power’ earrings from shopnin3.com (via Style Importers), which just speak so much to me as a trans woman, especially during international women’s month. I just love all the earring designs that they curate and I wanna purchase more (esp for that sticker label that says ” Make Yourself Hard to Kill”). They create strong designs for strong women and celebrate anyone who chooses to stray from the norm.

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More Than A Festival

Wonderfruit Festival, Thailand’s pioneering globally conscious, cross-cultural live celebration of art, music and life, today revealed what is in store for Wonderers in The Fields this year. Built on six unique pillars, Wonderfruit is more than a festival, but rather a journey that begins the moment you enter The Fields at Siam Country Club. This year, the site will be transformed into an experiential playground packed with 60+ music acts from all over the globe, 20+ stunning art installations and dazzling theatrical performances, 55 exquisite gastronomic delights, 30+ engaging talks & workshops, 35+ wellness & adventures offerings, plus plenty of interactive activities for the whole family – all intertwined to create an immersive experience for Wonderers.

Since its inception, Wonderfruit has always thrived to bring a diverse, genre-bending lineup of live performers that span the musical spectrum, and this year is no exception with numerous musical acts from around the world.

The Living Stage will be home to notable and diverse mainstage acts from head bangers like Rudimental, ​famous for their heavy hitting beats and Young Fathers​, a hip-hop trio from Scotland, to the eclectic likes of Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra ​with their mesmerizing blend of live orchestral and electronic music, Shura​, famous for her new wave synthesized sounds and soothing vocals and Grammy nominated singer, Lianne La Havas.​

Those not ready to call it a night, will most likely end up at The Quarry​, Wonderfruit’s legendary after party destination. Get ready to dance till you drop to genre-defying sounds by Simian Mobile Disco and ​the distinctive tunes of European electronica by Yaya​; or brace yourselves for some heavy hitting techno by Nicole Moudaber ​and a dark, hardware-only live set from Headless Horseman​.

Those who just woke up or haven’t slept yet, can climb up the Solar Stage​, at the highest point of The Fields, built by Gregg Fleishman​, who’s known for his creations at Burning Man, to catch unforgettable sunrise scenes.

The Solar Stage will host the performances from Eric Volta​, Sabo​, YokoO and sunrise yoga with Liv Lo and Rosemary, while sunset performances will be hosted by Wolf + Lamb​, Norman Jay MBE​, KMLN​, Marc Antona​, Akimbo​ and more. Farm Stage​, another must-see this year, will see acts like Buke and Gase, Superglasses Ska Ensemble, Yena, Sahai Hang Sailom, Srirajah Rockers, At Adau, Nang Talung Sakon Dharma and more.​ Listen to the Wonderfruit Playlist and know what you’re in store for.

Wonderers are also in for a treat as Forbidden Fruit hosts Wonderfruit’s first ever gay party on Friday night. “Adam and Steve​” features Thailand’s premier drag queen, the inimitable Pangina Heals, ​who’ll delight revelers with her “waacking” performances, outrageous entertainment and plenty of surprises. The appropriately fabulous venue will also be the setting for irresistible music from Luna City Express​, Noxro​ and Uone​ throughout Wonderfruit.

The Rainforest Pavilion ​is ​where Scratch Talks will take place during the day. Get inspired by the talks from Trash Hero Thailand,​ the man behind Indonesian unicorn app GO-JEK and more. At night, the Pavilion ​will delight Wonderers with some techno beats from Agent H, Alex Joy, Cabbit, Zig Zach, Fadi Alurk, Gary Hutchings, Halim Ardie, small&Tall Soundsystem featuring Swamy and David Brabbins​ and others.

But as Virginia Woolf said in her seminal essay, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Wonderers need not worry as food is another integral element of the Wonderfruit experience and the choices are plentiful. Grab European fare from Marcel​, Thyme and Peppina and sushi from Morimoto – some of Bangkok’s hottest restaurants, or indulge in your favourite street food and keep breakfast going all day long at Rocketfruit​.

Wonder Feasts​, are also back, offering a luxurious communal outdoor dining experience where food and entertainment are in ample supply, and wine flows freely, courtesy of Italasia​. Returning for the second time in two years, maestro of progressive Indian cuisine, Gaggan Anand is throwing a feast with the help of his friend Chef Daniel Chavez of Ola in Singapore. Expect fire-grilled barbecue delights, Peruvian ceviche and other delicacies. Wonderers with a taste for the fare from acclaimed Bangkok restaurants Appia ​and Soul Food Mahanakorn should join chefs Paolo Vitaletti and Jarrett Wrisley as the duo teams up for a reggae brunch. If you are feeling peckish during the day, let Chef Jeriko of Cocotte ​serve you a mouth-watering farm-to-table banquet of dishes from fresh, organic and seasonal products. Those who are looking for something out of the ordinary should check out F.A.C.T. Collective​’s feast, at which chefs Khanaporn “Oom” Janjirdsak and Panupon “Black” Bulsuwan will serve unique dishes that combine the flavours of northern and southern Thai cuisines. (Note: Seat capacity for all Wonder Feasts is limited. More information on pre-booking will be available soon)

Additionally, Wonderers can expect a range of experiences that encourage exploration, creativity and collaboration thanks to SC Asset​, who bring The Sharing Neighbourhood ​back to The Fields, including a new treat for this year – Breakfast for Good Mornings – a truly Thai-style start to the day at Wonderfruit. The Molam Bus Project by Jim Thompson Art Centre is also back by popular demand and will offer Wonderers a chance to experience the authentic culture of Thailand’s north-eastern region Isaan, including music courtesy of All Thidsa and Pimjai Pechpralanchai.​ Don’t forget to check out the Wonder Salon ​by TAT for a Wonderfruit “makeover”, relax in The Ziggurat​, an upcycled-design beer garden by Singha​, or get more intimate and cosy inside Moon Shack by Sangsom.

Apart from talks & workshops, Wonderfruit is also a place where you can strengthen your body and mind through a range of wellness & adventure ​activities. Shed some sweat and try belly dance, body combat and Zumba with the team from GuavaFruit, ​a collaboration of Wonderfruit and GuavaPass​; practice different styles of yoga with international experts, ​and take part in meditation, healing and dance sessions. If you come as a family, stop by Camp Wonder, ​which ​will be jam-packed ​with fun activities to keep the whole family busy.

As well as sustainable, Wonderfruit is also big on technology and safety. The event is completely cashless ​and all Wonderers will receive an RFID wristband, making paying easier and eliminating the need to worry about the safety of your wallet. The wristbands, courtesy of Bangkok Bank​, can be topped up at stations around the festival.

Wonderfruit takes place at The Fields at Siam Country Club, Pattaya from 16 to 19 February 2017. Four-day passes can currently be purchased at 6,600+ when “PHILTCM” code is used for 15% discount. Visit Wonderfruit’s website for more information on securing your tickets, travel, and accommodations.

Photos: Wonderfruit Festival

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#BeautyBackstagePH

Before heading to Miss Universe preliminaries, I went to a beauty event that showcased professional European and US brands that can now be found in department stores. They’re Instagram-popular brands and I got the chance to explore them in person makeup. Locally, I think we can expect more and more launches and sophisticated brands in the market. Exciting times indeed!

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In the event, they showcased 8 brands and lots of products that each carry. It was just a makeup heaven! Above are the products that caught my eye!

Let’s start first with Catrice. CATRICE is a brand that’s known to never miss a single trend, must-have or detail. The range is extremely convincing: a large choice of colours with trendy as well as classic shades for diverse looks.

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I also have a product from Essence, a #1 makeup brand in Europe. It is known to give easy access to great products that inspire and helps express style, confidence and fun. I love that they they also have a full range of breakthrough beauty products and the season’s hottest colors and formulas.

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Here’s a preview of the nude shadow from Catrice, and the contour from Essence. I agree that these products have high-quality ingredients (look at the pigmentation!), luxurious textures and innovative formulas.

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It is also very great that the these products are trendy and innovative, yet affordable. For example, the above eyeshadow base and brow mascara are only priced at P249!!!!

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Now let’s check the loose powders from the above brands – together with a pressed powder from Flormar, offering colorful and fun products for all women. Flormar has committed to be the best friend of women since 1970. With almost 2,000 products in its portfolio, annual production volume of 120 million pieces and close to 700 stores in 250 cities of 93 countries in the world, Flormar is strengthening its color presence every day.

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The pigmented powders have got to be my favorites – look at how soft and creamy these are! Also, these products are priced below P500!!!

Now let’s check out the lippies from this brand through quick swatches below of their matte lipticks.

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No wonder why Flormar is the Number 1 makeup brand of Turkey and has a 1/4 share in the country’s colored cosmetics market!

What brands and products from these brands caught your eye? I’m just excited to include these in my reviews and swatches in coming months!!

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10 Department Store Powder Highlighters To Check Out

Thanks to Jeffree Star and Nikkie Tutorial’s influences, I’ve been addicted to all the sheer, glass, or blinding highlighters I can see in stores and online. I’ve been using this magical thing a year after I started blogging but the times are different now. You can see this product just everywhere, including department stores, and that’s really practical for all the beauty junkie’s out there.

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A highlighter is defined by the finish of the whitish pigment – shimmer, shiny, sometimes like mirror or glass – the complete opposite of a contour. By purpose, it’s optics – it’s supposed to make areas of the face pop (and sometimes flat, when it’s too mirror in finish) when light hits the face. I like how this freshens any face, reduces lines and structures face (esp my undereye-cheek area which is quite sagging). There’s just so much variety in the beauty industry now and let me review some for you!

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Above is a full arm swatch of all my favorite pigments from dept store highlighters I have on my kit. Let me start with one fav by beauty Youtubers. This brand just arrived  in PH a year ago and has been selling this thing like pancake!

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Sleek Highlighting Palette in Solstice ($14.99) – Aside from the gorgeous gold packaging, this is innovative in a way that it has 1 cream and 3 powder highlight formulas which allows for layering and customizing effects. There’s an opaque yellow shade for warm skin tones, a lavender color shade and my favorite from this, (the middle one) a warm pink/rose color that’s light-medium in sheen/shimmer. The quality of shimmer here is not powdery, but truly bright and illuminating (see how the arm swatch became darker as it focused on the pigment so much). The downside only is that sometimes this can be appear too blinding as you can see that the shimmers appear like diamond eyeshadows (but of course, versus eyeshadows, highlighters are softer and more easy to apply on face)

I really love how creamy and performing this product is in terms of texture and consistency and ability to blend and use. One swipe gives so much! I’ve been using this palette for 3-4 months already and I’m just nearly half of it. I use it everyday and on special occasions that need some extreme blinding!

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Australian brand BYS has launched different palettes for Filipinas with various color combinations and finishes. The brand has been famous for its beautiful contour trio, but let’s check out their highlighters with a new one in 4’s!

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BYS Highlighting Palette in Ultra-Glow ($ 7.95) – This is the newest highlighter from the brand and it boasts of warm shades of shimmer for morena skin tone. I really love that champagne shade in the middle with a light sheen. I adore that this is pigmented and consistent despite the low price.

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BYS Highlighting Palette in Glistening ($ 7.95)* – My favorite one from the 3-4 palettes especially because of the rose shade on the top most of my arm. It’s just so pretty! There’s a color to it (can be a blush already) but combining it with the pinkish white pigment on the middle, it will give that gorgeous blush shade!!! All the colors are warm, pigmented, and really illuminating. Upon picking up by brush, there might be some fall out but I suggest spraying a primer on the brush for blinding realness.

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BYS Highlighting Palette in Luminous ($ 7.95)* – This is a good selection of warm and rose colors. The top most is like the rose color in Glistening, and the middle lavender shade is perfect to contrast a warm look. Then you have a yellow one for morena skin tones. All in all, these highlighters are very affordable yet performing in all aspects!

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There’s also highlighters under the HD Cheek color line of Pink Sugar, a homegrown brand that was recently launched here. I was actually surprised by how sophisticated the brand is to launch quite a number of highlighter shades and the below two caught my eye.

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Pink Sugar HD Cheek Color in Concrete Jungle (approx $10)* – While this is in mono and while packaging is quite difficult, I was surprised by how beautiful this highlighter is. See that while it may appear white and opaque upon finger swatch, when blended, it has a beautiful gold sheen that’s completely wearable.

Pink Sugar HD Cheek Color in Concrete Jungle (approx $10)* – Compared to above, this is creamier and more shimmery in a beautiful light-medium warm pink shade. I have been using this last year and it just gives a picture-perfect glow on the cheeks even under flash. Also, I agree that this is HD in finish.

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We also have highlighters that are often called illuminators because of their sheen effect – I have two brands under this category. Versus the blinding ones, these work very well in day light. Usually, they’re combined with a blush pigment to allow a gradient effect. See options from NYX below – they also even have a blush + highlighter + bronzer!

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NYX Illuminator in Chaotic ($ 9)* – I was quite confused with this as a highlighter but when blended, this coral pink with gold sheen reminded me of NARS orgasm but very subtle. While a bit powdery and light in its highlight pigment ( I suggest to use a packing brush that’s wet when picking it up), the blush color is just drop dead gorgeous, as with any Orgasm-like shades.

I have to check out out their Strobe of Genius palette to evaluate this versus others tho.

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Mary Kay Mineral Color Duo ($18) * – Lastly, we have this blush duo in Mary Kay. while not a dept store brand, I was in awe to see how pretty the illuminator is in this product that i already consumed 2 of these. The blush is just Ok, but when blended with the illuminator (swatch you can see below), it gives a beauty powder finish that’s perfect for everyday look.

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Now let’s put them all together on my arm under flash and definitely, BYS and Sleek win in the blinding highlight award while Pink Sugar, NYX and Mary Kay in giving a subtle sheen. See how all of these perform very well in being not chalky or powdery despite their low prices. Definitely value for money! Just know where and how you’ll use it and you can check our these options.

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Sephora Picks & New Brands To Try This 2017

I’m all for exploring new makeup brands. I think of each label as unique, whether in packaging, formulation or area of expertise, and even in beauty philosophy. It widens my knowledge about makeup (and beauty). And aside from the being fun, the experience is of course part of my job as a makeup blogger. =)

2016 was a really quick and competitive landscape for beauty with lots of innovations, ranges and new brands launched. I must admit that it was that year also that I bought so much makeup abroad with the mindset of just exploring cosmetics even more.

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So I got really excited when Sephora sent me best-selling products from brands that I haven’t tried ever. It’s really just so convenient and luxurious to have Sephora.PH here now. I remember visiting the store in SG a few years ago! Now, we can buy our favorite products, or in my case, cult makeup brands I wanna try, with much ease and less cost (shipping, a lot of promos, etc).

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My haul contains base products from brands such as Becca, Too Faced, and Guerlain. I’ll tell you my first impressions about these in a bit!

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Let me start with something that I’ve been wanting to get ever since I realized that concealer isn’t enough to cover my shaving marks which appear as green. I’ve been used to placing 2-3 layers of concealer on my upper lip to avoid the shadows but it just doesn’t work all the time despite how hard-working the concealer is.

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Becca Backlight Targeted Color in Papaya (P1773), is a highly pigmented, targeted cream colour corrector that neutralizes discolourations while brightening up the complexion with light-reflecting pearls.

Backlight Targeted Colour Correctors feature a highly pigmented formula that neutralizes discoloration. This creamy formula is infused with subtle luminosity to blur the look of imperfections, leaving your skin looking corrected and luminous.

Becca Backlight Priming Filter (P1943), 

Backlight Priming Filter creates a canvas for your makeup, extending its wear from day to night. Infused with three unique Filtering Luminescent Pearls, each one adds a different drop of diffused light. Blended together, they impart a one-of-a-kind, lightweight, whipped fluid that creates a smooth canvas and acts as an instant filter, while the vitamin E-enriched formula minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Backlighting acts as an instant filter, creating a diffused, soft-focused radiance that allows your complexion to catch light for a glowing look. Infused with Becca’s proprietary blend of crushed pearls, this primer achieves a lit-from-within, healthy-looking effect.

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Guerlain Multi-Perfecting Concealer – Hydrating Blurring Effect 12ml (P2213), 

Guerlain Mulit-Perfecting Concealer is a hydrating concealer that blurs imperfections for flawless complexion. Color correct your skin tone, hide dark circles and small imperfections, and create a natural-looking finish. It instantly blurs dark circles and imperfections while a treatment complex that reduces the signs of under eye puffiness and hydrates overly dry skin.

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Born This Way Naturally Radiant Concealer (P1696),

Born This Way Naturally Radiant Concealer banishes the appearance of dark circles and imperfections while it blurs the look of lines and wrinkles. The creamy and comfortable oil-free formula is packed with natural skincare benefits and a proprietary blend of colour correctors to create the look of flawless skin. The result: a complexion that appears naturally radiant when applied over or under foundation—even when worn alone.

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Confidently Beautiful

It’s this year that I really got to watch and think about #MissUniverse. I only started really watching this 1-2 years ago when MUO has been dramatically changing the platform, and notions of what it means to be a “beauty queen” regardless of color, size, and creed – which was showed especially this week. Exciting times indeed for beaucons! Congrats to ALL women who performed, competed at this pageant and most importantly, showed real sisterhood!

Below are photos i took during the preliminaries and dress rehearsals. Thanks Ate Kim Galang of Valenzuela for the tickets! You made us happy!!

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Sleek Rockstar Collection

Since Q4 of 2016, I’ve been searching for very good blinding mirror highlighters – thanks to Nikki Tutorials and Jeffree Star’s influences! I would always buy these products at high-end brands but since Sleek’s best-selling Solstice palette – which ill review separately – I knew that there would lots of variations that would come in a few months.

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And so, these products were launched late last year and I’ve been in love with collection ever since. Let me start with the twin of the infamous Solstice, the Cleopatra’s Kiss (PHP 850) under the highlighter family.

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Aside from the gorgeous gold mirror packaging, I really like that this has a mirror! It looks expensive and glam. It comes with powder and cream formulas which i like because I get the free hand to manipulate effects: soft and dispersed (powder), intense and mirror effect (cream + powder)

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Obviously, 3 of the shades are too bronze for me so I’m definitely the Solstice girl but just check out how pigmented and opaque these are which appears mirror and packed with shine. The pink (powder) one is really a gorgeous rose pink shade which I can’t see in Solstice.  I hope they merge these two in the next palette 😉

For the department store price, this is a high-performing highlighter that I would definitely repurchase. Now, this was merged with the Rockstar collection consisting of a souffle and i-Lust palette which is just my top pick in this set and let me show you why.

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Just by looking at it, I knew that it’s more of an illuminating eyeshadow palette with colors that we usually find outnumbered in most nude palettes. For me, these shades have a great role in blending and make eyes more fresh and open.

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The i-LUST Palette (PHP 650) is a very affordable product that can work on both eyes and cheeks. It’s very soft and subtle (except for the copper pigment which is really opaque) with a very nice blendable formula. I actually think that the highlighters are more blinding than this one so I get to use it really on my brow and cheek bones.

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Similar to the highlighters, they have cream and powder formulas with gold (yellowish), champagne, pink (leftmost is a favorite) and copper hues. I think that the latter (with peach sub hues) is very pigmented and consistent, perfect for the monochromatic eyes.

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I tried all shades alone and on mixture with the other colors and they didn’t feel too heavy or shimmery which made it look glam and fresh with the right intensity.

Staying power of powder highlighters or shimmers are definitely better if layered under cream so I think that you have the freedom to customize your look with these palettes.

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Lastly, the Strobing Souffle (PHP 595)! I’ve been finding strobing creams and shimmer products that would look glossy on skin (Peg: Beyonce’s eyes on her music videos). I always wondered how MUA’s would do eye looks that appear like wearing lip glosses and I think I found one that didn’t have much glitters, but provided a

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I would use these alone, with feathery eyelashes!! Now I got an EOTD idea 😉

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Overall, this is a collection that I really like. It’s perfect for all your strobing and glowing goddess looks regardless of the season – the strobing souffle is perfect for summer! 

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#MACBackstagePH: #65thMissUniverse

It’s pageant season! The #65thMissUniverse began last January 12, 2017 and will culminate with a live telecast on January 30, 2017 at the Mall of Asia Arena Philippines. I can feel the hype from everyone in my LGBT and non-LGBT community friends!

What’s really good about holding this locally is that aside from promoting our cultural works and workers – like Mindanao fabrics, our every own fashion designers, photographers, etc – our team of top-notch local color artists will be providing makeup for the contestants throughout the pageant!  A special team of makeup artists by MAC will also be available for the Miss Universe Organization, current title holder Pia Wurtzbach, VIPs, judges, and hosts. I think that makeup artists do major work back stage and let’s see the looks they’ve curated for this event!

The official team of makeup artists for the contestants includes Al De Leon, Anacleta Paredes, Angel Manhilot, Apple Fara-on, Byron Velasquez, Don De Jesus, Emer Buenaventura, Emman Concepcion, Gela Laurel, Gery Penaso, Jaycee Matias, Kusie Ho, Leah Casio,  Mikee Raymundo, Omar Ermita, Pong Niu, Raf Bardon, RB Chanco, Ria Aquino, and Ryan Wong.

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with the VERY talented Raf Manosca when he discussed to me the makeup that will be used on the girls

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The Miss Universe MAC makeup kit

Rounding up the special events team are Renen Bautista, Pia Reyes, Bea Colet, Alex Lisbona, Jorence Delimos, Cielo Desamperado, Erin Cabrera, Mhike Gonzales, and Jaja Pangilinan.

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MAC Miss Universe color artist team

As the Official Makeup Sponsor, M·A·C Cosmetics was present during their official registration and fittings. Once the candidates arrived, they went through interviews, fittings and final registration to officially be signed as a candidate for the pageant. (see below backstage photos from MAC)

M·A·C Cosmetics helped the girls get all glammed up for their official photoshoots and they met with all 86 candidates to give them the perfect MISS UNIVERSE KIT compliments their skin tone.

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I can say that glowing nudes and neutrals will be the thing, but cool to see statement colors as well!

 

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Raf Manosca placing contrast through a complimentary warm blue eyeliner on Miss Curacao

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Mikey Raymundo on Miss Guam

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Jayce Matias doing a subtle sexy smokey eye look on Miss Peru

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Ms Pong Niu!!

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My favorite makeup looks from what all the BTS pictures I saw.

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Leah Casio’s work on Miss Bahamas

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Miss Switzerland and Miss Australia!

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Can you guess what MAC lipstick Miss Brazil is wearing? Definitely perfect for her beauty!

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Super excited! Who are your bets for this year’s #MissUniverse? =)

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TRANScending: Film Review of “Die Beautiful”

TRANS (“beyond”, “changing thoroughly”). But here in this country, it is a word so often associated with dishonesty, mistaken identity, and lots of stereotypes.

In the past 3 years, there were several developments in the LGBT community that raised the level of understanding about who transgender women really are beyond stigma and cliche’s of being “bakla”. We saw car enthusiast Angelina King reveal to her male-dominated followers her truth about being a transwoman with a non-traditional sexual orientation. We cheered for Geraldine Roman as the first transwoman in Congress, and Trixie Maristela and Kevin Balot as they won the crown  in the most prestigious trans beauty pageant in the world, Miss International Queen, where judging is based on criteria set specifically for transgender beauty queens, beyond comedy or impersonations. There’s so much stories also about transgenders (men and women alike) and their lives, being featured in shows like Maalaala Mo Kaya, Pinoy Big Brother, etc.

Identity & Beyond

But the LGBT community here is still far from full acceptance and tolerance with rights and all, despite these stories in media. Several trans hate crimes were reported in the past months, with the continuing issues of discrimination at work and other public spaces. Of course, we cannot forget Jennifer Laude, a transpinay, killed by an American marine officer due to a “mistaken identity”.

The Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 features Die Beautiful, a film that’s said to be inspired by the struggles of trans women in the Philippines. According to director Jun Robles Lana, the story is inspired by Laude at the beginning: “Remember the murder of Jennifer Laude? That’s how this project started. When Jennifer Laude was murdered, what was really shocking na aside from the fact up to now di pa talaga nakukuha yung hustisya na buo para sa kanya, ay yung reaction ng mga tao nung nangyari iyon. Parang they were saying she deserved to die, buti na lang na pinatay iyan kasi transgender, kasi monster, yung mga ganun eh. Shocking na bakit ganito? “Yes, I agree na marami ng pelikula sa atin na tungkol sa gay experience. Pero yung transgender, yung context life, struggles ng transgender [people], I don’t think ganun karami. And iyon yung particular topic subject matter na I wanted to explore.” (Source: Rappler)

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Trisha and Barbs supporting a guy in a  basketball game. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

There are already lots of films, mostly comedy, that tackled gays and drag queens like Markova: The Comfort Gay, Ang Tatay Kong Nanay, etc. But did Die Beautiful really illustrate the life, identity and struggles of the Filipina transwoman today? Did it really transcend the stereotypes of a gender identity causing so much pain, inhumanity and even hate crimes in the trans community?

Transgender, Not Gay

Tricia Echevarria (Paolo Ballesteros), the protagonist, is clearly a transgender woman in the film. She is not “bakla” in a Pinoy sense despite all the cliche gay struggles the film illustrated while she was at her early age – cross-dressing and role-playing, wanting to be a beauty queen early on, being assaulted by a conservative father. While most of these are shared experiences in the LGBT community, the moment or jump towards Tricia’s life as a mother in the beginning, wherein she told her best friend (Barbs) and daughter (Shirley Mae) that she wants to be a mother, and that she is a mother regardless of her assigned sex at birth, it was clear that she identifies herself as a woman, with her gender roles established, regardless of all the gay cliches that come with it. She was aware of that.

Tricia explaining herself to her daughter. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

Of Transitions & Transformations

The story-telling of Tricia’s different aspects of life as a transgender women was organised in non-chronological way. The transitions were as swift as her makeup transformations in the funeral: starting as a cross-dressing boy then the film shows her as a mother. She comes out then she becomes a beauty queen.

Makeup obviously served as a tool for a pre-op transwoman’s self-expression but it was more of a handy element in her career as an aspiring beauty queen. One can say that it’s also as if the movie itself is in “drag” because beneath the show, glitters and thick makeup, lies the different struggles, sadness and frustrations of being a transwoman.

But did the film really show these beyond glitter and glamour?

 

Transgender or Drag Queen (Transvestite)?

In the movie, Tricia is played by Paolo Ballesteros, a famous online makeup sensation and celebrity impersonator/drag queen. Truly, there was so much honesty, sophistication and sincerity despite the hit jokes, on-point looks and punchlines when it comes to characterising Tricia as a transgender beauty queen. It was also his transformative makeup skills that gave so much marketing and cinematic appeal to the film, but one can’t also deny the dangers that come in hand as Tricia in the film was not just imitating identities through makeup, she was trying to assert one.

While transgenders/transvestives fall under the same umbrella in Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE), which helps explain gender and where a person is in that spectrum , there was no direct mention of the word “transgender” in the movie or a clear dialogue about it.

Sa ating kasi pag bakla, bakla para isang umbrella. So hindi naintindihan yung concept na gender identity, yung sexual orientation. Of course hindi naman lecture yung buong pelikula para malaman yung gender identity, sexual orientation but we made sure na maayos na tinalakay namin yung pinagdadaanan nung character niya [Paolo] si Tricia para maintindihan namin siya.” – Jun Robles Lana, director (source: Rappler)

The film may have differentiated transgenders versus “bakla” (effeminate male homosexual) in some ways like the former entering the female bathroom and identifying as woman, it failed in differentiating transgenders versus drag queens. For example, for most transgenders, breast augmentation or even transplants (Sex Reassignment Surgery) are not beauty surgeries. They match what’s inside a person’s feeling, which Tricia also believed when she told Barbs that she wouldn’t de-transition (remove her breasts and makeup) when she faces God if she dies because she believes she is a woman, but she also said something about it being a career upgrade in beauty pageants in the middle of the film.

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Trisha and Barbs off-stage, in the streets, dressed as women. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

 

The Beauty Queen / Beauconera

Even up to now, I still see some online reviews and Instagram posts referring to Tricia as gay. I think that the confusion also comes from the kind of transgender character that was presented in the film and the fact that culturally there is just one kind of beauty pageant here (notice how the name of the contests that Tricia participate in have the word “gay” in them even though sometimes she’s competing in all trans pageant where impersonations and talent portions aren’t already parts/segments – see the scene with Kevin Balot in the trailer). In the Philippines, majority of both transgender and drag queens rely on these (and some drag performances in bars) and the beauty / parlor industry in general, as main sources of income, because it is where creativity, fun, and “being yourself” are celebrated, valued, and not looked down upon. The only difference is that transgender women live their everyday lives as a woman and would want to die as one, and not just when the stage lights are on.  

But in the movie, the plot is driven by the Tricia’s ultimate goal: winning a beauty pageant. She already knows who she is and how and when she will be ready to leave the house and pursue her transition and dreams. The film started with initially, cross-dressing as a little boy, and ending it by earning the title as who she really is – by slaying a common pageant Q&A “If you were given the chance to live again, what would it be?” based on her experiences and self-assertion as a transwoman even until death. She then blacks out and dies while being announced winner leading to her burial where she’s transformed into 7 different female celebrity looks with the help of her friends, and sister, as she wished. 

Beneath these fleeting moments, stories of her personal struggles were introduced in the film such as asserting herself in the family even until death, being a mother to her daughter, fighting life as a rape victim, being a true sister, lover and friend. While these were not deeply developed in the film and that more focus was given to Tricia being a contesera, we can see how the film beautifully illustrated some of these seemingly familiar gay cliche’s into unique humane trans ones – asserting true love, being honest and sincere about life, fighting for identity even until the end (though I would still prefer to see Tricia as Tricia even on her death bed)

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Trisha as Beyonce at the last day of burial. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

Transcending Beauty & Gender?

When it comes to studying and understanding LGBT identities, one is trained to look at the labels – to identify who’s transgender, lesbian, gay, even up to being pansexual – but one is also encouraged to see beyond the LGBT (thus the Q+ sign after it). The film may have failed in defining who a transgender is and how she lives her life beyond the spectacle and makeup – which is crucial with today’s representation of the trans woman hopefully leading to non-violence, and respect even on one’s death bed.

But it was very close in a way that it beautifully challenged and changed some of the typical gay cliche’s about love, family, beauty pageants, and identity which leads to the understanding of trans as woman, a different type of woman, as a different kind of beauty, but just like everybody else: a human living life and all its difficulties.

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Art in Buku Buku Cafe

Along with the rise of the Manila indie culture, concept restaurants have been sprouting like mushrooms. These restaurants double up as coffee shops by day and dining hubs by night, offering a wide array of local and internationally inspired meals.

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Once such dining place that has been gaining attention down south is the upstart yet promising Buku-Buku Kafe, owned by mother-daughter-son creative trio Lyn Santiago who heads the operations, Jessica Santiago who handles digital marketing, and Nicholas Santiago who spearheads all marketing efforts. Buku-Buku is a Bahasa term for ‘many, many books’. The idea of putting up a concept café that offers a full dining experience came about when founder Jessica traveled to the US where she chanced upon small street coffee shops with very artsy vibes to them. She saw how the spaces allowed artists to do poetry reading and live sessions with bands. “Traveling made me want to bring my experiences home”, said Jessica Santiago, Digital Marketing Manager.

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More than just a dining spot, Buku-Buku Kafe serves as a ‘book reading space’ which bookworms will definitely enjoy. They also have komiks and zines, which the owners have been collecting for years – one thing that’s not usually common in most mainstream bookstores. Apart from that, they also sell prints, postcards, notebooks, and other unique finds.

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Love for comfort food is the one thing that the owners enjoy the most. Whenever they travel, food tasting is on their priority list. Across their travels, they’ve explored different dining gems in Malaysia and Europe, the founders decided to add a well-curated full dining menu to their café. If you’re a meat lover, indulge with their Beef Brisket Tapa – a full plated dish of slow-cooked beef served with garlic rice, fried egg, roasted tomatoes with added pickled onions and corn salsa. Another best seller in the house is their Romi Lamen which is a creative twist resulting in something that looks like ramen but tastes like upgraded lomi. This dish is something you wouldn’t want to miss. Served with pork broth, roasted pork, pork liver, soft-boiled egg, shitake nori, chicharron, and kimchi. Apart from their staple coffee drinks, they also serve cocktail drinks that are perfect for a chill night with friends and live music.

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Buku-Buku Kafe not only provides good food and comfort, it also serves as a space for young, independent artists to showcase their craft. The prints, zines, and trinkets in the café are curated by members of the team, who also participate in small press expos and comics conventions themselves.

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• Manic Pixie Depressive Gremlin – a self-published anthology of poems by author Pia Besmonte. There are only 700 copies in print. Pia’s verses, accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations by Raf Banzuela, discuss the trials and triumphs of the 21st century Filipina.

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The emergence of dining spots like Buku-Buku Kafe is a testament that the food and art scene down south is surely picking up.

 

Buku-Buku Kafe is located at the ground floor of Promenade Wing, The District in Imus Cavite. Check out Buku-Buku Kafe on Facebook (facebook.com/BukuBukuKafe) and on Instagram (@buku.bukukafe) for more information.

 

 

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