My own quirky beauty

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s ?
I’m currently at the end of my twenties, so I’m answering from the perspective of early 20s versus now.  In my early 20s I saw beauty in two very different ways at the same time.  Mostly, I was afraid to be beautiful.  Beauty seemed like a liability.  If you were attractive, people, particularly male professors, did not take you or your ideas seriously.  I was more interested in my creative and intellectual pursuits.  So I hid.

I dressed more like a boy than a woman, wearing clothes that were many sizes too big, and I dyed my naturally blonde hair dark brown.  Just the change in hair color alone was enough to notice a marked difference in the way people–even women–responded to me.  That was the only truly conscious decision; the clothing and hiding in that sense was completely subconscious.  Only looking back am I really aware of what I was doing.

At the same time, I also wanted to be noticed by my male peers.  Obviously this is in direct competition with hiding!  This essentially led to me feeling like beauty was almost always out of reach.  I felt like I was forced to choose how I wanted people to view me: intelligent or pretty.  I wanted both, but was not sure how to do it.

As I’ve gotten older, I would say sometime near the end of graduate school or shortly thereafter, I finally decided I had to own both.  And for those who saw intelligence only or beauty only, that was their problem.  I had to stop worrying about the perception of others so much and trust that people who got to know me would see me for who I am–a unique individual with both brains and beauty.  I still struggle with this.  I know I’m smart, but I certainly don’t feel beautiful every day.  But at least I’m relaxing into my own natural beauty instead of hiding it or molding it into someone else’s ideal.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Beauty means being a fully self-actualized woman.  This is a work in progress of course!  Beauty is far more than physical and intellectual to me now, it’s about the total package, the way a woman lives her life.  With joy, passion, love, bravery, laughter, and compassion.  I think a beautiful woman joyously dives into her dreams and works to realize her full potential in all aspects.  That’s of course a tall order, and I feel both energized and exhausted thinking about it! haha  But I like that thought better, because then beauty is a never ending process, not just a point to achieve and desperately hold onto.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

I think my ideas have changed because I’ve met some women who have shown me fantastic examples of what beauty really is.  I’ve also started appreciating myself more, and I won’t put up with as much self-inflicted abuse over physical beauty as when I was younger.  I am what I am, and there’s only so much physically that I can change and still feel like myself.  Plus, if I can admire the individuality and unique beauty of others, why cannot finally start to appreciate my own quirky beauty?

29 year old female artist

San Francisco

¿Qué significa para ti la belleza cuando estaba en la edad de 20 años?

 Actualmente estoy al final de mis veinte años, así que voy a responder desde la perspectiva de los 20 años en comparación con ahora. Cuando tenía 20 años veía la belleza de dos maneras muy diferentes al mismo tiempo. Sobre todo tenía miedo de la belleza pues me parecía una responsabilidad. Si era atractiva, la gente, los profesores y en particular los hombres, no tomarían mis ideas en serio. Yo estaba más interesada en mis actividades creativas e intelectuales así que me escondí.

Me vestí como un niño más que como una mujer, usando ropa demasiado grande, y teñí mi pelo rubio natural de castaño oscuro. Tan sólo el cambio en el color de pelo fue suficiente para notar una marcada diferencia en la manera en que la gente, incluso las mujeres, reaccionaba. Esta fue la única decisión verdaderamente consciente, la ropa y esconderme en ese sentido fue completamente inconsciente. Sólo mirando hacia atrás soy consciente de lo que estaba haciendo.

Al mismo tiempo, yo también quería ser notada por mis compañeros varones. Obviamente, esto está en oposición directa con el hecho de esconderme! En esencia, esto me llevó a sentir que la belleza estaba casi siempre fuera de mi alcance. Me sentí como si estuviera obligada a elegir cómo quería que la gente me viera: inteligente o bonita. Yo quería ambas, pero no estaba segura de cómo hacerlo.

Conforme me he ido haciendo mayor, yo diría que en algún momento cerca del final de la escuela de postgrado o un poco después, finalmente decidí que tenía que poseer ambas. Y que aquellos que vieran únicamente la inteligencia o la belleza, sería su problema. Tuve que dejar de preocuparme por la percepción de los otros y confiar en que la gente que me conocía me iba a ver por lo que soy –una persona única con tanto cerebro y belleza. Todavía lucho con esto. Sé que soy inteligente, pero desde luego, no me siento bella todos los días. Pero al menos me estoy relajando en mi propia belleza natural en lugar de ocultarla o moldearla en algún otro ideal.

¿Qué significa la belleza para ti ahora?

La belleza significa ser una mujer totalmente auto-realizada. ¡Este es un trabajo en progreso, por supuesto! La belleza es mucho más que física e intelectual para  mí es un paquete completo, la forma en que una mujer vive su vida: con alegría, pasión, amor, valentía, risa y compasión. Creo que una mujer hermosa alegremente se sumerge en sus sueños y trabajos a realizar hasta su máximo potencial en todos los aspectos. Eso es, por supuesto, una tarea difícil, ¡y me siento llena de energía y al mismo tiempo agotada al respecto! (Ja ja) Pero me gusta más esa idea, porque entonces la belleza es un proceso que nunca termina, y no un punto a alcanzar y al cual aferrarse desesperadamente.

Si son diferentes, ¿por qué tus ideas sobre la belleza han cambiado con los años?

Creo que mis ideas han cambiado porque he conocido a algunas mujeres que me han mostrado ejemplos fantásticos de lo que realmente es la belleza. También he empezado apreciarme más a mí misma, y no voy a aguantar  tantos malos tratos auto-infligidos a la belleza física como cuando era más joven. Yo soy lo que soy, y sólo hay tanto físicamente que puedo cambiar y todavía sentirme como yo. Además, si  puedo admirar la belleza  individual y única de los demás, ¿por qué no puedo finalmente empezar a apreciar mi propia belleza peculiar?

 artista con 29 años

San Francisco


Native American Beauty

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

In my 20s, I was always kind of conflicted about what beauty was. I only had one other brother, and I think we were treated a little bit differently as a boy and a girl. My mother loved to dress me when I was little. I often remember her buying me dresses with too much bow, which I would cut off.

I left home when I went to college in Boulder, Colorado. I was just out of high school, probably 18 or 19, when I met a painter. He asked me to model for him. He used to paint Native Americans. He had access to wardrobe collections of Native costumes. He would often borrow buckskins and different types of jewelry. From him, there was a group of Denver artists who I would model for. I never really thought of myself as being a beauty, just somewhat different. When I started modeling for this Denver artist, I began to realize I had something, which is hard to describe. I modeled until I moved to San Francisco at 25.

a Southwest Indian School, circa 1900s

I am Chicana and Native American. My paternal grandmother was from southern Utah, and she was sent to Indian School, which was kind of like a convent Indian school, in Las Vegas, New Mexico as a young girl. She went to school there. Both of my parents are from southern Colorado.

I always liked my hair and my eyes. I don’t really like to wear a lot of make-up. I don’t color my hair either. There was a time earlier in San Francisco where I did find somebody who added some color to my hair. That was fun for awhile. Streaks of color…purple, blue. I wasn´t trying to cover up anything. I was trying to add some color to my hair. Other than that, I´ve never bleached my hair or wanted to have a different color. At one time when I was young, I wanted to have green eyes. I thought it would be interesting to have dark hair and hazel eyes.

What does beauty mean to you now?

I think of ethnic beauty. If people think about their own roots and where they come from and try to accentuate that…to be that instead of something that they’re not. That is something I consider to be beautiful.

I do that now by letting my hair grow out (color-wise). As far as clothing, that has taken a long time to feel comfortable. There was a time when I had good jobs and bought nice clothes. Now when I buy things, I usually go to 2nd hand stores. I’m more conscious of money. And I also know that I can find nice things because people have had them and often they´ve never been worn. I have a great time finding beautiful things.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

I´ve matured. But I really don´t think that my ideas have changed that much. I would never want to go back to being younger or in time. I prefer to go forward.

Bernadette, 53

San Francisco

Pearl Harbor, pineapple & Winnie

What were some ideas you had about beauty when you were in your 20s?

We worked a lot on our hair, setting our hair, trying to get the style. We didn’t color. We just worked on styles of the hair. We kept our hair clean because you know, Hawaii’s warm and you perspire, so you had to wash your hair more often.

We wore Mu-mus. Once my brother loaned his car to borrow a motorcycle. I wanted to ride the motorcycle with him. I had on a Mother Bear hat and a long dress with ruffles all the way down and Bobby socks. That was the style at the time. And I rode the motorcycle. I must have been about 14 or 15 years old. I always think of that Mother Bear hat.

I moved to San Francisco (from Hawaii) when I was 34. I’m 93 now. In Hawaii growing up, we dressed like everybody else did – the mainland people. We wore shorts when we went to the beach. Otherwise we wore clothes like you do today. No slacks. When we got to the beach, we put on our bathing suits. We wore hats to go to mass, and if we didn’t have a hat, we put a handkerchief on our head. We wore the same kind of clothes they wore anywhere. But we couldn’t afford the nice clothes. I guess we were poorer.

We had a dairy, but before the dairy, my dad worked in a stable. He was like a veterinarian, in charge of the animals. If they were sick, he took care of them. He made sure the men took care of the horses and mules. They worked in the pineapple and sugarcane fields. Dad was in charge of the stables and the animals. He didn’t make much.

People came from Spain, Portugal and different places to Hawaii to work in the plantations. There are all kinds of people, but not very many Italians. There were a lot of Irish, Germans, England. And then there were the missionaries. The missionaries got the property and the Hawaiians got the Bible. (laughs)

A formal Hula performance

My grandparents were originally from Portugal, but my mother and father were both born in Hawaii. I lived on Maui. I didn’t go to the beach too often because I never learned to swim. Mama couldn’t swim. She’d take my sister and I to the beach on Sundays. She loved the beach. She would put her feet in the water, with me on one side and my sister on the other. She would pull us back if we went too far in the water. We never learned to swim. Terrible. On Sundays, the beach was our big thing.

We had big families and families were always together. Seven brothers and sisters grew up. My mother had a lot of stillborns.We couldn’t wear make-up as young women because we were too young. I was 15 years old when my oldest sister, who was married, came from Honolulu to Maui. I was going to school. She said to me, “Put some lipstick on.” And I said, “No, I can’t. Mama’s gonna get mad.” Anyway, she put a little lipstick on me and my father saw. He didn’t say anything, but he told Mama. Mama called me. She looked at me and said, “Go wash your face.”

My father was so nice. He didn’t hit us, but if anything went wrong, he told Mama. But we weren’t afraid of Mama, even though she was the one who would punish us. But when she said, “I’m going to tell your father,” then we worried. And he never did anything (laughs).

I was 20 when I got married. I wore make-up when I was older before I was married. Mostly I wore Ponds and Max Factor…lipstick, powder. We didn’t use too much cream. We used a lot of Vaseline, like you use your creams. We used it at night, but also if we went in the sun, we’d put on Vaseline. Even if you got sunburned, you’d put Vaseline. We didn’t have money to buy other stuff.

Winnie's "Pearl Harbor" Mu-mu

I didn’t get married with a veil. I got married in a white dress with a gardenia lei. I wore white shoes, a hat with a veil and gloves. My sister got married with a veil. I had more money to buy clothes because I went to work in a pineapple cannery.

When I was 12 years old, I worked In a cannery in Maui. We got $.10 an hour. We’d work at a table, young girls on both sides. The pineapple core would be coming down the belt and we would take out the rubbish…the old or sick ones. The good ones would go on down the belt. A boy on the end would put them in big gallon cans. And I’ll tell you, Julia, I was terrible. The poor boy would be down there and I would take the pineapple juice and I would splash him (laughs). I remember that.

When we got older, we trimmed the pineapple. The pineapple went through a machine, and it came out whole, no skin and no core. Another machine sliced it. So it came out, and we’d take out the first 3 or 4 pieces. The middle? That’s first-class. Otherwise, we’d let the pineapple go down. The next girl would take out more. I think there were about 10 girls on one side of each table. The pineapple cannery is still in Maui in Haikuweka…they’ve turned it into a mall now.

I took out the best, most expensive part. We called it #1. When it came down the belt, we’d put it in the cans, which would go to the next girl. She would do something . If I worked on #1s,I would take only #1s. Other girls would take out other grades. I was 12 when I started at the cannery, but when I was really working, I was 15. After I got married, I made $.25 an hour. I was packing and every now and then, they put us in a warehouse to stack cans. Those cans were empty- used to pack pineapple. We wore an apron over our clothes and a cap, so our hair wouldn’t fall in. The cannery was called Haiku Fruit.

I was working in the cannery when the War started in 1941. During the War, I was married and living in Honolulu. I worked in a cannery there, making $.25 an hour. It was a big deal. And somebody came by and said, “What in the hell are you doing here? Go to Pearl Harbor and you’ll make a $1 an hour.” Boy, we all rushed to Pearl Harbor (laughs). I worked on the supply depot after the War started. The War took all the men, so they needed us (women).

I was living in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. It was a Sunday morning and we’d been having practice air raids. So we paid no attention. My husband and I got up and had breakfast. We heard the bombings and airplanes and sirens, but paid no attention. It was like a practice. I got dressed and went to mass. When I went down the street, I saw the military trucks running right over wooden roadblocks.

A policeman blew his whistle. A sailor was going into a bakery and the policeman said, “Report to your base immediately!” I still didn’t know we were at war, or why he was sending the sailor to his base. I got on the bus and could see all the black smoke at Pearl Harbor. You could see the smoke and hear the planes, but I still didn’t know. When I got off the bus on 7th street, a man came up to us and said, “Those are Jap planes bombing Pearl Harbor.” I could hear the planes but couldn’t see them.

Mother told us “When you go to church, never turn back. Always go to church.” So I went to church. I didn’t know what a war was. The priest didn’t know, but I remember some men came in and they were taking all the men out. But the priest still didn’t mention anything. We could hear the planes above the church. Mass ended. I came out and was standing on the street.

A policeman came by and ordered me off the street. He said, “Lady, there’s no transportation. We’re at war. You walk home.” The policeman could’ve taken me home. I started to cry. Why didn’t my husband come and get me? I had high-heeled shoes and walked up the hills. When I got home, all my family and friends were at the fence waiting for me. I was the only person in the 7 unit court that was gone. People were waiting for me to come home. They were worried and couldn’t go out.

We were the only civilians in that 7 unit apartments. The rest were Navy personnel. One of them was on a submarine which they said on Sunday was bombed. We figured he was gone. He came home the following Friday. Our doors were across the hall, and I saw a  figure pass and arms go around him and this cry. His wife was so happy that he came home. They thought he was dead. He had sent word through someone else that he was okay (because he couldn’t call), but his wife hadn’t believed it.

We lived in a black-out. No lights on at all. All windows were covered. All of us would come stay in one unit because there weren’t many windows. We made it. My aunt worked in a hospital and said it was bad. But I didn’t see anything.

Mu-mu detail

I worked in Pearl Harbor, driving a forklift. There was no men so they trained us. We packed supplies for the ships. When they bombed Guam, I was working that day in Pearl Harbor and they told us we couldn’t go home. Nobody was leaving the base. So the ladies that had children cried. But I didn’t have anyone except my husband. They said to take shelter if we heard the sirens because it was the Real McCoy. They were bombing Guam.

My husband worked in a bakery. He delivered food to Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, which was military. So he was needed. He was safe. My brother had a chicken farm. The eggs and the chickens were needed, so they didn’t take him. None of our family went.

In Pearl Harbor during the War, they put the Japanese in a camp. They could not go out. They had to stay. We weren’t mean to them. But we were told that it was Japanese boys that came to the University of Hawaii to school and then returned to bomb us.

In 1950, we came to California to live. And this is the place to live. I got a job at a paper factory and made a good salary. I worked two weeks days and two weeks nights. Then the factory moved down to Burlingame. And after the night shift, we were on the street at twelve o’clock at night looking for transportation. I said I wasn’t going to do that. I wrote to unemployment, and they said no because the company still wanted me to work. They hadn’t fired me. So my letter to them said “No respectable woman would be on the roads at midnight waiting for transportation.” I got my money (laughs).

In Hawaii, we dressed like ladies, but in plainer clothes. We only wore mu-mus when we went to the beach. In San Francisco, I went to work for the Furniture Mart. I worked there for 36 years. We had to dress with a hat, coat, high heels shoes…we had to dress like ladies. That was really expensive, but I got paid well. In my work in Honolulu, I learned to use the address-o-gram. So in San Francisco, I worked it as well. It’s a machine with small plates which you operate with your foot. The envelopes are stacked up and stamped with the addresses.

What does beauty mean to you now?

My hair is thin. If I could have my hair styled in the back, it’d be okay. But I don’t have too much. Otherwise I wear a wig. I don’t go out with the white hair. I wear the same kind of clothes, only I don’t go out dressed up much because where am I going? When my husband was alive, we went different places. But with him gone, no. To get another man to take me out, no. I’d invite someone over. I’ll cook, we´ll have a drink. But to get another man to marry, no. Nobody will be my boss again. I´ll take care of myself. And I’m happy now. It’s only hard when I’m sick.

Now I use a cream I order from New York. I wash my face and put this cream on. Then I put my make-up on. At night I put on Oil of Olay Night Cream. I use lipstick. I use Revlon powder. I put a little lipstick on my cheeks. I want to paint my eyebrows but I can’t see good. So one goes up and one goes down. I went to Macy’s the other day. I paid $25, and she said they would do my eyebrows. I asked her if I could wash my face. She said yes. So I came home and took a bath, and there went my eyebrows. So I threw away $25. (laughs)

You just try to be proud of yourself.

Winnie, 93

San Francisco

Alicia de Guatemala

What was the importance of beauty for you when you were in your 20s?

Life was beautiful because one was young. Instead, today I am old. I remember I was very beautiful because I went to dances and there were many men who sought me out and also boyfriends. But everything has changed. I thought a lot about dressing and makeup. I put on beautiful dresses and golden bracelets and necklaces which I liked at that time. I went to the hairdresser often. I lived in Guatemala but not in the capital. I lived in a small town. I did not come here to the US until I became a widow. But I married when I was 19 at my most beautiful age. I had 5 children: two girls and three boys.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now I am not beautiful anymore. [But] I always like to primp up. I always think of beauty. The most important thing for me now is that every day I have things to sign up for and come here to the center and meet my girlfriends. I never like not taking care of my appearance.

If different, why over time have your ideas about beauty changed?

Because everything changes [over time]. One is not the same as when young. One likes more things.

I am not that interested in primping up but I always do it a little. I have the pleasure of taking daily baths and looking at myself in the mirror. I was never one of putting on lots of makeup and jewelry.

¿Qué significó para Ud. la belleza cuando tenía 20-29 años?

Era muy bonita la vida porque estaba uno joven. En cambio, ya hoy estoy grande. Me recuerdo que yo era muy bonita porque yo salía a los bailes y había muchos pretendientes y novios. Pero todo ha cambiado. Yo pensaba mucho en el vestido y arreglo. Me ponía bonitos vestidos y las cadenas de oro que me gustaba en este tiempo. Me he arreglado el pelo. Yo vivía ya en Guatemala pero no en la capital. Vivía en un pueblo. Vine aquí en los Estados Unidos hasta que yo me quede viuda. Pero yo me casé de 19 años en la edad mas bonita. Tuve 5 hijos: 2 hembras y 3 varones.

¿Qué significa para Ud. la belleza ahora?

Ahora ya no estoy belleza. Siempre me gusta el arreglo. Siempre pienso en la belleza. Lo mas importante a mi ahorita es que todos los días tengo cosas a de alistarme para venir aquí al centro y encontrarme con mis amigas. Siempre no me gusta estar desarreglada.

Si es diferente, ¿por qué han cambiado con los años sus ideas sobre la belleza?

Porque cambia todo. Uno ya vino y no es igual que cuando era joven. Uno tiene gusto de todo.

No tengo mucho deseo de arreglarme pero siempre aunque sea un poquito si. Tengo el gusto a todos los días bañarme y en el espejo verme cuando vengo. Nunca fui de usar muchos adornos ni de maquillarme.


Alicia, 86

San Francisco


The following is the only interview completed at my exhibition in San Francisco. I left a stack of interviews out for anyone to fill out. It was done by an artist, originally from Germany, who also happens to be a guy…

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

Sex…No, not really, but it was closely related, as TV told us it is. This is true for how I assessed the “beauty” of  people. The beauty of people was a concept of common culture for me. In nature, it was different. My father showed me beauty away from people, disconnected from common culture…beauty as something that touches your heart.

What does beauty mean to you now?

The beauty of nature won. Beauty is something that touches your heart. It’s not what touches anybody else’s heart, and it’s not measurable. Nobody can tell you what is beautiful and what’s not.

If different, why have your ideas changed?

Simply?—– I got older. I had to become my own person. I had to find my own definitions. Intrigue me, touch my heart and you’re beautiful. Also, you don’t need any apparel to be beautiful!

Heiko, 41

San Francisco

Filipina Twins – Part 3

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

Pacita: Well, the make-up has changed and improved. And one thing, I just love perfumes. My mother too loved perfumes.

Teresa: And I did too. But it was too expensive. I just couldn’t afford it.

P: Before I got married, I became a stewardess for Northwest Orient Airlines, based in Japan. I got tired of acting and I had made enough money, so I told my mother that it wasn’t my cup of tea. I was an independent actress because I would refuse to go to bed with the producer or director so I could be in a film. So if people knew that Pacita Francisco had a film going, it was because of her acting and nothing else.

T: We were brought up very strict.

P: My rule was that I wouldn’t have anything to do with people that I work for. I’d rather go out with people that I didn’t work with. That was my standing rule. Another thing my mother always said, “If you’re going to accept being an actress, make sure you give 100% or nothing.” That stuck in my mind.

Pacita on her wedding day

T: The only man in my life. I was 15 when I married him. He was 24. I got married young because of the War. We thought we were going to die.

P: My father had to write a letter of consent for the priest because she was a minor.

T: But even with Papa’s letter, they wouldn’t. So my husband said, “We get married in court, and then we go to confession.” And that’s a mortal sin. So we did. I was married January 6 in court. I was 15, and he was 23 ½. Then we went to confession and “Oh! Que barbaridad!” And my mother said, “You are not husband and wife in the eyes of God.” So I had to sleep with her in the bed. Then the priest married us on the 26th. We got married in Church and after that, it was okay.

P: But they had to move out of the house because I was so innocent. I thought, “What is this man doing here with my twin sister? “

T: Pacita would always come with us.

P: I was the chaperone. (laughs) I took care of her, you see? I just couldn’t accept it. Then my mother really got worried, so she told my brother-in-law, “You and Teresa had better go because Pacita’s getting out of hand.”

And do you have any beauty secrets you use now?

P: Yes, when you clean your face at night, wipe away all the make-up and everything and just leave it as it is. This climate here is horrible for the skin. It’s so dry. People here have wrinkles because of the weather. In Asia because of the heat, natural oils come out. Don’t put any more skin freshener (astringent). Just leave it as it is.




Teresa Hampton’s regimen…


Bare Escentuals

Vitamin Skin Rev-ver Upper (“like a multi-vitamin supplement”)

Mineral Powder Foundation




Night time


Comforting Milky Cleansing Cream

Toner Freshener

Absolue Eye Precious Cells (under eye)

Absolue Night Precious Cells (for face)


She did not mention the cream for 50 times of scrubbing.

She thought that you wanted to follow her regimen, so she recommended you go to the mall to get the right color of foundation…

Filipina Twins – Part 2

Teresa: When we were young in our 20s, we had an aunt who came to the States for a long time. She told us that the secret to a beautiful complexion without big pores was not to wash your face with soap. Just wipe it with cream and take it off. Then splash with hot water 10 times and then 20 times cold, cold water. We did it and still do it now. Then you won’t have any pores in your skin. No soap or lye. Just this cream. I have a soft brush because you have to brush your face with this cream. 50 times this way, 50 times the other way.

Pacita: She became worse than me (laughs).

T: I became a model here. I became a model of pictures and clothes at the Emporium. I was 19 when I came here and I started modeling at the age of 26. First I worked in department stores as a sales girl. Then one of the managers of the Emporium saw me (in another store) and said, “What are you doing here? Why don’t you work at the Emporium?” I was going to sell suits. So I went and got a job just like that. I didn’t even look for it.

They made me a model. Every time I sold because I spoke Spanish, a little bit of Tagalog, English, a little bit of French and Portuguese. I was the top sales’ girl for many years. I would always get an orchid and luncheons. If I sold 100 garments, they’d give me one free. So I learned how to dress. They took me to class there and taught me how to do make-up. We never wore bras when we came here. Then I had to wear bras and tight girdles; very tight and in those days, very straight. Your behind couldn’t move when you walked on the platform.

P: Girdles! Girdles! (laughs)

T: So I did all that and loved it. My husband said go ahead to anything I wanted. He was very supportive. I didn’t have big concerns about diet because of being so active. I started exercising at age 30. My doctor here knew I was from the Philippines and said to me, “You know Teresa, you work hard and you only have 3 cups of coffee a day. You don’t eat.” They give only a ½ hour lunch and a 15 minute break. How can you eat? So he gave me vitamins. So since I was 31, I do all these vitamins.

Then I worked as a claims examiner for many years and saw all these diseases that people have. I thought, “My God. I don’t want to be like that at that age.” So I started exercising and I never stopped. It’s embedded in me. I have to do exercise every day. When I retired from Blue Shield, I went to the Spa and learned step aerobics. They asked me, “Why don’t you teach?” “But I don’t have any credentials.” “Never mind. You teach.” And that’s how I became an instructor. I’ve always been active. My children are all active.

What does beauty mean to you now?

T: We want to look nice. When people at the Church see me, they say, “Oh, we want to go hear mass because you’re the only one who dresses up.” I always change every day.

P: Even when she’s just at home and nobody comes, here she is with her make-up on.

T: Well, when you’re a model here, it becomes a habit.

P: I say, “Oh, are you going out?”

T: It makes me feel good. I see myself when I don’t have make-up and I feel like I’m sick or something.

P: I became very British (living her adult life in Hong Kong). Simple. No make-up. I was pleasing my husband. The very thing he said, “Honey, you belong to me, so no more low-cut, okay?” I said, “Fine.” (laughs)

T: My husband was the contrary. My boys are stricter than my husband. We used to go dancing every Saturday at the Presidio Officer’s Club. We belonged to the Bay Swingers. We did the tango, cha-cha-cha, and I became an instructor for many years. I did everything. Jack of all trades, master of none, but I did it. My kids all dance very well too.

My mother and father danced. My mother was an actress in the Spanish zarzuela. We saw her do the opera Madame Butterfly in the Philippines. She was Cho-cho San, the mother of Madame Butterfly. The diva, Evita Fuentes, was the only Filipina who went to the Carnegie Hall. That’s where she became famous. And she was my teacher in voice. All of us. My mother was her first student. My mother had a naturally beautiful voice.

P: I think it’s in our blood…music, dancing. That’s why we’re very happy people. We’re always smiling.

Still to be continued…


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