I remember it so vividly, at the 2018 Oscars, American actress Frances McDormand snatched the Best Actress trophy for her impactful performance as a forlorn mother desperately seeking justice for the loss of her daughter in the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

In it, the 61-year-old multi-awarded actress portrayed a woman who has gone through great lengths to exact answers to unaddressed questions to her daughter’s murder. McDormand impressively stepped into the role of one who has not wavered to fight for her most basic right to be a mother, even when everyone else has told her to stop. In turn, she would be called names by a town that chose to turn a blind eye on her predicament, siding with authorities and power figures that have outdated views about how she should behave and act in the hierarchy of their society.

As if this win isn’t powerful enough, McDormand stood at the Academy Awards stage, in front of millions of viewers across the globe, to bring an even more powerful message. In a widely-cheered scene-stealing act, the two-time winner called for every women who were nominated in the audience to stand and cheer for all the women who have been underrepresented in the Hollywood filmmaking industry and at the Academy Awards itself.

To make the statement roar even louder, McDormand’s speech ended with the phrases, “inclusion rider”. Following the now-iconic speech, the actress explained in an interview that she just recently learned about the power she has or any actor or actress for that matter to “demand at least 50% diversity not only in the casting but the crew.” In Hollywood parlance, this is a clause in an actor’s or actress’ contract wherein he or she can call for people working in front or behind the camera to be diverse and all-inclusive.

In the UK, upon his entry as the editor of British Vogue in 2017, Ghana-born Edward Enninful captured the world of fashion with a resounding message on diversity. His first-ever produced cover as newly-named editor-in-chief of the prominent publication put British model and activist Adwoa Aboah on the cover, headlining the all-inclusive list of names featured in the issue–from London’s first Muslim government official Sadiq Khan, British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie, contributing editor and supermodel Naomi Campbell, and English novelist of Jamaican heritage Zadie Smith.

In his cover letter, Enninful wrote that the diverse list of subjects was intended to paint a picture that is emblematic of the U.K.–and the world as a whole. Inside, together with Aboah, he talked about topics deemed taboo in fashion magazines even at this supposed progressive time: mental health and living as “black and British”.

In recent years, much talk and attention have been given to the phrases “inclusion” and “representation”, fanning the fire of much-needed discussion on the state of the divided world we live in now—a segmented world of walls of “us” versus “them” and never a world of a united “we”.

Much like in McDormand’s appeal onstage and Enninful’s powerful message using their all-important global platforms, inclusivity has long been a rallying cry waged by those who seek for a world of oneness and equality—where no skin color and ethnicity, gender, affiliation, religious belief, and social and economic stature holds dominion over the other. And even as it has been pushed forth in mainstream media and in hashtag-powered advocacies on social media, the truth remains that equality still seems like a long, tempestuous road ahead.

When we conceived of this Beauty issue, we wanted it to at least bring a message that beauty is NOT skin-deep. Especially in today’s context, we believe that a discussion on beauty should go beyond the shade of lipstick you wear, the hair products you use, or your routine to get that “socially-acceptable” bikini-ready waistline.

Thus, the birth of the Representation and Inclusivity arc of this issue, where we deem it important to plant and sow the seeds of understanding, in our own little way, on acceptance, harmony, and respect for everyone’s individuality–beyond how you look.

And who better to celebrate individuality with than women who have long been the subject of prejudice and social constructs. Women who have constantly been pitted against one another. Women who have long been instructed to look, act, and behave a certain way to be “acceptable”.

Women who are resisting. Women who are fighting.

We enlisted the help of five women, gorgeous and powerful in their own ways, who have each made a mark in their respective fields—by being comfortable in their own skin and by celebrating who they are. Women who regard each other as equals. Women who celebrate women. And while they are just one among the many who have exemplified a love for individuality, we know that these women are perfect to bring that one simple message: every BODY is beautiful.

SANYA LOPEZ

Every so often, there springs a new name that seeks to make a mark in this fickle and competitive industry of show business—be it a reality competition graduate, a social media star, or a viral sensation (Nope! Not the contagious kind!).

In the case of Sanya Lopez, a chance sighting when she tagged along her brother, Jak Roberto, while hosting for a long-running late-night show, thrust her into a life in front of the camera. It was the late star builder, German Moreno, who egged her to become one of the hosts of his show at the time—literally breaking out of the shadows of her brother who was also starting to be recognized as a newcomer.

Born Shaira Lenn Roberto, the Bulacan-raised actress attributes the trajectory of her career to Moreno and her late father—men who may have passed on but have made significant contributions in her life. Her entry, however, was a route rarely taken on by those who aim to gain prominence. She has not relied on a love team partner, but instead, slowly took on roles that challenged and proved her mettle as an actress.

In 2013, she landed support roles in her mother network, GMA 7, that built the foundation of her career, from the suspense drama, Dormitoryo, to afternoon soap The Half Sisters, and The Millionaire’s Wife. It was in 2016 when she got what to her was her biggest television break, as Danaya, in the remake of the cult classic Encantadia. She has not looked back since—continuing her journey as a celebrated actress taking on roles that may not necessarily fit the usual mold taken on by her contemporaries.

Recently, the 22-year-old actress was rewarded the New Movie Actress of the Year at the PMPC Star Awards for Movies for her brave portrayal of a woman who’s in touch with her sexuality in the film, Wild and Free, opposite teen heartthrob-turned-rising hunk actor Derrick Monasterio–a welcome development in her rising celebrity as an actress with a serious devotion in building an acting portfolio that is diverse and versatile.

Of late, Sanya has also took on the role of a scorned woman who is driven to help her husband every possible way she can–an indication of the boldness in her selection of roles in her continuously growing career.

LAHAINA MONDONEDO

Lahaina Mondonedo’s relationship with fitness and nutrition came as a surprise when she had to be told by a physician to change her ways after being hospitalized for exhaustion way back in 2012. It was an epiphany she boldly acted on, with phrases like, “You’re too young for this,” lighting a fire in her to seek a better, and healthier lifestyle.

“I grew up in a family that never looked into dieting and healthy eating at all. I didn’t know better. To me, eating at Taco Bell and McDonald’s is normal and to me walking while playing golf was enough exercise,” she shared talking about her journey into fitness.

After her medical scare, fitting gym memberships into her already chaotic schedule while situated in a city where work is everything looked challenging, but she found running as a form of release. One block became two and one mile led her to finish her first half-marathon of 13.1 miles, owing a lot to her determination for training and a scientific approach to diet and nutrition. And while she regards her journey into fitness coming very late in her life, it was a shift that stayed and passed on to other people.

While unintentional, she has since used her knowledge and influence to aid other people in achieving their fitness goals—from writing for her weekly columns to eventually getting into the training people on their fitness journey, including celebrities like James Reid and Nadine Lustre.

Much like her shift to a healthier lifestyle, her jump from her career overseas—reporting for New York Times to The Washington Post, to eventually stepping up the corporate ladder at the Smithsonian Institution—to becoming a trusted executive in a male-dominated company was a chance she also boldly took after meeting up with good friends while on vacation back in the Philippines.

Her core values of trustworthiness and uncompromising vision fueled her part-time stint to become a year-long affiliation with premiere events production company, Pro Media Productions. As Director of Operations of the company that brought topnotch productions to the Philippines like the Shawn Roden Classic, Tough Mudder Philippines, and the recent Cinco De Mayhem Music Festival, the 33-year-old has stood her ground among her male counterparts and served as the face and soul of the company.

KEVIN BALOT

It was in 2012 when a gorgeous, petite, fair-skinned Filipina returned to Philippine shores with a crown and a sash that read Miss International Queen. The subject of adulation and pride was called by everyone as “The Girl Named Kevin.” It was a Philippine first—a crown from the most prestigious transgender pageant joined in by candidates around the globe.

Kevin Balot, now at 28, continued to put a face on a silenced segment of the LGBTQIA+ community and a voice of those scared to come forward living a life of “a woman trapped in the wrong body.”  She has since become one of the most visible transgender women in the country, thrust into mainstream consciousness by gracing lifestyle events, magazine covers, and even endorsements.

Recently, she has been hailed as the first transgender woman to land an endorsement for a major hair care brand that stands to push for diversity and inclusivity. Growing up, Kevin has learned how it is to be rejected by people judging people like her whose only crime was living their truth– constantly battling ridiculing eyes of those who have misconstrued and discriminating views on the social conventions of gender and sexuality.

The girl named Kevin then continued to use the road she has paved to abolish stereotypes and hate, and call for acceptance and empathy, more than tolerance on this disregarded segment of society, where she has used her own experiences to help foster love and equality for all.

As The Girl named Kevin notes on her now iconic ad, “Talent, personality, kindness, wit, style—everything beautiful about you has nothing to do with your gender.”

CAI CORTEZ

In the Philippine entertainment landscape, a leading lady fits a particular mold—a pretty face, a zero dress size, and a character that men would want to be with and the women would want to be jealous of. The sad truth is, with this pervading norm, anyone who does not fit the box would be “othered” to roles of the evil, the funny, or the loud-mouthed one.

For Cai Cortez, the daughter of acting legend Rez Cortez, she took advantage of these archetypal roles, played with them with much poise and dignity and found herself excelling into becoming one of the most visible actresses of her generation—not subscribing to any societal construction of the “artista” and the “leading lady”.

She would take on roles on television and films, stepping in the shoes of beloved supporting characters opposite many a leading lady, while significantly making her own mark by representing and bringing plus-sized women to the fore.

It was her role as lead in an independently-released romantic-comedy Ang Taba Ko Kasi, where she placed focus on the big girls, telling their narrative on a no-hold-barred look on love and life without ridicule and mockery.

In fact, one cursory search of the mom-actress would lead you to her social media account with a description that unapologetically says, “Naniniwala sa kasabihang: walang himala. Dahil pwede rin maging sexy ang mataba!”

More recently, Cai walked the runway in a prestigious fashion festival where she represented #BigMommas for a brand that champions inclusivity. In an interview, she said, “Finally, na-a-acknowledge na napakalaking percentage ay hindi size zero. I’m happy na na-re-realize ‘yan ng brands na ‘yan ang fact, hindi ‘yung fantasy lang na size zero or size two.”

ABY MARANO

From the moment she stepped into the UAAP courts as a rookie for the esteemed team of the De La Salle University, Aby Marano has shown promise not just as a volleyball player but an inspiration to her teammates and her legions of fans. She would eventually cop multiple awards for volleyball, including a two-time Most Valuable Player award for her alma mater and her celebrity continued to grow.

Following her graduation from the collegiate level, Aby would continue on and get drafted not just for different commercial leagues, serving as valuable asset to every team she dons a jersey of but also for the national team where she was instrumental in bringing honor to the country and a renewed sense of focus on the sport of volleyball

Aby would then transition from a player to a content creator with her video blogs, banking on her charm, candor, and likability, that have gained traction among fans of the sport—putting a relatable face to the sport that has continued to grow through the years.

However, it was her most recent and very public battle with psoriasis that Aby would intensify her role not just as spokesperson for volleyball but of the illness. The 26-year-old athlete and influencer would shed light on the many misconstrued notions of the disease. The visible scars she sported on and off the court, helped ignite dialogue on psoriasis—representing many patients of the disease who have been shunned away by judgmental stares and discriminating looks from those who do not understand the disease.

In a post, she wrote, “Showing my patches like they aren’t a damn thing anymore. I know most of Psoriasis patients don’t have the courage to show their skin. I heard some stopped going to school at yung iba ayaw lumabas ng bahay. Sad, I know. There are times that I feel uncomfortable too but my confidence is greater than my insecurities. Hindi naman kami nakakahawa. Hindi rin ito sumpa. Everyday is a battle. I gotta fight ‘cause if I don’t, I might just stop playing. Simple psoriasis might lead to psoriatic arthritis that may really affect my condition in playing and I definitely don’t want that to happen. So if you know someone who has Psoriasis like me, HUG them, they are not contagious. The only contagious is kindness. I am Aby Maraño, I have psoriasis but psoriasis [doesn’t] have me.”

Concept and direction by Leo Balante
Assisted by Cavin Calvin
Cover photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Styling by Gee Jocson at Gee Jocson Studio
Assisted by Steph Aparici

For Sanya Lopez:
Hair by Ghil Sayo
Makeup by Gery Penaso

Hair & Makeup:
(For Kevin Balot and Lahaina Mae Braga Mondoñedo): Guillano Valenzuela and Rheniel Pagdanganan
(For Aby-potpot Palmares Maraño): Cecile Vibiesca
(For Carizza Cortez-Rkhami): EL LE
Shot on location at Work/With PH
Special thanks: Thea EstrellaSuki Salvador, Patricia Co, and GMA Artist Center