$70,000 Hermès Birkin Donated To Makati Street Children
There are two Hermès Birkin bags in this story. The first, a shiny porosus crocodile leather purse in orange, customized by celebrated street artist Retna, currently being held for safekeeping in New York City where it was recently appraised at $70,000.
I wrote to @Oprah I wrote to @krisjenner and all her daughters??I wrote to @victoriabeckham I wrote to @parishilton of course I wrote to #JaneBirkin via email ?? #hermesforlives #ayahuasca #eyeopening #volunteer #causes #donate #change #activism #nonprofit #dogood #charity #fundraising #philanthropy #socialgood #hermes #birkin #birkingod #heritageauctions #thecharitybirkin
The other, yummy buttery gray with a mini dreamcatcher hanging from its gold hardware, belongs to Kyle Javier, a half-Filipino manicurist from Los Angeles. Kyle visited the Philippines for the first time in February of 2018 and, with his Quezon City-born Ilocano father and two sisters, embarked on a month of island hopping after completing a medical mission in Pangasinan.
Born in Santa Monica to a white collar family, Kyle grew up inhaling the same air as his financially fortunate neighbors, but didn’t feel wealthy. “We were never rich but we always lived a stone’s throw from billionaires,” he shares. “I grew up thinking we were dirt poor because our house was just barely half a million dollars.” But the trip to the Philippines redefined “dirt poor” for Kyle, and he returned to California with renewed perspective. “I had never seen real poverty before, and couldn’t erase the images of children living on the streets covered in filth and ailments. When I returned to L.A., I just felt uneasy living in a big house and working in a lavish little nail shop.”
“I grew up thinking we were dirt poor because our house was just barely half a million dollars.”
Shifting from a career in contemporary fashion to managing a hair and nail salon in San Diego, Kyle got his nail license “so that I could have the upper hand in micro managing my manicurists, who were lazy and unruly.” He ended up realizing this might be something he truly loved, and began the journey to acquire as much experience as he could from elite salons in high-profile cities across America. For Kyle to be this drawn to a craft in which one touches and gives love to the bare-naked hands and feet of others, may already suggest both the appetite for human connectivity and humility that he possesses. It will be his signature, this selflessness, this zeal.
Svelte, with a deliciously deep South Beach tan, manicured extended goatee and clean shaven head, Kyle leaves his interim home at the Ritz Carlton Miami and struts into a lobby en route to dinner. He looks fabulous; gazelle-like atop his sky-high heels, wearing pants that fit like they’re second skin, silver fabric billowing out from underneath a crisp white button-down like a super hero cape at half mast. The Instagram Story is filed under a Highlight entitled “Once Upon A Time”—a time immediately after that initial Philippine trip, visions of struggling street children still seared into his memory. “I fled back to Miami Beach to stay in a friend's beachfront condo, to ease my unrest, to pray, and to balance my chakras. I spent the season taking very selective in-home nail appointments, primarily on the residential islands (Star Island, Hibiscus Island, Palm Island and The Venetian Islands). Word spread fast about the fabulous and humbled manicurist who brings the salon to your living room in a Birkin,” Kyle recounts.
“I made a friend that season, Luciana Molles. I did her pedicure once, and we clicked. She was captivated by my compassion for the poverty that I had seen while in the Philippines, and my eagerness to find a way to help. She asked me to move in with her in the Ritz Carlton, to work less, and to lounge more. She told me that it was God’s will for her to show me unconditional love, so that I could show the same generosity to the children she knew that I was going to help. And so together we did a little research, poolside, and we decided it would be best for me to just dive into it.”
The pair proceeds to book Kyle’s ticket for the fifth of August. Before he leaves, Luciana hands Kyle a gift. It is the $70,000 crocodile Hermès bag, with a little note that reads, “From; God To; All the Philippines Children”—Exhausted, Miami tan long gone, hair now fully sprouted from his head and no longer his face, Kyle makes his way up the stairs of a barebones Poblacion hostel. Here, he is lucky if a night goes by without having to share space with a stranger. With the number of kids that (literally) hang onto him everyday, a door to close behind him, some privacy, could mean so much. But Kyle is neck-deep in his outreach and this is how he’s surviving on the $200 a month his mother sends him.
Everything else goes to the kids. A $10 donation from a friend in Los Angeles transforms into a dinner party for thirty-five street-dwelling youth. $72 becomes four months of care for a baby in a family Kyle has spotted living by the highway, the infant’s skin beleaguered with scabs. The gifted Birkin (now dubbed #TheCharityBirkin), after being blessed in paint at last year’s Art Basel by Retna to increase her value, when auctioned, will be the foundational funding for a building Kyle wants to build for this community. He is currently raising additional money to send eight of “his kids” to the private arts school (The School of Academics and Arts) which sits on the same street his kids sleep on. (“This school has embraced the idea to create a class for these children where they will have special care and curriculum tailored to their needs, and geared towards propelling them into a beautiful future,” Kyle glows.)
Instagram has become a sort of life line; Kyle’s means of communicating with his loved ones while alone on his one-man mission in the chaotic Metro Manila inner city, but also the main channel he’s utilizing to source and credit donations. But the gifts Kyle extends are certainly only in part financial. The lesson of love lies behind every one of his efforts; it is in the way he has taught the children to give thanks to God for the food, and for friends. It is in the way he teaches the stringy-haired children to care for their stringy-haired pets; communicating that the weak and abandoned deserve to be treated with love and respect—symbolism at its most powerful; as the children have not known this kind of unwavering attention before. It is also still love behind the take-no-crap attitude Kyle maintains, creating healthy boundaries for children who have little to no guidance; parents either dead or addicted to drugs. This is why Kyle does his “daycare” after hours—to keep the kids occupied when the sun goes down so they don’t get sucked into the dark corners of Makati’s backstreets that have claimed so many others.
"Hurt people hurt people. Loved people love people"
Compassion is at the core of his curriculum; it is folded into the way he leads by example, and the results are undeniable. The children at the frontline of Kyle’s efforts have become little bastions of his love, accompanying him to the family by the highway to help bathe the now relatively scab-free baby, for example. Accompanying him to the cemetery where other families live in even more dire situations, to hand out bananas. Hurt people hurt people. Loved people love people.
"Just because they dig in the trash and don’t always have food to eat, doesn’t give them an excuse not to smile."
"Being materialistic is only a bad thing if you aren’t humble about it."
He is a one man love revolution, Kyle Javier is. A force that has reversed the downward spiral for otherwise forgotten children. Makati is a long way away from Santa Monica, but both have now shaped him, and when asked what lessons LA and Manila can learn from each other, Kyle’s answer is this:
On what LA can learn from Manila— “Quite frankly, there are some families that live on the streets here (in Manila), whose level of joy, core family values, and appreciation for life exceed those living in multi-million dollar homes in Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and Malibu. Just because they dig in the trash and don’t always have food to eat, doesn’t give them an excuse not to smile. Smile L.A. and be grateful.”
On what Manila can learn from LA— “The people in Manila are humble to a fault, the majority of local businesses are just lacking some tiny aesthetic and hygienic elements that would elevate them into 2019, improve the economy, and inevitably help alleviate if not eliminate poverty. Being materialistic is only a bad thing if you aren’t humble about it. Clean it up Manila and strut your stuff.”
Find Kyle on Instagram @kylejavi3r and @tinyblessingsnonprofit, and donate via Venmo: kylejavi3r