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Awra, Mimiyuuuh, and Sassa Gurl Are Unapologetically Queer and They're Not Asking for Your Approval

Using their voices for the LGBTQIA community, three of the most influential content creators of today are loud and proud—whether people like it or not.

by Jamina F. Nitura | Jun 5, 2022

Beyond their contagious comedy acts online, Awra, Mimiyuuuh, and Sassa Gurl are using their platforms to advocate for LGBTQIA rights and inspire the queer kids at home who are yearning for representation.

The girls are gorgeous and wild. They’re standing in a triangle, clad in similarly fashioned little white dresses, with pageant sashes hanging for dear life on their shoulders. Awra is shadow dancing to what might be EDM music or an impassioned rock song in her head, with a finger stuck inside each ear, pretending she can’t hear the commotion. Sassa Gurl’s hands are posed the same, except she’s sporting her signature TikTok sneer; the one she might throw at her fictional, overbearing persona, Princess.

They’ve placed themselves in the Question & Answer portion of an imagined beauty pageant, and Mimiyuuuh, bursting with almost unruly energy at the center, is up. Asked to strut her stuff for the camera, she pretends she’s on a runway, twirls in circles, and maneuvers her body hither and thither like a loose-screwed automaton. It’s pure chaos and the room has buckled into hysterics before we can even start rolling.

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Mimiyuuuh, Awra, and Sassa Gurl for Preview.ph June 2022

The scene might sound ridiculous, and yet it’s an image anyone would expect when you put together three of today’s most-influential comedians in one place. With a combined following of over 26 million across all their platforms, Awra, Sassa Gurl, and Mimiyuuuh are currently the digital space’s queer "Tres Marias."

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Apart, they manage to stand out in their own fields, from acting, to TikTok, to fashion; but together for one day, their magnetism and natural wit carry the redolent air of a Pride Parade—hope, joy, and an agreed clamor for a fight yet won.

Beneath these romp of colors, there are conversations to be had, and no one understands this better than the cover trio. When all the frivolities are over, they’re surprisingly composed during each of my interviews with them a week later—save for Mimi who seems to run on the might of a hundred sugar cubes.


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ON MIMIYUUUH: Blazer, DEOFERIO; Wool-blend wrap skirt, P37,560, MM6 MAISON MARGIELACUL DE SAC; White Button-down shirt, P1200, MONKION AWRA: Get Them Bags top, P3950, FANGS; Brown micro skirt, P899, H&M; Slingback pumps, P4295, ALDOON SASSA: White Button-down shirt, P1200, MONKI; Blazer, DEOFERIO; Sparkly brown skirt, P4295, H&M; Slingback pumps, P4295, ALDO.

Where the uninitiated might see a bombastic party, talk of Pride inside the community bears a lot more weight than the feathers that front it. There’s a shared experience here, one easily communicated just by a look when keywords like family, friends, and acceptance are floated. Some are luckier than most, but even the loudest, most exuberant of personalities didn’t have it easy; so they turn to an audience when they can see themselves in the lost kids watching from their rooms and put on a spectacle so grand that you’ll believe, for a minute or two, that no one can hurt us from the ground.

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The Lucky Ones

If you ask me about love right now—real love—I’d tell you about Awra and her family. She’s one of the lucky few and she knows it. She describes her childhood as a “rollercoaster.” Before the viral video that catapulted Awra to fame, the Briguelas lived in a modest, two-storey concrete house in Las Piñas. Living in poverty taught her to be frugal with her money, most notably after her parents separated when she was just five years old. “Madiskarte akong bata,” she says. At school, she’d set her allowance aside and spend it on things she can sell instead, so the week after, she’d have twice as much money than what she started with. In spite of their financial shortcomings, the actress can only look back at her youth with fondness. ”Pagkauwi sa school, maglalaro [kami] sa labas, maghapon, magdamag. Sobrang saya kasi normal lang.

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Awra’s known she was gay since she was three years old. There was no great epiphany. She simply preferred skirts and dresses over wearing polo shirts and playing basketball. “Ayoko ng bola. Gusto ko ng pana kasi [kunwari nasa] Encantadia ako,” she recalls. Back then, everyone called her by her birth name, McNeal, a little boy who sashayed through the neighborhood with the sass of a queen. Although no one gave her grief about it at home, she admits to frequently getting into fights at school whenever she was teased for moving too soft. She made it clear, however, that she was never bullied. “I don’t let anyone drag me. So 'pag may nang-aasar sa aking bakla ako, kung magsusuntukan kami, edi magsusuntukan kami.


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Awra’s sexuality was never an issue with her family. Her father saw her for who she was: his vivacious kid who loved to dance and entertain her relatives at family gatherings, scattered out on the street on monoblock chairs. But he wanted to make sure she could protect herself, too; that she wouldn’t let anyone get a say on who she could or couldn't be. “[Natutunan ko na] walang karapatan yung ibang tao na maliitin ka. Kasi nanggaling ako sa family ko. Tanggap naman nila ako. Bakit di ako matanggap ng ibang tao?

Such is the grace of having a family that perceives you for your entirety. You’ll never have to doubt your worth or look elsewhere for validation. Awra puts this matter-of-factly: She never felt the need to seek out people like her in TV shows or movies. As someone who grew up around queer relatives who were treated just like any other, the then-child star reiterates she’s always been comfortable in her own skin. "I am being feminine and masculine at the same time...Even though ang laki ng muscle ko at ang ganda ng built ko, even though lagi ako inaasar at naba-bash na ang laki ng katawan ko, I don’t give a damn. Kasi ito yung gusto ko."

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White Dress, P10,000, ARWIN MERIALES

In a utopian galaxy, we’d all live like the Briguelas: no hiding in our rooms just to watch an obscure gay movie on the internet, no fear of holding our partner’s hand in public, no worrying if you’ll ever get married should you have no means to fly Canada, or New Zealand, or some other country where you can wed the person you love without prying strangers breathing down your neck.

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For people like us, getting to love plainly is a luxury, and despite striking gold in the dad lottery, Awra knows this all too well; so she does what she can. Her first video on Youtube is a vlog of her attending an LGBT show in Ilocos Sur. She purposefully auditioned for Mga Batang Poz, a youth film starring four HIV-positive teenagers, to bring awareness to the illness—it remains to be the only role she’s ever auditioned for to this day. "Ang daming bata talaga na nagkakaroon ng HIV because they’re not knowledgeable enough, they’re not, alam mo yun, hindi nila alam kung paano nakukuha yun. Kasi hindi nila napa-practice yung safe sex. So even though daring role siya, kailangan ko siyang kayanin kasi that’s the reality." On her Tiktok, Awra is feminine and masculine, she's everything she wants to be, and she wants you to know that you can be all this, too.

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Waling-waling tulle gown, P105,000, ADAM PEREYRA

Aanuhin ko yung followers ko kung hindi ako magsta-stand up for the LGBTQ fans? Kasi hindi lang ako para sa kanila nagsta-stand up, I’m also standing up for myself,” says Awra. She may be young but there’s nothing about her hard-earned fortune that she’s taking for granted if it means providing a safe space for her queer fans to come into their own.

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Yung pride talaga is yung nagpapakatotoo ka sa sarili mo at minamahal mo sarili mo kahit ano pa sexualidad mohindi lang dapat sa Pride month mo mararamdaman ang pagmamahal ng community…Bakit magkaka-Pride month kung pwede naman maging Pride Forever.”

Better Now

When Mimiyuuuh tells you she’s your girl, she means it. Her friendly neighborhood spirit is so contagious you won’t doubt for a second that what you see on camera is exactly what you’ll get in real life. We first met during her Preview cover shoot in 2019. Back then, she was still riding high from her Dalaga Pilipina fame—a 30-second video that scored her billboards, advertisements, TV show guestings, and the favor of social media. Three years later and it’s evident Mimi’s not one to rest on her laurels.

The 25-year-old, who boasts of a Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, relaunched her fashion brand just last February. Originally established in 2017, Fangs is a reflection of Mimi’s off-kilter yet intriguing style—one that might catch your attention while on a stroll outside. "I really wanted to [start] my 2022 with my brand, so nag-manage po ako ng time. Binigyan ko po ng oras yung sketching, resourcing, [and] talking with suppliers," she told Preview in a previous interview dedicated to her new venture. "Feeling ko it's time to prioritize what really makes me happy, [so] pinush ko na siya.

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Mimi’s a go-getter by nature and her spate of achievements these past few years are testament to her fiery character. This knack for chasing success had been indoctrinated into her from the young age of five and had actually started off as less of a desire and more of a need. Growing up gay in a conservative household, the content creator felt like she had to excel in every other aspect of her life if only to make up for the fact of her sexuality. “Na-push ako to do more and to prove myself…Kasi ‘pag straight ka naman, wala kang kailangang i-prove. Kapag pumasa ka, okay na. [Pero] kapag part ka ng community, kailangan may honor ka. Kailangan you do more, and it’s very tiring.” It’s a heartbreaking notion, and yet it seems to be an unspoken demand still universally lorded over those in the community today, even in the supposedly “gay-friendly” Philippines.

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Just two years ago, Mimi made headlines for calling out adversaries of the SOGIE Bill, which was being discussed in Congress at the time a trans hate crime was going viral on the internet. In the video posted by Miss Trans Global 2020 Mela Habijan, an elderly lady, referred to as Aling Susan, was caught throwing a large rock and spewing derogatory words at an unsuspecting trans woman named Alexis Heart Garcia, while the latter was simply walking inside their village. Outraged by the incident, Mimi took to Twitter to demand those in power to take action. She wrote “Yung mga straight dyan na nagno-no to SOGIE Bill! Hindi niyo ikinatatakot ang paglalakad sa daan kasi wala namang Aling Susan ang magababato ng bato sa inyo. Wala kayong karapatang humindi sa isang bagay na ni minsan hindi niyo naranasan.


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Loverboy top, $85 (approx. P4459.53), ATOMIC WORLD, instagram/atomicworldd; Printed S/S 2022 pants, P8500, SALAD DAY, instagram/salad_day; Beaded necklace, P200, and Ring, P390, ODDITIES, instagram/wear.oddities; Victoria rings, P149, JUJU CLUB, instagram/thejujuclub.co; Brianna platform sandals, P750, LOVE CHLOE, instagram/
shop.lovechloe

To this day, however, the SOGIE Bill remains at a standstill in Congress, and brazen assaults like this against the community, many undocumented, will likely continue to happen without the proper laws in place to protect them.

Times clearly haven’t changed much but Mimi continues to press forward in her own way, especially now that she’s managed to turn the unwanted pressure from her youth into a strength that inspires people like her. Her passion for fashion came into fruition in college, where she also realized that clothes, despite what society’s established binaries might tell you, are gender-neutral. “Pinalaki tayo na kapag babae ka magski-skirt ka, kapag lalaki ka magpa-pants ka…Kaya nung college medyo na-open yung mata ko na ‘Wow, pwede ko pala suotin yung gusto ko,’” she recounts. “So nag-try ako ng iba’t-ibang style until I found clothes na nag-e-empower sa akin, and at the same time, nagpapasaya sa akin regardless of my gender. So I really love dressing up and it really empowers me as a member of the queer community.”

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Pink cat suit, P25,000, ARWIN MERIALES

The refuge she found in fashion is the same feeling she wants to impart to the customers of her brand. Not everyone has the luxury nor the time to only figure themselves out in university, and Mimi hopes the queer kids orbiting her influence, no matter their age or gender, find shelter and strength in the clothes she has to offer, hopes they get to wear the pieces loud and proud out in the open, the Aling Susans of the world be damned. “If they want to be confident, suot lang nila yung Fangs, tapos mafi-feel nila ‘I’m a bad b*tch, I am empowered, I am unstoppable.’”

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Girlhood

Sassa Gurl pulls no punches. She’d always wanted to become an artista. It didn’t matter how she got there, but she’d make it eventually, and no one and nothing could stop her, even if hell froze over. She took up Mass Communications in college, tells me it’s the closest course she could leverage to break into show biz. Before she could even graduate though, she was already working on going viral, and the master plan was to be as loud as she possibly could on campus. She didn’t have a phone back then, so everybody else—complete strangers, perhaps—had to do the rest of the heavy lifting.

“Super papansin ako,” she admits. “Pumupunta ako ng stage tapos feeling ko may makaka-discover sa akin na talent scouts. Kakanta ako, sisigaw ako, sasayaw ako. Feeling ko may makaka-video sa akin tapos magva-viral [ako].


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When that didn’t work, her next grand scheme to stardom was to save up for a phone. She would never recommend this to the kids at home, but once she eventually got her hands on one, she immediately quit her job and posted her first videos on Facebook. They took a long while to catch on, but Sassa’s quick on her feet; she used to only edit her clips on TikTok, but the minute she noticed her uploads getting more engagement there, she migrated all her videos to the social media platform. Thus, the chronicles of ‘Mima’ and her ‘naksh*ts’ took the internet by storm, one nostalgic classroom reenactment at a time.

In her videos, Sassa and her “kanal” humor are front and center. The girl’s a natural firecracker and she can undoubtedly hold her own in front of a camera, which is why it might surprise her followers to know that she wasn’t always this sure of herself. Much like Awra and Mimi, Sassa didn’t have queer heroes on TV growing up. Before Vice Ganda broke into the scene, she only had the occasional side character to cling to on-screen. “Kapag nakakakita ako ng bakla, aabang-abangan ko yung [show]. Parang feeling ko [siya] yung main character kasi dun ako nakaka-relate.” What rare roles she hoped would validate her gender, however, were almost often relegated to the butt of a joke, and as someone who had dreams of becoming an actress one day, the lack of representation planted seeds of doubt in Sassa’s mind. “Ano magiging path ko?” she’d ask herself, unsure if she would ever become the protagonist of her own teleserye.

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Gem pest bib top, P2500, SALAD DAY, instagram/salad_day; Denim skirt, P15,280, SJYPCUL DE SAC; Arm candy bracelet, P99, GET CELESTE, instagram/getceleste; Beaded Necklace, P500, and Ring, P390, ODDITIES, instagram/wear.oddities

In lieu of this, she turned to the likes of Darna and Marimar instead, strong female leads that somehow mirrored her own struggles as a confused gay teen who had yet come to terms with the fact that she was transgender. Things were no different for her peers—Mimi and Awra had Encantadia, Sailor Moon, the Powerpuff Girls, and SexBomb to thank for their colorful upbringing.

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Sassa explains: “Sa kakulangan ng mga baklang palabas noon, we sought [representation] through women. Kasi nakaka-relate kami. Inaapi kami, and at the same time kapag girl ka, you shouldn’t be malakas, you shouldn’t be palaban. Tapos sine-sexualize ka kapag naka-panty at bra ka lang so parang dun kami nakaka-relate. Palaban sila kahit babae sila at nakaka-proud yung mga ganong tema.

As she grew older and expanded her circle thanks to her TikTok success, Sassa eventually found the validation she’d been looking for in her fellow trans women. It was Mela Habijan, Sassa recalls, who assured her that she could be transgender regardless of her body. “Wala yan sa itsura,” Mela told her, “If you feel like a girl or a woman, trans ka.” After years of nursing an elusive nagging in her head, finding girlhood in her 20s seems a late coming-of-age that’s actually predominantly inherent to the queer experience. Sassa’s aware there are more out there like her—whether questioning, confused, or simply mustering up the courage to speak their truth—and she knows that in spite of the gaieties of her content, it’s still her job to be responsible.

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Multi-colored faux fur coat, P50,000, NERIC BELTRAN

Ako as an influencer, nagiging political ako kasi marami akong unresolved issues. Gusto kong mapakita sa mga tao na kailangan mabigyan ng karapatan [ang LGBTQIA community]. Kailangan natin ipasa yung SOGIE Bill at yung same sex marriage,” Sassa states firmly. “Isa tayo sa mga minority na inaapi. Dapat maging bukas ang utak [natin] sa mga social issues.”

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In January of this year, the TikToker made history as the first openly gay calendar girl of White Castle Whisky. The milestone originated from a joke she posted online, challenging alcohol brands to feature more queer individuals in their campaigns and merchandise; spreads often reserved for prominent female personalities like Bea Alonzo and Chie Filomeno. Sassa’s photos were released to fervent praises from netizens and the media, who had called the move groundbreaking. But Sassa begs to differ. To her, being chosen as a calendar girl was simply a matter of consequence, ushered in by those that started the fight long before her. “Ito lang yung isa sa na-open na doors,” she says. “Sobrang thankful ako sa mga nauna sa akin, kasi dahil sa paglaban nila, nagawa ko ‘to at napapakita na paunti-unti nakaka-contribute ako sa community para mas lalong magkaroon ng acceptance, at hindi na lang tayo basta tino-tolerate.

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ON MIMIYUUUH: White mini dress, P10,000, ARWIN MERIALES; Twist hoop earrings, P290, LA ROSA, instagram/larosaph_. ON AWRA: White mini dress, P10,000, ARWIN MERIALES; Pearl earrings, P499, LA ROSA, instagram/larosaph_. ON SASSA GURL: White mini dress, P10,000, ARWIN MERIALES; Pearl necklace, P450, LA ROSA, instagram/larosaph_.

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Taking Up Space

Sassa, Awra, and Mimi are well aware that social media has made a habit out of pitting the three of them against one another, as if the internet only has room for one thriving queer content creator at a time. But it’s all love between them. “We’re on our lane. We’re focused on our crafts. So there’s no competition at all,” says Mimi. Awra concurs, “Iba-iba kami ng way, iba-iba din personality namin pero iisa lang hangarin namin—magpasaya at maging masaya.” Brought up in a society intent on sequestering them to a corner, the trio knows the importance of taking up space and making headway for the next queer generation still growing into themselves. “We are not asking for acceptance,” Sassa declares, “we’re demanding it.”

The girls are brave and defiant. One by one they express in their own ways that, while there has been progress, there are still more battles left to fight and doors to open. And until we can walk in a world where our mere existence isn’t synonymous to protest, there are more clothes to make and shows to put on—ones so flamboyant and loud everyone else won’t be able to look away.

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Produced by Jam Nitura and Em Enriquez

Photographed by Cenon Norial III and Mav Bernardo

Art Direction by Bacs Arcebal

Art Director's Assistant: Yasha Rosales, Kahlil Alcala, and Pau Moyano

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Fashion Direction and Styling by Steph Sison and Jeymi Reyes

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Makeup by Janell Capuchino (Mimiyuuuh), Gery Peñaso (Sassa Gurl), and Jake Galvez (Awra Briguela)

Hair by Jay Wee (Mimiyuuuh), Jan Edrosolan (Sassa Gurl), and Julia Fresh using Jufel Gomez wigs (Awra Briguela)

Nails by Extraordinail

Words by Jam Nitura

Assisted by Reg Rodriguez and Kat Dela Cruz

Interns Kate Oabel and Jasia Rosales

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