Get to Know the Filipina Influencers Changing the Beauty-and-Fashion Game

Even if you don’t spend hours a day scrolling through your social feeds, like I do (note: I’m also your friendly neighborhood social media editor), it’s hard to miss the now-viral #DontRushChallenge. Since it began gaining popularity, the trend (which is also the inspiration behind the #PassTheBrushChallenge) has spawned many different variations and adaptations to highlight content creators from around the world.

In honor of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, influencer Jeanne Grey DM’ed a group of her fellow Filipina content creators to make a Pinay-themed #PassTheBrushChallenge. The result? An Avengers-style mash-up featuring 10 Filipino women making waves in the beauty, fashion, and wellness industries. The challenge is also filled with cultural nods to their heritage—including a cameo of the popular Filipino condiment banana ketchup

“A lot of our audiences are young women, and as an influencer representing Filipino culture, I have a social responsibility to make sure these young Asian girls look at their phones and see women who look like them and do things their titas do,” Grey said.

We wanted to learn more about the women behind the video, how they got started in their careers, and what it means to have Asian representation in their industries. And if they're not on your radar now, don't worry—they will be soon. 

Jeanne Grey, Content Creator and Influencer

How did you get started in your career, and what has been the most meaningful part of being such a key player in your field?

I started my career by getting fired multiple times for having a blog, back when Instagram and influencing was not yet even a term. Back when there were zero blueprints about social marketing. I braved it out, moved out, juggled my studies in the healthcare field, and charged into my possible newfound career in social media despite it being completely against my Filipino culture. I was deemed as an embarrassment to my family because I wasn’t a nurse. 

I proved my family wrong after being successful eight years later, and it helped open their eyes to the fact that there is more than one way to succeed even though you’re not a nurse, lawyer, or doctor.

Since it is Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, who do you admire the most in the Asian American beauty space and why?

I admire all the women who strive to break the stigmas in the beauty industry today. Beauty brands that fight to keep shades of our skin tone in their makeup lines. Moms that show and practice their culture’s cooking and native tongues at home to their children. Those are the women that deserve the nod. Because little things such as those are what are passed on to the next generation of young women to keep the beauty of what it is to be Asian alive.

What beauty product have you been loving?

I’ve been loving my Cle CCC cream for years now! It’s Asian-owned and a beautiful brand that highlights natural beauty!

Coco Cuenco, Digital Content Strategist and Producer

How did you get started in your career, and what has been the most meaningful part of being such a key player in your field?

Out of college, I started my own online boutique and fell in love with content creation, digital, and influencer marketing. Naturally, that led me to overshare my life on Instagram and land my dream job at Revolve.

Who do you admire the most in the Asian American beauty space and why?

I am so proud of the brand Sunnies Face. It is a Filipino beauty brand that is paving the way and breaking through the U.S. market with its refreshing visual identity and must-have products.  

What beauty product have you been loving?

I cannot go a quarantine day without Sunnies Face Fluffmatte lipstick in either Girl Crush or Baked. Lately, I've been mixing them. 

Chi and Gabs Gibbs, Musicians and Artists

How did you get started in your career, and what has been the most meaningful part of being such a key player in your field?

Gabs Gibbs: I studied special effects makeup artistry in Sydney and was a freelance makeup artist there for a few years. Now, I’m working at homegrown Filipino makeup brand Sunnies Face doing product development. Working in beauty at this time where Filipino beauty has been making its mark around the world has been so inspiring!

Chi Gibbs: Six years ago, I founded a clothing brand called Neon Island with my bestie, Aira Medina. We produce our own prints and textiles that are proudly Filipino-made. It gives me such a sense of pride to collaborate with international brands and to show that Filipinos have so much to offer in the fashion world!

Who do you admire the most in the Asian American beauty space and why?

We both love the women of Glow Recipe! We’ve been following them since their appearance on Shark Tank and just love how they’ve been able to build such an amazing brand!

What beauty product have you been loving?

GG: Since we're always home, I've been finishing all my lip balms, the Malin and Goetz Mojito lip balm specifically! 

Corinth Suarez, Digital Influencer and Content Creator

How did you get started in your career, and what has been the most meaningful part of being such a key player in your field?

I love to write and share my experiences! It started in high school, and I don’t remember not having a blog! Multiply, Tumblr, then my own domain. It wasn’t until 2014 that I decided to make blogging a full-time job. That was during the time I moved to the U.S. 

The most meaningful part of being a key player in the industry is my story. I had a challenging life, but those hardships shaped me into who I am today. And those experiences affect the way I think, make decisions, my style, etc. And now that I have my own family, my audience has literally seen me grow up and mature. It warms my heart every time I get messages that they’ve been with me from the beginning, and if they’re still interested in what I have to share, I must be doing something right. 

Who do you admire the most in the Asian American beauty space and why?

I have to give the biggest shout-out to Jeanne Grey. She’s so open and transparent about being Filipino, and she is inspirational without even trying. Her voice holds weight, and I love that she’s using it to help better others’ lives. It’s not all aesthetic. And because of her realness, she’s created a strong community that believes in her and what she stands for, and that’s something I want to develop in my career as a blogger and influencer. 

What beauty product have you been loving?

It just released, but I am obsessed with Versed’s new Guards Up Sunscreen. Buy it, try it, and thank me later.

Sara Tan, Freelance Editor and Consultant, Co-Host of Gloss Angeles

How did you get started in your career, and what has been the most meaningful part of being such a key player in your field? 

It was no secret that there were not any women or girls who looked like me in the pages of the magazines that I read, the movies I watched, or even the music I listened to. I really wanted to pursue editorial not only because I loved writing and storytelling but also because I wanted to create content for girls who looked just like me. 

I majored in communications and professional writing and editing at UCSB and applied for as many writing internships as I could during my time in college. After graduation, I got my first real job as the digital editor at Tiger Beat magazine. The job taught me so much about working in the editorial world, from coming up with story ideas to interviewing celebrities. From there, I worked at another media company and then landed the job of west coast fashion and beauty editor at Bustle, a position I held for seven years.

Now, I'm a freelance editor and consultant, as well as the co-host of a beauty podcast called Gloss Angeles. Only recently did I realize that I was actually doing what I had always set out to do—to create content for every kind of young woman (including those who look just like me) and to find ways to encourage them to find their own beauty. It is an honor and privilege, and I am so grateful that I get to call it my job!  

Since it is Asian Pacific Heritage Month, who do you admire the most in the Asian American beauty space and why? 

I have so much admiration for Michelle Lee, Allure's editor in chief. Not only is she responsible for turning Allure into the must-read beauty publication it is today, but she has also created a space that celebrates diversity and features people from all walks of life. She also does so much for the Asian American community. 

Lastly, what beauty product have you been loving? 

To stay on the theme of Asian Americans, I'd have to pick Orcé Cosmetics' foundation. It's a beauty brand started by a woman named Yu-Chen Shih, who wanted to create a foundation specifically for Asian complexions. I love it! 

Jannel Varona, Creative Director of Street Style Teller

How did you get started in your career, and what has been the most meaningful part of being such a key player in your field?

My website started as a portfolio back in 2012. I studied journalism in college, and I needed a place to put all of my work. The shift to a blog happened before I graduated in 2015, and I wanted to create a space for myself to tell my own stories and to share some of my outfits and style as well. I definitely did not plan or anticipate for my blog to morph into my full-time career now. I actually just decided to take my blog full-time only almost a year ago. Before that, I managed a coffee shop in Brooklyn, and my side hustle was my blog. 

The most meaningful part of being part of this industry is knowing that I can make my biggest and wildest dreams come true just by being myself, and I can inspire other people out there to go after their own dreams, whatever that may be, no matter how hard it might seem. I hope they know what they are capable of. I migrated to America from the Philippines when I was only 9 years old. I certainly did not know what the future held, but if you tell her everything I've ever accomplished up to this point, she would be so shook. 

Who do you admire the most in the Asian American beauty space and why?

I admire Daniel Martin. He is so nice, inspiring, and such an amazing makeup artist! I met him once, and he did my makeup, but I was so starstruck that I didn't tell him then I admired him.

Lastly, what beauty product have you been loving?

I've been currently loving Peach & Lily's Glass Skin Refining Serum! :)

Michelle Carigma, Blogger and Influencer

How did you get started in your career, and what has been the most meaningful part of being such a key player in your field? 

I got started my career when I started my fitness journey. I had goals I wanted to reach and wanted to share them with the world—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The most meaningful part of it all is that I incorporated my own personal style with it. During that time, fashion-and-fitness wasn’t as relevant as it is today. I get my followers engaged not by showing them just a highlight reel, but also showing them behind the scenes of my life. I want them to relate to me as much as I relate to them. Building that sense of comfort can be life-changing!

Who do you admire the most in the Asian American beauty space and why? 

Bretman Rock. On top of his makeup skills, he achieved the ultimate goal by being successful and still being himself at the same time. That’s rare to see, and the content he creates makes me feel like I can relate to him. 

What beauty product have you been loving?

WATER. It’s accessible to everyone, cheap, and has so many benefits such as healthy skin and hair, provides more energy, and helps with weight loss! My goal is to drink three liters a day!

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