Introducing the Filipino Creative Class

Dolly de Leon recently became the primary Filipina actress to ever be nominated for a BAFTA and Golden Globe for her scene-stealing turn within the Oscar-nominated film Triangle of Sadness. H.E.R., Steve Lacy, Olivia Rodrigo, and Saweetie will arguably all outlast pop music’s fickle standards. Comedian Jo Koy’s comedy Easter Sunday is the primary Hollywood movie to star an all-Filipino forged. Designer Rhuigi Villaseñor was appointed creative director at Bally. Now greater than ever, there may be a palpable swell of Filipino talent permeating and shaping the cultural zeitgeist.

Looking back, Filipino cuisine served as a catalyst for our current Filipino-American renaissance, and for years has gained a powerful foothold across the country, because the late Pulitzer Prize-winning food author Jonathan Gold predicted it will nearly 10 years ago. The success of Lasita in Los Angeles and Musang in Seattle is a testament that Filipino food, with its layers of influences and complexities as a result of centuries of colonialization, may be each familiar and foreign to those that have never tried it, and has an increased presence in our every day dining rituals.

To be clear, we Filipinos have been here, actually in creative capacities, which is more apparent now as a result of social media, but historically and more widely as health care employees. Colonized by Spain from 1565 to 1898 after which by America from 1898 to 1946, Filipinos have been influenced by Western cultures for a long time. Post-World War II, Filipinos were heavily recruited to fill the nursing shortage in American hospitals, setting into motion a sturdy frontline workforce comprised significantly of Filipinos. In 2019, one out of 20 registered nurses within the U.S. was trained within the Philippines. In response to National Nurses United, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 26.4 percent of nurses who died from the virus and its related complications were Filipino, yet Filipinos only make up 4 percent of registered nurses in america.

 

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We have now been here. Not as a monolith, but as a thriving community with wealthy stories informed by a fancy past, and now with a momentum that’s shaping a recent narrative. One on our terms, and with a stance that’s declarative and increasingly front-facing.

“We reside in an open kitchen, and now you’re capable of see who the groundbreakers are, and it just so happens there are a variety of Filipinos,” says Villaseñor, who founded the clothing line Rhude before getting into the highest role at Bally. “A cultural belief of staying behind the scenes and paying our respects has been engrained in us, but as more Filipino people take center stage in big jobs, it’s inevitable for us to rise.”

Nicole Ponseca, creator and Filipino food pioneer, echoes this sentiment, offering a key detail: “It is a recent existence that has a unique type of confidence behind it,” she says. “Through the ’80s and ’90s, a variety of our experience was through non-Filipino eyes. It was about ‘how can we assimilate?’ Now, we’re succeeding by doing it ourselves and valuing ourselves. We’re not going anywhere. In actual fact, we’re only starting to blossom.”

Below, meet seven Filipinos who’re currently shaping our culture through fashion, beauty, and music, on their very own terms and with the Filipino-American experience on the forefront.

Jian DeLeon

jian deleon

In his decade-plus profession that included editorial roles at Complex, Highsnobiety, and now as Men’s Fashion and Editorial Director at Nordstrom, Jian DeLeon has managed to seamlessly mix his heritage and the immigrant experience while pushing sartorial boundaries in men’s fashion, streetwear, and beyond. Working example: Last 12 months, DeLeon achieved a fashion-food-anthropological trifecta, emblazoning a custom Bode jacket, together with brand founder Emily Bode, with illustrations of his favorite childhood Filipino snacks. The Jollibee mascot and 7D Mangoes logo, amongst others, peppered the corduroy piece, constructed by one of the crucial talked-about American designers today. The jacket is only one example of the impactful projects DeLeon has spearheaded in his current role. Last 12 months, in collaboration with Sam Lobban, Nordstrom’s SVP of Designer and Recent Concepts and photographer Joshua Kissi, he launched Present in Translation: A Recent Language of American Style, an in-store shop and visual campaign that spoke to their interpretation of traditional American style codes. “We haven’t peaked,” says DeLeon concerning the proliferation of Filipinos in fashion and popular culture. “There’s all the time room for more, and the table is infinite. It’s about how I can finesse it in order that I can get other people in, because if I’m eating, then we’re all eating.”

Samantha Duenas

samantha duenas

Samantha Duenas, a.k.a. SOSUPERSAM, turned her childhood hobbies of singing and dancing right into a prolific profession that straddles DJ-ing, performing, modeling, and radio and tv appearances. While her DJ presence is global and highly sought-after considering her versatile, genre-bending mixing style, it’s her hometown of Los Angeles where she is rooted as a co-founder of popular L.A.-based R&B party 143. Born in Culver City, Duenas says she has seen Filipino representation and identity evolve exponentially over the past couple of a long time each in L.A. and as a complete. “It’s such a recent identity should you really zoom out,” she says. “We’re hitting a stride where we will define ourselves and we’ve enough history and a footprint in America where we will declare ourselves. It’s powerful and inspiring.” Duenas cites 2022’s Grammy awards, where Saweetie, Olivia Rodrigo, H.E.R., Bruno Mars, and Elle King were in attendance, as a transparent turning point for Filipino representation in music. “The takeaway was huge!” she exclaims. “Filipino musicians have gotten more commonplace in mainstream music creation and creativity. It’s all the time been there, but I don’t know if that’s all the time been seen in front of an audience. Our presence feels solid, and it’s not going anywhere.”

Rhuigi Villaseñor

rhuigi villaseñor

Defining a recent American Dream is what has driven Rhuigi Villaseñor since launching Rhude back in 2015. Informed by American popular culture and iconic branding like Marlboro and vintage bandana prints, the brand rose to be a mainstay of menswear and streetwear culture, garnering loyal fans including Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and LeBron James, to call a number of. Because the Rhude label has permeated the best levels of retail and celebrity, Villaseñor’s star has undoubtedly risen. Earlier this 12 months, the L.A. native who immigrated from the Philippines at age 9 was appointed creative director of 172-year-old Swiss luxury house Bally. “We’re the ripple of what V [Virgil Abloh] did. And this just isn’t to remove from my talent, however it really is that.” Regarding his appointment, Villaseñor says, “People were never really looking into the subcultures as a source of luxury and opulence. The concept of what a fashion house must be now looks to people of color— Filipinos and the youth—and the way in which they perceive luxury.”

Emman Montalvan

emman montalvan

In the last decade since photographer Emman Montalvan moved to L.A. from his family’s farm within the provinces of the Philippines, he has established himself as an in-demand fashion and wonder photographer. His clients include Sunnies Face, Nike, Chanel, Dockers, and JVN Hair, and he credits early American influences like MTV with shaping his dream and preparing him for a creative profession within the U.S. Montalvan managed the transition from distant farm life to L.A. through what he says is an inherent adaptability engrained in Filipino culture. “The Spanish, Japanese, after which American colonizers left a giant mark which has forced us to have recent eyes and embrace a recent land,” he says. “We adapt to maneuver forward and survive. It has been to our advantage, but in addition drawback, if we’re talking about our solid identity as a culture.” This sort of reflection has inspired him to return to the Philippines to work on a private project he is looking a “love letter” to his hometown. “I can attest to the Filipino perseverance,” says Montalvan. “Half of my family works in Alaska farming salmon a part of the 12 months, and I see their labor. I’m so grateful to have a seat on the table and may forged my mother in shoots. I’ll help them get on their feet here in America. Since I actually have to capability to try this, I’ll.”

Frederic Aspiras

frederic aspiras

Hairstylist and master wigmaker Frederic Aspiras has gained global recognition for creating imaginative hair looks for Lady Gaga, with whom he’s worked exclusively on every little thing from campaigns to tours and red carpets since 2009. Last 12 months, he was nominated for an Oscar himself for his work on House of Gucci. Creative since childhood, Aspiras’ parents all the time encouraged him to pursue a path in beauty. “My mother all the time saw my gift in transforming individuals with hair and makeup and guided me into that world,” he says, before adding that creativity is prevalent throughout Filipino culture. “Filipino people and culture are rooted in kindness and respect for one another,” Aspiras says. “But more so, I’ve come to essentially understand the historic background of creative beings in Filipino culture. It’s no wonder that you’ll discover a number of the world’s most gifted artists in Filipino people. But it surely’s time for the world—and mostly the U.S.—to acknowledge the quantity of talent being slept on. That’s why representation could be very necessary in Hollywood.”

Raissa Gerona

raissa gerona

It’s protected to say that Revolve has been instrumental in establishing the modern-day fashion influencer, and chief brand officer Raissa Gerona has been the one pioneering the retail platform’s influencer marketing technique to be the worldwide force it’s today. Gerona, who moved to the U.S. from the Philippines at age 7, studied to be a lawyer before pivoting to the style space, where she has created a singular model that hosts global influencer trips like Revolve Across the World and has helped construct a portfolio of over 20 Revolve-owned brands and in-house collaborations with massive influencers like Aimee Song and Camila Coelho. “I’ve definitely felt like there’s this moment for the Filipino community making a dent in fashion, music, and entertainment,” says Gerona. “And it’s been an extended time coming.” She cites Villaseñor as an inspiration. “He’s doing such an incredible job. I’ve seen him transform really right before my eyes. There are also so many great brands and designers coming out of the Philippines. Young individuals are changing the narrative around what a Filipino creative is, and I’m joyful to support them as much as I can.”

Martin Romero

martin romero

Take a look at coverage of essentially the most relevant fashion events right away, namely fashion month and the CFDA Awards, and Martin Romero has a front-and-center spot to document the scene. The photographer and videographer also counts American Eagle and the Fifteen Percent Pledge as clients. Originally from the town of Tarlac, just north of Manila, Romero has made strides in street photography alongside those he’s looked as much as—namely, Tommy Ton, Phil Oh, and Scott Schuman (higher often known as The Sartorialist)—since moving to Recent York in 2014. “I also really look as much as Bill Cunningham,” says Romero. “Cunningham didn’t just shoot street style. It was very documentary and illustrated what was happening, which is what I’m attempting to do. I’m attempting to tell the entire story and transport people to be a part of that.” The rise of Filipino and Asian representation has made all of the difference for Romero in his rise through the rungs of the photography world. “Right away, with all of the representation, I’m so amazed. My hope is that each Filipino child seeing it, whether here or within the Philippines, gets inspired and pushes for his or her dreams.”

Headshot of Melissa Magsaysay

Melissa Magsaysay is a Los Angeles-based journalist and creator who writes about fashion, beauty, and culture.

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