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Janine Gutierrez Is Living Her Best Life at Her Own Pace

by Maura Rodriguez | Aug 26, 2021

“I realize now it’s never too late for anything. And looking back, I put so much pressure on myself to achieve what I thought needed to be achieved by this age. And that’s not true. You shouldn’t let society dictate what your timeline should be." 

They say youth is a social construct, not bound by age or looks, but by a disposition and mindset that allows you to perceive life with a childlike glee. For actress Janine Gutierrez, this concept could not ring any more true. Now in her 30s, she’s hell bent on solidifying her position as an actress and not just a second-generation celebrity. If anything, Janine isn’t at all jaded by her decade’s worth of experience and training—rather, she’s excited for reinvention.  

I was greeted with a cheery scream and outstretched arms ready for a hug (we obviously didn’t because of COVID-19), when I met Janine on the set.  The actress is effortlessly talented and painstakingly nice, with a kind of naivety that is quite surprising for someone who has been in the local showbiz industry as long as she has. Not to mention, her laidback but gung-ho attitude and passion for her craft can serve as a stark contrast to her “beauty queen” worthy looks. Just watch her performance in Babae at Baril if you need a little convincing. 

Janine Gutierrez for August 2021

Switching Gears

Being the resident “nice girl,” people expect you to go with the flow—to be the Yes Woman and not make a scene unless the director tells you. So when Janine left her home network of 11 years for a contract with ABS-CBN, it turned a lot of heads both online and offline. The local TV network wars have been going on since the 1980s, and audiences are loyal to their stations, after all. The move was also so swift that her public signing and first ASAP stint all happened within a week. 


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“It was really something I thought about and I was sure that I wanted to do. It wasn’t something I decided on overnight. There were no reservations talaga,” she tells me with a meaningful smile, before gushing about her first day on the iconic Sunday noontime show. “My first time on ASAP, I was so nervous! I had to remind myself na I’ve been doing this for years! ‘Cause the last time I was in ABS-CBN, I was in high school for a studio tour! Coming back all I could think of was ‘Nag-field trip ako dito!’”  

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Her story sounded more like the experience of a budding actress rather than a household celebrity name, but that’s just Nini (a nickname coined by her friends and family), always up for new experiences, always open to opportunities for change. “A lot of people were surprised. But happily surprised? People felt it was a daring move despite the entire franchise issue, but I wasn’t even thinking of that. I was just so excited to start something new. For me, it felt like the right thing to do.”


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“I learned everything from my former home network, and I’m grateful for all the work and opportunities there. But I also feel like I gave everything that I have had to give already. So I felt like it was time for a change.” Admittedly, she would not have made such a career decision in her 20s. Her mom was her manager at that time, and being raised in a showbiz clan taught her to go by the book to avoid being misquoted or misrepresented in tabloids. 


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A Crash Course Into Stardom

Unlike most local actresses who started out in the business at the wide-eyed age of 15 or 16, Janine’s foray into the limelight was a post-undergrad venture. “When I started, I was already 21. So when I was new in showbiz I felt so old, and I felt like I had so much catching up to do. I was pressuring myself na I needed to do this and this, kasi kailangan ko humabol.” And catch up she did. Her career started out much like all the actresses who have gone before her: a love team pair-up, leading lady roles, and hosting stints. She even ended up being a calendar girl. But her model-esque figure and features were not to go unnoticed. 

"There are really things that you learn as you get older and through your experience. And thinking that way, I realized that your age actually makes your life richer."

Thanks to Preview’s Gen Next feature and subsequent solo cover back in May 2015, lensed by BJ Pascual and styled by her close friend and former Fashion Assistant MJ Benitez, Janine was then thrust into the fashion industry, head first. She then became a muse of many—including BJ, and designers Vania Romoff, Martin Bautista, and Ziggy Savella. Soon enough, much like any promising model with a killer editorial folio, she eventually caught the eye of Louis Vuitton


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“My first designer bag was a Speedy gifted to me by my tita lola Anabelle [Rama]. It was like a rite of passage for me—getting a designer bag from your grandmother and now travelling with Louis Vuitton. Being in a shoot wearing LV. It’s all so surreal to me.” 


The nod from the famed French House was what she needed to solidify her position as local showbiz’s fashion darling. The Capucines, being the brand’s flagship leather handbag, needs an equally “timeless” and equivocally cool woman to embody it, and as cliché as it sounds, Janine is all that without even trying.  “I think I’m just really excited about fashion. And LV, throughout the years has been able to maintain being a classic, a constant, a go-to when it comes to designer [brands]. But at the same time, they’ve been able to reinvent themselves every season; to try something new and exciting,” Janine says when asked about her relationship with the brand. “I guess they saw that I’m willing to try anything, that I’m game to try new things!” 


In recent years, the actress has been to New York and Paris Fashion week, turning heads in both luxury and local designer garb. Who could forget her head-to-toe orange Martin Bautista ‘fit with her matching Jacquemus Chiquito purse for NYFW? Her natural smize and innate ability to strike a pose made fashion magazines like Elle and Harper’s Bazaar take notice, giving Janine some leverage internationally. 


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Don’t be fooled, though, her runway persona is not just for show. “I really really enjoy fashion week. Getting to hangout with the other Filipinos there like Laureen [Uy] and Camille [Co]. It’s really fun to get to see the runway looks in person; to see the other models and celebrities as a fashion faney!” She even recalled seeing Anna Wintour at a show, and maxed out her phone camera’s zoom just to get a decent shot. 

That said, other than enjoying the pomp and circumstance of it all, fashion has taught her to break out of her simple-girl shell. “What I really like also about going is that you feel so free with your fashion. You’re all the more encouraged to experiment. You can wear anything under the sun! Growing up in the Philippines, when I was younger, I’m used to dressing more simply. I was shy. I don’t want to be too loud. Watching runway shows, it reminds you that you have the freedom to express yourself through fashion—regardless of what’s uso or what other people will say about you. I really like that freedom and I try to take it back with me here. Like, you do you.” 


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No Pressure

That boldness, when it comes to her fashion choices, has rubbed off on the sweet and reserved demeanor Janine’s always been known for. At 31, it has also reinforced within her a maturity and sureness that you can’t help but attribute with age. This self-realization did not come easy, though. Much like many millennial women of her generation (and older), she dreaded the big 3-0 like it was a looming death sentence over her head. 


“I really had that anxiety. Parang medyo nagka-crisis ako! Is my life ending?! When you say kasi na you’re 30, it just sounds so adult? Parang you need to have everything figured out by the time you turn 30. Especially when it comes to your career—like you should be on top of your game, you should have everything settled. And that was the fear for me, because I still wanted to do so much.” 

Sadly, this ticking clock, when it comes to a plethora of standards like physical beauty, career, financial stability, and relationships, seems to weigh on women far more heavily than men. Somehow, women in their 30s are expected to look a certain way (or conversely not appear as old as they are), and should already be settled—at least according to society’s standards. “I realize now na it’s never too late for anything. And looking back, I put so much pressure on myself to achieve what I thought needed to be achieved by this age. And that’s not true. You shouldn’t let society dictate what your timeline should be. Nasa sa iyo yun.”


“It also has something to do with your inner voice, being confident, and not being hard on yourself. Also to trust the timing of everything and that you can decide to do something or start something at any point in your life.”

When confronted with that ageist stigma, Janine looks to older women for comfort and advice. In particular, she cited her mom, veteran actress Lotlot de Leon, her grandmother Pilita Corales—who never really slowed down and continued to work way past her 60s—and some of her favorite Hollywood legends, like Helen Mirren and Jane Fonda, as her role models. “I think people give too much prime on youth. But I look up to people who are so much older—like in their 40s and beyond. When I was younger I had no idea what I was doing, but even when I knew what I wanted to do I wasn’t confident enough to decide for myself regardless of what other people would say.”


“There are so many moments in my career that I wanted to do something but other people would say ‘It’s not a good idea. It’s not a good choice.’ And I didn’t have the guts to fight for it and it felt horrible.” 

“There are really things that you learn as you get older and through your experience. And thinking that way, I realized that your age actually makes your life richer. If you think about all those amazing older women you look up to, the age issue starts to fade away. You can choose your outlook anyway—so just decide that your age won’t hinder you from trying new things.” 


The conservative Filipino mindset might also be partly to blame for this outlook imposed on women, with Janine mentioning the nosy titas during family reunions who constantly prod about marriage and having kids. But she also admits that times are changing for the better. Her sister Max, who just turned 21 and is part of the outspoken Gen Z generation, is proof of this. “She feels no pressure at all for having kids or starting a family! I also feel like we really learn a lot from the younger ones,” she quips. “I guess to counter the pressure you need to just live life the way you want. I also get a lot of support from my mom. She tells me, ‘Don’t rush. You do you first. Accomplish what you want to do first with your life.’ Because I feel like a lot of the pressure on women stems from that ‘having kids’ and ‘getting married’ mindset.” 


A Selfless “Me First” Mindset

Speaking of prioritizing herself, Janine recalls a conversation with a former boyfriend when she was in her 20s who said he’d dump her if she pursued modeling. At the time, she was already appearing in magazine spreads as a young actress. “When I first heard that napaisip ako. But now if anyone said that to me I’d say, ‘I don’t care what you think. I’m going to do what I want. I’m going to accomplish my goals.’ So I’ve really changed so much in terms of sticking up for myself and really following through with the things I want to do.” 


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Her film Babae at Baril, which she describes as her dream project with an all-female led production team, is testament to her fighting for what she wants. “There are so many moments in my career that I wanted to do something but other people would say ‘It’s not a good idea. It’s not a good choice.’ And I didn’t have the guts to fight for it and it felt horrible.” 

Alam ko na ito yung tamang dapat gawin pero hindi ko siya mailaban kasi I also didn’t have the confidence then to trust that my decision was correct. I also think that comes with age. But I hope that young people hearing stories like ours would have the confidence to stick up for themselves at a younger point in their lives. To be brave in their choices.”


Owning her voice has also lessened Janine’s filter on social media. Her Twitter account has reached a newfound fame thanks to her intelligent one-liners and uncanny Grab driver conversations. But it’s also her views on politics, the planet, human rights and gender issues, that set her apart. “In my 20s, I really felt like you couldn’t say anything and you have to look a certain way. And as an artista, akala ko you shouldn’t say anything wrong. Dapat sobrang aral ‘yung mga sagot mo, so that nobody can take a line from what you said and make it into something else. Cause I saw din how that can happen, growing up in a show biz family. One paragraph yung sinabi mo, tapos isang sentence lang ‘yung kinuha out of context and it becomes a whole other thing. So I was so careful talaga when I was younger.”


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“But then when I started speaking up and really saying what I felt and believed in, so many more people connected to it. I guess because it was truthful. And that’s really what we look for naman di ba in the people we look up to? And I saw that they were doing it in the U.S., like sila Taylor Swift would talk about politics or sila Selena [Gomez] about mental health. It’s so important to find someone you can relate to with the things you believe in because it’ll give you the courage to be vocal about it. Especially with our issues here ‘di ba, you really need someone na makakapitan mo. And people might not know what’s really happening. Kahit simpleng retweet lang, it really makes a difference to talk about those things,” she says matter-of-factly, believing that her influence should ultimately account for something greater than her acting career. 


“People will always have something to say. What matters is that you were truthful with what you said. You make the basis for your success. In the past I thought that success would mean like your tweet got like a thousand retweets, or your photo [on Instagram] got so many likes. But then if you change your meter—instead of the number of likes or retweets—base it on honesty. Like ‘Did what I say mean a lot to me?’ ‘Did I really believe it?’ Then saying it already means that you’re true to yourself, and that is successful already in itself. Regardless of who likes it or how much traction it gets,” the actress shares. 


Janine then took me back to the exact moment she turned 30. No big party or celebration was planned but all anxieties and worries ceased in a flick of a switch. “I was actually in Paris Fashion Week. It was my first time at Paris Fashion Week and it was really a game changer for me. I was doing so many firsts despite turning 30, and despite feeling like by 30 you should have done everything. Ibig sabihin hindi totoo ‘yung fear ko. There are still so many things to accomplish; this is only the beginning,” As they say, age is but a number after all.

Produced by Sofia De Aros

Photographed by Charisma Lico

Art Direction by Bacs Arcebal

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Sittings Editor Steph Sison

Styled by Cath Sobrevega

Makeup by Anthea Bueno

Hair by Jay Aquino

Set Design by Aren Dale Santos of ADSET Production

Styling Associate Jem Arboleda


Words by Maura Rodriguez

Special thanks to Portia Trinidad and Deon Flores of Louis Vuitton Philippines

Shot on location at the University of the Philippines Diliman

*This cover was produced prior to the lockdown in Metro Manila. All shoot attendees were tested and were negative of COVID-19 at the time of the production. Safety protocols and social distancing were implemented during the photo shoot.

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