Sunday, April 17, 2016

Meet Shawnah, A Doll Beauty Queen With A Heart For HIV Awareness

By Kris Tangco

There has always been a strong link between the LGBT community and pageants - the fascination of the former for the latter, and the reliance of the latter on the talents of the former. The victory of Pia Wurtzbach could very well be considered a great boost to the morale of the Filipinos, and for the volunteers here at LoveYourself, more so that the beauty queen declared HIV awareness as one of her platforms. Now that the clamour has somehow died out, another Filipina is embarking on a quest with the goal of taking home the crown - meet Shawnah Bautista Velasquez, one girl who also has HIV awareness as her main platform.

Shawnah is currently competing at the Miss Beauty Doll Pageant in Bangkok, Thailand. As the name of the pageant implies, Shawnah is actually a doll competing in a pageant for dolls. The pageant was organized as a venue for doll enthusiasts around the world to showcase their creations. Similar to human pageants, the dolls compete in several categories, including national costume, swimwear, gown, and yes, there’s also a question and answer portion. One can say that the doll pageant is just as competitive as the human pageants are.

Shawnah and Her Creator

Shawnah is a multi-talented artist. A journalist, a model, a good home cook - intelligent and beautiful, industrious and rooted in tradition - the quintessential Filipina. These qualities have been imbued into her persona, one that was envisioned and created by doll couturier, Cholo Ayuyao.

Cholo Ayuyao started out as a designer of accessories. One day, a friend showed Cholo some dolls which he didn’t expect were going to be the source of his inspiration. From then on, Cholo got enamored with dressing up these dolls, designing and sewing little dresses that the dolls would fit in, and having their shots taken. This proved to be an outlet for Cholo - each dress gratifying the creative impulse and urge to design dresses. And it was also going to be a beneficial one: posting these photos on his blog brought the designer success and recognition, and from there, his line, Cholo Doll Couture, was born.

Cholo confesses that Shawnah is his alter ego. “If I were a woman, I would want to be as talented like Shawnah, the essential Filipina”, confides the designer. Armed with ambition, hard work, and talent, Cholo’s efforts have paid off as his creations are now being appreciated internationally. His work with other doll enthusiasts around the world has been an opportunity for the designer to gain more experience. “Hard work, creativity, and unconditional love for country, this is what we, not just designers like me, but everyone, must have. This is the what I want to impart through my creations”, says Cholo.

The HIV Connection

Shawnah’s link to HIV awareness comes from her creator’s close relationship with the realities of the epidemic. This reality struck close as a few friends of Cholo, including the one who introduced the designer to dolls which got his career rolling, have succumbed and passed on due to the complications brought about by the virus.

Cholo has allocated a portion of the revenues from his business to LoveYourself to support the foundation’s cause. The conscientious designer has also capitalized on Shawnah’s participation in the pageant by making HIV awareness as Shawnah’s platform. “I tried to make use of the time and opportunity by dedicating my creations for the cause of HIV awareness", he says.

LoveYourself is an HIV awareness organization that advocates HIV testing, knowing one’s status, and the value of self-worth as tools to combat the rising wave of HIV cases in the country. As someone who has had a face-to-face encounter with the ravages of the virus, Cholo is inviting others to join the cause by helping the community through awareness and getting tested regularly.

“By understanding what this disease is about, and by regularly testing and with early detection, we can fight this virus. Some people just don’t choose to remain untreated, because they’re too ashamed they have the virus. They’re overcome by the stigma, not knowing that this isn’t the end”, explains the designer.

How To Support Shawnah

The results to the ongoing doll pageant will be announced by the organizers in October of this year. While the pageant is organized by avid doll enthusiasts, they themselves have their full-time jobs to take care of. Different portions of the pageant are not held consecutively but in separate dates, on intervals lasting a few weeks. 

LoveYourself invites everyone to support Shawnah to join her bid for the crown in the Miss Beauty Doll Pageant for 2016. Follow Shawnah’s journey and support her and LoveYourself’s cause by liking her page. Other creations of Cholo Ayuyao can be found on his Facebook page or on Flickr.

Photos by Cholo Ayuyao, Miss Beauty Doll