Becoming Your Own Woman: On Beauty and Changes (Featuring Leslie Espinosa of Kapwa Studio)

by Apr 23, 2017Blog, Hearty Living, Inspirations

makeup and changes woman transformation before and after make up philippines make up artist personality media

“Makeup Transformation” :p Photos: (1) “No Makeup Look”  Photography by Veejay Jimenez (2 & 3) Makeup by Mich Molina (Just to manage your expectations, I don’t look like this on normal days.)

Becoming your own man or woman is certainly a process. Our beauty and style continuously evolves from the different influences in our lives, the stages that we go through, and the seasons and identity journey that we experience.

For my birthday month (I’m officially 30-ish years and 23 days wiser), I thought of sharing about the process that I went through as a woman, my struggles, exploration and some revelation. And with the help of another artist, I hope that this write-up will at least be familiar with others who struggle or went through, or is going through the same stage. Hopefully, someone will get a thing or two from this too. 🙂

To start, I’m not really into makeup or cosmetics while I was growing up. I had Barbie dolls but I was always more fascinated with my brothers’ toys – G.I. Joes, Legos, Matchbox, et al. I always thought that their toys were cooler than mine. In short, Barbie didn’t influence me on how I do my hair, makeup and my fashion sense (if there’s any sense with mine, lol).

But when I was in college my mom graciously asked me to put on (even) some powder and lipstick (“maputla ata ako masyado” | I think I looked dull), which I willingly followed. Then she taught me how to put on some eyeliner even while in a moving vehicle. (A really good skill to master, which I still can’t perfectly do by the way as it can be dangerous!) My manager back in my hotel days also required me to wear more makeup since I was working at the Front Office. And I only decided to invest on my own makeup and learn a bit more about it when I started attending more events and important occasions. (I saved a lot doing it on my own than having it done at salons.)

philippines makeup artist models photo shoot

Photos: (1) Hair by Dave Grona and Makeup by Ana Isip (2) Photo Shoot for a makeup brand (3) A Makeup Session with Mich Molina

Unlike my mom who used to professionally model a bit when she was younger and was “kikay” (false eyelashes, long & well-maintained nails, parlor visits and all), I was quite her opposite. I got so scared when I tried ramp modeling for the first time and turned down a call to join Binibining Pilipinas when I was in my early 20s. (I wasn’t that courageous in my own skin.)

I don’t like false eyelashes, I want to keep my nails short and I don’t even blow dry my hair. I was different. I also got teased a lot when I was little. I’ve always been an ectomorph (having a thin frame with fast metabolism), I have the darkest complexion in my family (my brothers are mestizo and light olive skinned), my legs aren’t perfect (I even have colorful veins that can make someone create an imaginative abstract art from them), you can “connect the dots” with all the moles that I have, and I don’t think I’ll ever fit a G cup!

So even when I love challenges and new experiences, “beauty” adventures are not for me. I had my own insecurities growing up. I even got scared just by the thought of having botox or a boob job (yes, a friend suggested this too, haha)! That’s why I really admire those fearless women who join beauty competitions and ladies who are bold with their style.

When I was a teenager, I wore baggy clothes (mostly from my brothers, this was really an eeeww and awkward period) until I got slowly introduced to different styles and ladies fashion. It took a lot of trial and error for me to learn what works for my lifestyle and body type. In terms of clothing and physical looks, I learned that I don’t like attracting too much attention. I just want to look presentable, neat and to feel comfortable.

You know what else that I learned over a period of time and experience? Beauty can grow. And the kind of beauty that grows from the heart and within is more important than the temporal kind. Yes, we still need to look presentable and to look our best, but a man or a woman with the right kind of heart is more important than a handsome face with muscly structure and a beautiful woman with the sexiest figure. When you’re beautiful from within, a sense of indestructible confidence starts to follow. When you know more about yourself and your identity, your sense of security becomes stronger than your physical flaws.

(The question is what’s in your heart and where do you get your identity from?)

Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly

The classic beauties of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

(Photo Sources: Audrey & Grace)

I also realized that I find classy women with “the ummpph” the most attractive. I like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Carolina Herrera, with a dash of Victoria Beckham and Miranda Kerr (and even Ivanka Trump). What’s “the ummpph” that I was talking about? All of them were not just considered as beautiful but they’re also women who raised children / a family, a career / business, and who finds joy in helping other people as well. They empower not just themselves but others too. (By the way, Miranda Kerr has her own organic brand called Kora Organics.)

“Beauty can grow. And the kind of beauty that grows from the heart and within is more important than the temporal kind.”

These women are an example that there’s more to it than just having a beautiful face and a sexy figure. Living with and for a purpose is sexy (attractive). And nothing is more satisfying than to live a life not just of beauty but most especially of purpose.


Leslie doing her natural glamour magic on me. 🙂

“When you’re beautiful from within, a sense of indestructible confidence starts to follow. When you know more about yourself and your identity, your sense of security becomes stronger than your physical flaws.”

Becoming my own woman is still and would be an ongoing journey. I believe that each season of our lives will bring us to the different potential that we have and eventually to our fullness as a woman. Becoming our own woman in every season is beautiful. It’s a discovery that I hope all of us will enjoy, find and maximize.

(What are your thoughts about this?)

And speaking of becoming our own woman in every season, I was recently looking for a stylist who can give me a new look while still maintaining my natural long and black hair in this season. Then I saw what a stylist did to my friends’ hair and how they now loved and appreciate their hair length and color, and even natural curls.

I find it a joy to journey with other women  who makes a difference in whatever they do. So I was glad to know that this stylist doesn’t conform to what’s “IN” or with whatever the media dictates. This woman is a very talented artist who actually supports natural glamour. And I’m telling you, she can definitely transform your natural beauty (what you already have) to something new and more interesting!

“I believe that each season of our lives will bring us to the different potential that we have and our fullness as a woman.”

So besides sharing my own journey on becoming my own woman, I’m also sharing with you my conversation about beauty with a prolific artist and my own hair transformation with her. (A simple but one of the good things that we can do to upgrade our look!). She was able to transform my fine and flat hair to something sultry and voluminous.

Let’s get to know more about Beauty & Changes

through KAPWA STUDIO’s




The Artist (Portrait by Earl Roxas)

Hi Leslie! You’re such a prolific and inspiring artist. Can you tell us more about your background and how you started to have the passion in hair styling?

“I grew up dancing ballet, tap, jazz, Polynesian, and Philippine Folk Dance. Out of necessity I had to learn how to do my own hair and makeup up. I was a total studio kid. If I wasn’t in school, I was at the studio!

I also went to the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts in California. I danced at school while having my regular classes. I loved the extracurricular choices every semester; it included everything from photography, to visual arts, and music. Fast forward to college at San Diego State University, I started volunteering for the Theatre program and that was when I met my mentor, Peter Herman. I never knew Hairstyling and Makeup Artistry could be a career. I have been practicing it for 17 years now.”

What an impressive background! So tell us, as an artist/ stylist and someone who can see beauty in almost every thing, what is your  definition of beauty or what is beautiful for you?  

“I have always been inspired by nature. When I think of my clients, I think about helping bring out what makes them feel best. Hair has texture and density, and each person has a unique head of hair, why not give them a unique style?”

For sure you also had your own journey about beauty and changes. Were you always this bold and courageous with your style?

“I grew up very awkward with very crooked teeth, big eyeglasses, long permed hair, and I have always been thin. I was made fun a lot for being so small and skinny. I often go home  from school crying. My mom put me in modeling classes to help boost my confidence. And now looking back it really helped me learn the basics about beauty.  So when I think about being bold and courageous with hair and makeup and fashion, I say why not?  Life can be playful and full of experimentation.  Express yourself!”

“Life can be playful and full of experimentation. Express yourself!” – Leslie Espionosa


Leslie and the team at Kapwa Studio

(Very well said. I can so relate. I was teased a lot too when I was little, being always thin and darker than my siblings. 🙂

I’m curious, in general, what are your challenges as an artist and your personal challenges as a stylist whenever you have an opportunity to do someone’s hair?

“My challenge as an artist is…being one! But I wouldn’t want it any other way.  We are such emotional-feeling beings, I need to put my business hat on these days to learn how to build something sustainable.  I have been a freelancer for so long.  It’s time to put my feet on the ground.  As a stylist, meeting new clients is an opportunity to meet someone brand new and build a relationship with them.  I like to keep hair as healthy as possible and many processes today require multiple steps that damage hair.  The situation is different from client to client.”  

Speaking of processes, what’s your process in styling a client’s hair? Like when people visit you at Kapwa Studio what can they expect? Do you have a routine that you follow?

“I ALWAYS do a consultation! Then I can determine what I need to explain when we go through a service.”

(And I love how you did my hair! You were so thorough during our consultation time and you were even generous in giving me some valuable hair tips.)

What’s your advice to those who may want to update their look? Or to those who may want to do something different or new with their hair and image or style?

“Do it! There are trends that come and go. Again, why not? But then again, it’s not for every single person. Stylists learn how to modify these things.”


Sample of the natural and sustainable products that Kapwa Studio use.

I love Kapwa Studio. I’m a fan!

How was it conceptualized and when and why did you guys started it?

“It really is about a platform for creativity.  I knew one day I would open up a salon, but I knew it needed to support every interest I had.  When I started sharing this studio idea paired with wanting to push that idea of barber stylist here, Kapwa was born.

If someone can cut hair, they can do mens’ or womens’ hair. If they can style, they can style.  It’s hair! It’s art! Let’s stop putting ourselves in boxes. Lately I have been saying this is the best office! While doing hair in one corner, we are shooting in another, in another corner we are barbering, in another corner doing makeup.

When the studio is closed I use it for dance rehearsals and workshops. We have been around since October 2016.

One goal that has become crystal clear is that we work with all textures. Another goal is, we grow artists. On a community level, we really love Poblacion so we are supporting all our neighbors. 

All these things make us unique.”


My own hair transformation by Leslie. 🙂

(And that’s what I love and enjoy every time I visit Kapwa Studio. It’s like a moving art!)

Any practical tips to those who have straight hair (like me) and curly ones?

“It’s fun to play.  You have to come in for your personalized consultation and information for product recommendation.” 

And it’s always nice to visit you, Leslie! Do you have any message or word of encouragement about beauty and changes as an artist and as a stylist?

“What I have personally learned in life is to work with what you got.  Beauty comes from within and it doesn’t matter what shape or size you are.  Just because the media puts out a certain type of ideal for beauty, doesn’t mean you have to be that.  Nothing beats confidence and nothing beats the kind of beauty that radiates when you are feeling on top of your game.  If I can help a little with that, I’m happy.”


After my hair consultation and talk with Leslie. 🙂 Simple but naturally glam! Thanks again, Leslie.



(02) 8057948

Unit 5059-A P.Burgos St. Makati City

No need for perming if you know how to take care and style your own hair and what you already have (which I still need to learn). I like what Leslie said about beauty and changes:

“Beauty comes from within and it doesn’t matter what shape or size you are. Just because the media puts out a certain type of ideal for beauty, doesn’t mean you have to be that. Nothing beats confidence and nothing beats the kind of beauty that radiates when you are feeling on top of your game.”

With this, I hope that you got to find something helpful from me and Leslie today. Whatever journey that you’re having right now, I hope that you’ll find your own man or woman and maximize your potential and purpose in each and every season of your life.

And if you need to update your look, don’t be shy to visit her at Kapwa Studio. (The perfect place for beauty, grooming, art, community and collaboration.) That’s why I like it there. 😉

If you’re still finding your way, don’t be afraid. Be courageous and be open to grow to be the man or woman that you are called to be. Don’t be afraid to be different. Love your own and make use of what you already have. You’ll surely make a difference being your unique self. 🙂

(According to Mel Robbins from her TED Talk, you’re 1 out of 4 Trillion. Imagine how unique you are! And this world needs someone like you.)

Let’s constantly grow, change and improve to becoming our best. Share your own journey with us too! 🙂

(You may also check my 7-minute video with Leslie about my hair transformation and some hair tips on my Facebook page.)

“Your adornment must not be merely external — with interweaving and elaborate knotting of the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or [being superficially preoccupied with] dressing in expensive clothes; but let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)



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