Ambra Battilana Gutierrez is my new girl crush. In the short time I was given to get to know her, I was able to see the kind of woman I want to be—compassionate, but with a lot of fire and grit. As a model she doesn’t just work in the industry, she’s trying to change it for the better. In a highly competitive modeling industry, it takes guts to stand up against the age-old norms set in that world. It’s a giant risk to her career. But here is a woman who’s looking out not just for her own career and her own life, but more so, for all the people around her and for the next generation. Here is a woman who wants to fight for you and me; be the David against the Goliaths of the world if need be. She helped bring down Harvey Weinstein and launched the global #MeToo movement after all, and if there’s one thing that’s clear by the end of our interview, it’s that in the fight against misogynists and bringing down patriarchy—that was only the start.
What are you busy with these days?
A lot of interviews ‘cause I’m trying to have my voice out, and trying to give support to matters here in the Philippines that are being avoided, like cases of sexual harassment abuse [towards] women and children. Right now, I’m trying to have my face out there so people will understand and know that there is somebody who is trying to do something regarding those matters. I came from New York to do this and for sure I’ll be coming more often here. I [also] have to finish an episode of [my] podcast so I’ll be back in New York for a little while, but I’ll be more based here, hopefully from November on. That’s my vision. I wanna try to make a change here in the Philippines and continue in the direction I believe it can go.
Can you tell us more about the podcast you’re doing?
So I’m having a podcast in New York with Univision and they’re producing it, and it’s called In Our World. What I’m doing in this podcast is I’m interviewing different people and talking to them about [how] they overcame different difficulties because I wanted people to understand that some situations happen, like depression or anxiety, or eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or whatever else, [and] there is nothing to be ashamed of, because we’re humans and we all have difficulties, and we all are here to try and help each other out. I started this podcast more to have other people get inspired so that they can also try to share this kind of thinking with others. It’s not about pointing out to someone [to] come out and speak about their problem. [It’s more of] if there is a solution, maybe you can help someone else. So just speak up about it. Don’t be ashamed of it.
Since you’re also a model, how do you think the modeling industry has evolved since the rise of women empowerment movements such as #MeToo?
In New York, I’m working with Model Alliance, a non-profit organization founded by Sara Ziff. They regulate all sorts of situations that are happening in the modeling industry. They help models who have been sexually harassed. [They’re also] trying to regulate the age of modeling and have models start [at least] 18 years old so that they’re more protected. When you’re underage, you don’t know exactly what to do, like who to go to and ask for help, things like that. They also [campaign for the installment of] changing rooms during fashion week. All of this is part of the Respect program that they started this year. They launched it at the start of September. They’re also trying to fight things like when the agency tries to psychologically abuse [models] to lose weight, or change aspects of their body, as well as when they don’t pay the models. This organization is giving lawyers, giving empowerment to models so that they [won’t] face these kinds of situations [alone] if ever something like that happens. Model Alliance started in New York and hopefully they are gonna expand worldwide.
You are one of the people who brought down Harvey Weinstein. What gave you the courage, the final push to finally speak up against him?
Well, three years ago, the only thing that was on my mind was that something like that was wrong and so I didn’t want anybody else to be in the same position that I was in. I mostly thought about other people, other women, other girls—that was in my head. I [had] to choose between my career and going in and fight against a titan, and I just [thought that I wanted to] try and help someone else. So I decided to go and fight.
What is your message to victims who still don’t have a voice?
I’ll be your voice. I’m here. I’m trying to start this movement in the Philippines as well, so if ever you need help, I’ll be there with the right tools and the right people to give you help and hopefully this is also gonna start in the Philippines and help the situation.
What would you tell your younger self, and what would you tell your daughter?
To my younger self: Everything’s gonna be just fine. Just believe in yourself always and be yourself; always be the same stubborn person that you’ve been when you were a kid ‘til now and just follow your own mind and your own ideas ‘cause if you follow your heart, then good things will come for you and for everyone. Things will work out, just be patient. For my future daughter, well, same thing. Follow yourself and follow your dreams. Everything that makes you happy, just try to do it. And of course, be strong and brave ‘cause every day we go out there we have to face difficulties, but then [that’s how] we understand life [and the value of living]. So you have to live life and you have to be brave in anything. Let’s make courageous acts into something that is normal, like speaking out if something is not right.
You’re many things: A model, an advocate, and soon, you’ll have your own podcast, too. Ultimately, how do you want to be remembered as?
I wanna make a change in the future, in different matters. I want to be remembered as not just me, but being part of a group of people that [brought about change]. Since I was a kid, I was dreaming of changing the world in some way, and right now, I can make that happen, so that’s something I want to be remembered for.. the person that gave the right start for having the possibility to change.
Photos courtesy of Dix Perez
Art by Marian Hukom
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