Fil-Am artist inspired by Aeta beauty

It’s time to decolonize and throw that whitening soap out

Fil-Am artist Jake Gavino has always valued his Filipino roots, and it has become a source of inspiration for his artworks, “As a second generation Filipino-American born and raised in California, I believe representing my culture in my artwork helps me learn more about it and hopefully others can as well,” he said. “I tend to create artworks based around my culture whether through food, fashion, or just little nuances I get from my upbringing as a means to connect to it more strongly.”

One particular moment was when he saw a post on Instagram of ternos designed by London-based Filipino designer Lesley Mobo shot in his home province of Aklan. His models were Aeta or Ati townsfolk in his village. This struck Gavino deeply and made a artwork inspired by the terno shoot. 

“I found the photos very refreshing and unique,” he said in our email interview, “I don’t see a lot of darker-skinned Filpino models so the fact that they were right in front of me, looking amazing in these gorgeous ternos was awesome.”

“What really captured my attention was the way these amazing photos of darker-skinned indigenous folk gracefully counter and dismantle the mindset of upholding colorism, that having lighter skin is the idealized standard of beauty,” he said in his IG post, “time to decolonize and throw that whitening soap out,” he added. 

The actual Lesley Mobo terno shot

Gavino explains he wants his artwork to serve as educational opportunity for himself rather than just making something aesthetically pleasing, “Celebrating these features is a brilliant way to decolonize our mindset that being light-skinned is the gold standard of beauty.” 

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