MANILA, Philippines – Jujiin walks into our office in a black maxi skirt and heels accompanied by Paulo Castro who, after a brief run-in with the building’s security guard, was forced to cover up his leopard print tank with a black sequined shawl (definitely not the cover-up the security had in mind but it was better than nothing).
For a brief (and rare) moment, the busy editors and reporters of the RAPPLER newsroom look up with bewildered looks on their faces.
If there’s anything this duo knows how to do, it’s to make an entrance.
Sitting in the pantry for the interview, Jujiin laughingly tells me he’s shy. He gestures toward his outfit — an all black ensemble topped with a cap with teeth (yes, you read that right, teeth) — and tells me, “It’s not obvious, right?.”
“I grew up feeling shy. I felt ugly and stupid. I had a lot of insecurities,” admits Jujin. “Fashion and dressing up became a way for me to express myself. I’m not good at talking. Somehow, this became my way to speak up.”
This statement comes as a surprise to a Panty Monsters fan like me. For one, this multi-hyphenate stylist-photographer-occasional DJ (and now videographer) works in an industry which involves dealing with a lot of people (and charismatic and outgoing people at that).
“Shy” isn’t something you encounter a lot.
But you’re active on social media, I counter. His blog and Twitter (@jujiin) are far from “shy.”
His blog posts range from photos with friends and outfit posts (of course) at various events; his tweets speak up against homophobia.
“It’s because I express myself better when I’m writing than when I’m talking. We were supposed to be interviewed for a TV show but…” he laughs and shakes his head. “I don’t think I can…”
Then again, it’s not like Jujiin needs to say a lot to get his point across. When it comes to self-expression he is certainly not without.
From his first forays into fashion as a stylist, he has since then explored into other areas of fashion. “It all happened very fast. I went from stylist to photographer and since most DSLR cameras now take videos, I’ve gone into that as well.”
If you follow him on Twitter, you’ll also see that he’s very vocal about LGBT rights. “I think it’s more reactionary — when someone brings up something you’re passionate about, won’t you speak up? We’re not hating them or anything. It’s not hate at all, in fact, that’s what we’re fighting,” Jujin says.
“I’m happy to see that a lot of influential people are speaking up about this issue. I’m not going to name names but it’s frustrating sometimes to see someone who has a lot of influence but refuses to say something.”
So does he mean “with great influence comes great responsibility”?
Jujin quips, “Exactly. There are a lot of misinformed opinions out there and it’s sad that people listen to them. If only other people speak up as well.”
From an introvert who struggled with his insecurities, to a fashion savant who isn’t afraid of drawing attention and standing out, and finally an advocate who uses that voice to speak up for those who can’t and fight those who stifle it, Jujiin Samonte is far from shy. – Rappler.com
(The PANTY MONSTERS are a renegade group of fashion, music and art practitioners and lovers. They advocate equality and respect for all, regardless of sexual orientation or clothing size. They have strong personalities but also have the biggest hearts; their minds a bottomless trove of ideas. They live and love beyond the norm because, for them, to not be normal does not equate to being evil — there is nothing wrong with being different. The PANTY MONSTERS are all about keeping it real, because “real” is the new sexy.)