Chai Fonacier Drops Hard Truths on The Challenges of Being Morena in the Entertainment Industry


Nine times out of ten, you’ll come across a skin whitening ad whenever you turn on the TV or just scroll your feed. Entertainment and advertising are the loudest proponents of Western beauty standards in this country, which has permeated throughout society, and it’s something Cebuano actress Chai Fonacier is pushing back on.

Brown is beautiful, and to be morena is something to admire, not degrade.

“If I say I’m brown-skinned, I don’t have European or Caucasian features, they go, ‘but you’re so beautiful.’ I’m like, ‘Honey, I know that. I did not say I’m ugly, okay?’ I’m just saying it matter-of-factly,” shared Chai on the latest episode of the Esquire Philippines’ Lonely Hearts podcast. “Why do you automatically associate my being brown as me thinking I’m ugly? I did not say that. You said that.”

Remember this gold mine from 2017 when Chai and her comedy club Sutukil Sauce released a satirical video on the obsession with whitening soap? The parody ad was called Paks Brownening, and the “core-being of our pre-historic ancestors” still as relevant as ever.


“Try watching TV… and just count how many fair-skinned and European-[looking] people show up every second,” said Chai. “So what does that teach people? You know? And majority of us don't look like that.”

Because of these lofty physical standards, the less mestizo you look, the harder you have to work if you’re in the business of showbiz.

“What I've seen so far in the industry is that we have to work twice as hard. We have to be extra-funny. We have to be extra-talented. We can't just pass with crying on cue,” shared Chai. The basic “happy-sad-happy-sad-your-mom-died” emotions won’t cut it.

And then the opportunity of Nocebo presented itself, an opportunity Chai grabbed with both hands. Now, “people like us, who want to also do this, can change the way that they look about, they look at themselves and, actually, also cause that change in others.”

Chai is currently in Dublin filming the Irish-Philippine movie Nocebo with her co-stars the indomitable Eva Green and Mark Strong.

Listen to Chai’s full interview on the Esquire Philippines’ Lonely Hearts podcast, where she talks about beating beauty standards, representing Bisaya and Cebuano culture, and sharing the screen with Eva Green. Catch Lonely Hearts, hosted by Sarge Lacuesta, on SpotifyApple PodcastsAnchor, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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