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This Model Will Change The Way You Think About Beauty

Beauty lessons from a transwoman for transwomen.

by Belle Rodolfo | Jun 16, 2018

Transgender model Martine Tuanquin talks candidly about transitioning, body image, and being beautiful enough.

We sit down with Martine Tuanquin, a transgender model with a unique look and the skill to bust a million poses a minute, to find out how she achieves that signature happy, pretty glow at every angle, every kind of lighting, and every stage of her transition.

What were the big differences you noticed in your beauty routine before and while transitioning?

"One major change I noticed was that I needed to moisturize more now that I’m transitioning. I noticed that although my skin has become clearer and much softer, it produces much less oil, too, so I have to make up for that loss. Who knew I’d sort of miss my oily face? Haha! For makeup naman, I no longer use foundation for my everyday makeup, except for shoots and runway shows. I used to go through the whole thing: foundation, contouring, highlighting, kilay on fleek, etc.—you name it! You can say I got lazy over time as I only really do the bare minimum nowadays. If I had to lay out my everyday makeup products, here they are: Maybelline’s Brow Precise Fiber Volumizer Eyebrow Mascara and Fit Me Concealer, Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid Highlighter, and the darkest shade of The Face Shop’s Watery Tint. If I’m feeling a bit fancy, I’d throw in Maybelline’s cheapest mascara and Detail’s Lippie Liner in Daryl. Sis, you will thank me later, I swear: It’s the most natural, better-than-your-lips’-color liner ever."


What are the biggest misconceptions about transitioning that you’d like to change in people’s minds? 

"Before starting [hormone-therapy], I heard a lot about how it can make you gain weight like crazy, which is probably why, as a model, I put it off for a long time. But being on it, I realized that first, it really depends on one’s metabolism. Second, of course it will soften you out—that’s what estrogen does! So just being mindful of what you eat will help you maintain your ideal weight. (I’m saying this because everyone has their own ideals! You do you, girl!)

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"Another was that it will break you out due to the initial hormonal imbalance. I don’t doubt this at all, but I guess it really depends on how your body reacts to [hormone-therapy medication]. I’m lucky I found [a brand] that works with mine. It really is just trial and error, but with the help of a doctor, of course!"

Transwomen shouldn’t need to feel inferior if they don’t meet society’s standards.



How has your view of beauty and yourself changed throughout your journey?

"I’m a firm believer that everyone is beautiful in their own way. Some cultures may have their own opinions on what is beautiful, but I don’t think that should stop anyone from being their most authentic and most confident selves. Confidence in itself is already something very hard to achieve. But I believe one thing that could help change this is when it starts in our very own homes. Sometimes, parents forget that whenever they say something like, 'Ay, ang itim niya, hindi maganda,' or 'Ay, ang taba niya, hindi maganda,' their children are listening. This might not be super direct, but it affects a child’s perception of what is beautiful and eventually would affect how they view their self-worth later in life.

"[In the modeling industry,] we face a lot of rejections if we don’t fit a certain look, but my experience so far has taught me that beauty and self-acceptance should not only be based on one person’s opinion. Some may not like how you look, but some will find you insanely gorgeous. It’s really all relative, and coming to terms with the fact that you can’t please everyone can help you overcome most of your insecurities.


"Another important thing to note is that a lot of transwomen seem to fear not 'passing' well enough. Passing well enough has always been a big factor for transwomen as people seem to treat transwomen better if they are 'beautiful and feminine enough.' It’s a sad reality, which is reinforced by our society’s standards on what women should look like. Like I said, everyone is beautiful in their own way. Transwomen shouldn’t feel inferior if they don’t meet society’s standards. First of all, a lot of cis women have small boobs, broad shoulders, narrow hips, etc. Second, beauty standards are always changing. A decade ago, thigh gaps and small boobs were all the rage. Nowadays, it’s all curves. So if we pressure ourselves to conform to these standards, we will always end up feeling not enough. Love what you have and make the most out of it!"


How have makeup and beauty helped you through life changes in general?  

"Makeup and beauty have always been a priority in my life. It may seem high-maintenance, but it really isn’t. Some people are into gadgets, some are into food, some are into traveling. I found that makeup has not only helped me express myself, but it also helped me feel confident in my own skin at times. I first turned to makeup to help me feel confident during my worst acne breakout phase. I felt as if I couldn’t go out of the house without it. Talking to people was so hard as I’d feel so conscious and insecure. Makeup helped change this as it made me go through my day-to-day routine without even being bothered one second. There are times naman when I feel down and I feel that doing my eyebrows perfectly for that given day can help me feel better about myself. It’s in these simple things, one realizes, that makeup and beauty are powerful tools to boost a person’s mood and confidence on not-so-good days.


"I know people may think, 'Why even bother with makeup, you should feel confident even without it.' Here’s the reality, though: People get through things differently. I happen to think makeup helps boost my morale at times when I feel down. Some people prefer not to wear it and still feel confident about themselves; kudos to them! Other girls naman prefer to just do their makeup; kudos to them too! My point is, people should do whatever they feel like they need to do to feel beautiful and confident about themselves. What other people think shouldn’t matter because at the end of the day naman, you can’t please everyone and the only person you’ll have is yourself."


What would you tell yourself five years ago if you had the chance? 

"Remember to enjoy the journey because at times, we forget ourselves in the process of focusing on the destination itself. Don’t worry too much about life as it will only get better from here."

People should do whatever they feel they need to do to feel beautiful and confident about themselves.



Martine uses Urban Decay’s Naked Flush Blush Palette every single day as a makeup multiple on her eyes and lips—so much so that it’s already cracked inside!

The Face Shop’s Watery Tint is her makeup ride or die. 


Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector gives her signature hyperreal skin glow, and she uses L’Oréal’s Infallible Makeup Setting Spray on days she wears powder.

Produced by Belle Rodolfo

Photographed by Charisma Lico

Art direction by Eugene David

Makeup by Jia Achacruz

Hair by Pau Alabastro

Nails by I Do Nails

Copy Editing by Jae de Veyra Pickrell and Isha Vallés

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