For years, the world associated the name “Ambra Gutierrez” with two high-profile accounts of sexual harassment: In 2010, 18-year-old Ambra was accused of being a prostitute in one of the “bunga bunga” parties hosted by then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Fast-forward seven years and she became one of the prominent witnesses involved in the ongoing Harvey Weinstein case. As one of the faces of the #MeToo movement, Ambra was even featured in Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” issue.
But what do we really know about Ambra? Who is she beyond all the scandals and controversy? When Cosmopolitan found out that she was visiting the Philippines, we reconnected with the Italian-Pinay model who was a part of our 8 Sexiest Models lineup in 2016.
A: I did a casting in May or June 2018. I didn’t hear anything back for two months. I even forgot about it. I was in Italy, and suddenly, my agency called me and said, “Victoria’s Secret wants to shoot with you. Are you available to come back this week?” Of course, I said yes, but I also thought, “Ok, this is happening. It’s so weird!” Up until I was in the studio, I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream, and it finally came true.
They wanted to see 15 models from my agency. At the casting, there were three people. They asked us some questions, like where I’m from. I said, “I’m Italian and Filipino.” After the casting, my agent told me the [Victoria’s Secret team] really liked me. But I didn’t want to have high expectations. For now, it’s all positive, but I never know how people will react. When I shot with Victoria’s Secret, it was just me and their team for the whole day. It was very fast. Everyone was really nice. They knew what to do, I mean, they probably do that every day!
Actually, they request models for the show. I wasn’t requested this year, maybe they were going for something different. Hopefully next year, though!
Three years ago, before everything happened, I used to work for Saks Fifth Avenue. I was working with different lingerie brands. I got castings for Armani and other big brands. And then suddenly, my agency told me, “Oh, it might be better if you stay off modeling for a while,” and that made me really sad. I started this job as a passion, and it was one of my biggest dreams. It was really heartbreaking. Now, a lot of brands are coming back.
As mentioned, I recently shot with Victoria’s Secret. It was a huge achievement—not because of the brand itself, I mean, I love Victoria’s Secret, but because it shows that I could’ve done this three years ago. I lost so much time and missed so many possibilities. I’m trying to get it all back right now.
I met Donna Karan when I was at a conference called Women in the World. She came up to me and apologized for what happened. She previously released a statement about victims, and it wasn’t really nice. (Editor’s Note: In October 2017, the designer came to Harvey Weinstein’s defense by implying that Harvey wasn’t the only one to blame, that the victims should shoulder some of the responsibility.) She didn’t know. Everything was such a mess when the truth came out. I understand that a lot people are just trying to do their job. As a woman, I understood [where she was coming from].
I lost so much time and missed so many possibilities. I’m trying to get it all back right now.
These days, I give priority to the brands who never left me—like Cosmo. Cosmo was always there. Not many were there after what happened in New York. Cosmo was, and I’ll be forever loyal. I am the same with my agency (Prima Stella) and whoever was with me. They believed in me. A lot of people were scared because they didn’t know the truth.
You split your time between Italy and New York, and you visit the Philippines whenever you can. How is each place different for you?
My mom and brother live in Italy, but I also want to take him to the U.S. with me. (Editor’s Note: Ambra’s brother, Klaudio Gutierrez, is also a model.) When I get to Italy, I usually travel to Rome. It’s one of my favorite cities. I have friends all over so I just take the train from there. I go to Milan and Turin; my mommy lives in Turin. I try to go to Italy every three to five weeks. When I’m there, everyone’s feeding me a lot—like how it is when I’m here in the Philippines. Their rice is pasta. Italians are very particular about their pasta!
When I arrive in the Philippines, it’s like everyone is my family.
My life in New York is busier. I never sleep. It’s a 24/7 lifestyle. I am an introverted extrovert. I always try not to talk about myself all the time, but I speak to people a lot. In New York, I’m more social. My friends, believe it or not, aren’t just models. They’re all nice people. I gravitate towards people who are real.
When I arrive in the Philippines, it’s like everyone is my family. I’m staying with my best friend right now. But my friends here are all family to me.
When I was a kid, my father used drugs. He was not a nice person. When he was home, he hit my mom. He hit me. I was happy when he left. Right now, it’s all good. I grew up. He’s also getting older so he understands that what he did was wrong. We don’t really have a relationship. He has another family. But I’ve forgiven him. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s good that he’s not using [drugs] anymore. I’m really happy.
[Because of my childhood experience,] I don’t like to be touched. That’s something that is very difficult for me. It’s difficult for me to let go when I’m in a relationship. It takes a long time. I’m not really open to hugs. Even with my mom and my brother, I’m not really a hugger. For my mom and my brother, I’m always there. I show love through different actions.
[Because of my childhood experience,] I don’t like to be touched. That’s something that is very difficult for me.
I want to keep talking about women's empowerment. I want to try to start something in the Philippines. Hopefully, we’ll see changes in this country. There are a lot of amazing women here; the strongest women I’ve ever met are from the Philippines. The strength that I have comes from my Filipino side, for sure. I’m very close to my mom. Even on the plane back to the Philippines, there was some turbulence, I told her I was scared, and she comforted me.
The founder is Sara Ziff. With them, I’m working on making the modeling world more positive. Some parts are very tricky. For example, we want models to only start working when they’re above 18 years old. That has to be regulated. We also want to help models when their agencies aren’t good to them—like when they’re not getting paid or when they’re made to feel like they need to lose too much weight. We want to teach models how to keep themselves healthy. We want them to have someone to run to when sexual harassment happens at work. That’s Model Alliance.
Yes! It’s called “In Our Words,” and it’s produced by Univision. It tells the stories of people who are overcoming difficulties and changing the world. One of the people I’ve interviewed is Vinny Guadagnino, one of the stars of Jersey Shore. He has anxiety and experiences panic attacks. He talks about how he tries to cope by understanding food and exercise and other things he needs to do to help with his condition. The first episode was a little bit about my life, what I went through. I’ll be having a lot of people on my podcast.
Madonna. I think she’s a very strong woman who always does what she wants. She achieved her dream and is living a happy life.
Next goal: I love cooking…so maybe a cooking show soon? It’s something I’m pushing for. I want to let people know that good food can be healthy. I want to make recipes that are healthy, but very tasty. It’s something I’m putting out in the universe! For now, I’m focusing on modeling and the podcast, but I’m trying to visit the Philippines more. I really miss it.
PRODUCED BY: Ysa Singson
SITTINGS EDITOR: Jillian Gatcheco
ART DIRECTION & PHOTOGRAPHY: Jico Joson
ART DIRECTION ASSISTED BY: Mixi Ignacio
SHOOT COORDINATION: Lou Ferrer
STYLING: Carl Pabilona (Qurator)
HAIR: Carl Umipig
MAKEUP: Nicole Ceballos for Laura Mercier