Growing up as a little girl who loved fashion, I would watch runway shows in my Lola's bedroom. A sea of white models graced my television screen every time, and I saw nothing wrong with this.
I grew up, and this was what I kept seeing. Slowly but surely, diversity started making its way into the international fashion industry, and I began to notice women of color like Tyra Banks and Winnie Harlow at the peak of their careers, strutting their stuff with the best of them. Still, I didn't feel the connection Chinese cinephiles felt while they watched the Crazy Rich Asians cast on the big screen, or the connection black athletes felt as they tweeted their support over another tennis triumph Serena Williams had in the bag.
This changed when I saw Sharina Gutierrez walk into the studio, all smiles and brimming with enthusiasm, hand-in-hand with her young son, Mason. She's finally back home, a proudly Pinay model who's worked with the best of the best internationally, ready to rediscover her roots and work alongside her people.
"I don’t wanna be there just because I have X amount of followers or because all the big models do it." - On her goal to walk the VSFS runway
Although many remember her as the Filipina model who auditioned for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show alongside Kelsey Merritt, 28-year-old Sharina's journey started when she was just 13 years old, booking her first shoot with Vogue Italia. At the time, she didn't even know what Vogue was. "I knew how important the job was when I booked it, because they were like, ‘Can you believe Sharina booked this job? Like, that’s her first job.’ And I was like, what is this? So I did my research and obviously every newsstand at the time contained Vogue. It is the biggest magazine in the world. After that, I was like, 'Oh shit, I did it. This is my first job.' That kickstarted it," she said.
Having been in the industry for more than 10 years, Sharina has worked with brands such as Diesel, Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger, and Vera Wang, and modeled for over 21 international publications. It's not surprising that she's been on Victoria's Secret's radar since she was 18 years old. Sharina admitted that VS casting also has a lot to do with whether it's the right time or place for a model. "Not many girls have the chance to see them over and over again. I’ve seen them since I was 18 years old because they’ve always seen that light in me. At this point, I’m 28 years old and they still want to see me? Out of the thousands and thousands of girls out there, I’m still one of their top-ranked girls? They still see that light in me, so damn, I must be looking good for 28. I think eventually, when the time is right, I will get my wings."
Although walking the VS runway is certainly one of Sharina's goals, her reason for wanting to achieve it isn't as conventional as you'd think. "My dream is [beyond] just being an angel—I want to be an actual living angel," she said. "I want to be able to have my wings on that runway and have a reason for me to be on that runway. I don’t wanna be there just because I have X amount of followers or because all the big models do it. I wanna walk because I deserve those wings. [Because] I’m doing good for my community and I’m giving back. That’s why I wanna be an angel, I’m gonna use that platform to give back to my community."
"It’s okay to step back from what you’re currently doing. It’s okay to say no sometimes to figure out what your next step is."
Sharina knows exactly how she's going to do this—with her I am Sharin Love project. As someone who is deeply spiritual and practices meditation on a regular basis, Sharina's trip home is rooted in her journey of self-discovery, which involves giving back to her community as much as she possibly can. After buying the I am Sharin Love domain, she plans to put up a non-profit organization in the Philippines based on its name; she also launched her own YouTube channel. "I am Sharin Love" came about after a consultation with her spiritual shaman revealed that she needed to change her name to "Sharin." She would write "I am Sharin" repeatedly every day, and she knew this statement needed to be attached to another word. "There were so many options," she said, recalling the day she had to select her domain. "Dot collection, dot calm, dot you know, and so on and so forth. None of them worked, and I was like, alright. Let me see. And I put dot love, ‘cause that’s what the law of attraction is, right? It’s about love. The aha moment came shortly after. A friend of hers told her it sounded like she was saying "I am sharing love," and the rest is history. So when I put that, it automatically clicked. I was like cool, okay, 'I am Sharin Love.'"
"I just want to do my best to make it something where people feel safe that they could just come to me and actually trust me with their lives," she said, her voice shaking slightly. "'Cause I wanna create something where I could create jobs for people who deserve it. For 'good vibe' people who deserve a better life."
Although she may have made it seem easy, with a non-profit project in the works, raising her son, and booking one modeling campaign after another, Sharina wanted to emphasize the importance of taking a few steps back, when needed. To Filipinos who are already established in their own careers, but feel like they need to do something more, she has this piece of advice to give: "It’s okay to step back from what you’re currently doing. It’s okay to say no sometimes to figure out what your next step is. Sometimes it takes a step back to understand your steps going forward. Because when you’re trying to figure out what your purpose is, sometimes you’re in that position where you can’t face what’s in front of you 'til you take a step back and filter out other things you’re doing in your life and actually realize what’s really important."
Before her shoot was over, she had to pause multiple times. Her son, Mason, kept saying, "Mom, you're so maganda!" much to the entire crew's delight. She paused every time and thanked her son, before continuing to do what she does best. It isn't hard for Sharina to know what's most important to her—she's reminded of this every day.
PRODUCER: Erika Villa-Ignacio
ART DIRECTOR: Jico Joson
ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR: Mixi Ignacio
PHOTOGRAPHY: Gee Plamenco Jr.
SHOOT COORDINATOR: Lou Ferrer
MAKEUP: Xeng Zulueta
HAIR: Mong Amado
STYLING: Leanne Ledesma (Qurator)
SITTINGS EDITOR: Jillian Q. Gatcheco