Karen Davila Has This to Say To Other Women
Last weekend, women flocked to the Blue Leaf Pavilion to attend the She Talks Asia Summit hosted by co-founders Iza Calzado, Victoria Herrera, and Lynn Pinugu. It was a whole day extravaganza of women empowerment, and if you didn’t come in with estrogen in your system, you’ll be oozing with it coming out.
From left: Victoria Herrera, Iza Calzado, and Lynn Pinugu
In the opening remarks, Lynn compared She Talks to popular food chain Max’s, saying that if Max’s was the house that fried chicken built, She Talks Asia is the house that heartaches built. It’s not just heartbreak from relationships, but also of other things that have plagued women all over—career woes, sexual harassment, crab mentality, etc.
And the first to share her heartache was Karen Davila. Everybody knows her as a ballbreaker in an industry dominated by men—the news. She seems like the kind of woman who has never had a bad hair day, let alone the kind of girl who got bullied. But she did.
Her 20-minute talk had everybody laughing, nodding, and ultimately relating to her in ways that all the women there probably never thought they would. She is the Karen Davila after all, what on Earth could we possibly have in common?
But she tells the audience of the first time in her life when she was at the receiving end of women’s wrath. It was back in college when she was attending the University of the Philippines.
“There was an organization formed against me. The Anti-Karen Davila Association. Do you know how much energy it takes, to actually make an organization? For a woman you dislike? The crowd gasped and laughed with her as she takes the tone of a stand-up comedian. But she turns a little more serious as she continues.
“I would go into the bathroom of UP, and they would write on the door—Karen Davila Slut. Karen Davila Bitch. And I remember crying all the time. Why? They didn’t know me. I barely had friends.”
But it turns out, she only needed one, and he sat beside her as she was crying on a curb. He said “You know Karen, all successful women are hated." “Really?," she asks. To which he replied, “Absolutely.”
That friend was Kim Atienza, another big name in the industry, who was actually sitting in the front row that morning at She Talks.
Kim Atienza and Ben Wintle
She went on to say that she’s sure what he said to her wasn’t true, but it helped her then.
“That’s how powerful words are. We remember words that are told to us. So I believed, I’m geared for success. At some point, the hate and the words coming from my college days, I knew, prepared me for something more—which was ABS-CBN. It prepared me for the world ahead.”
Karen points out the problem with women. “Women are afraid of each other. Women don’t support each other enough. Women put each other down more. We are rarely happy when another woman is successful. Our instinct is to put them down right away. We always feel that there’s not enough to go around. It’s a subconscious mentality which was told to us, and it’s a lie. Men don’t think this way because men don’t think that the opportunities are lacking. But with women, there can only be one queen B, one woman that gets promoted, one woman that gets to be CEO, one woman that gets to be on TV Patrol [crowd laughs], and the instinct of women is to always put each other down.
My close friends always tell me that I build people. I open doors. You have to build each other. Women’s instinct is this—"when I build you, my light is taken away." And that is not true. When you build other women, you build yourself.
And I am telling you, you are battling your own demons—jealousy, envy, insecurity. You can only win over your inner demons by fighting them proactively.”
There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
She addresses the audience with questions like what role have we played, have we ever left someone out because we thought they weren’t in our level, did we ever judge someone for being fat, ugly, or different? Answers to which I would only whisper in my mind because I’m guilty, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the crowd.
“You are not helping your own. This is why we are where we are. We fought so long for our rights, but we know that it’s not just about ourselves. It is us as a community.
If you’re too strong, you’re not feminine. If you’re too sweet, you’re a flirt. If you’re too soft-spoken, you’re mistaken for as stupid. And who labels these things but us.
Men have so much pride, they will not criticize another man in public. Because they feel it’s beneath them. But we do it to each other.”
She tapered her discussion to a few points:
Girls compete with each other. Women empower one another.
“When women watch other women on Instagram, they compare their lives, their bodies, and they think ‘I’m less.' Do you know when I see Solenn Heussaff on Instagram, I don’t feel less. I just know I need more workout!
It [Instagram] brings out the competitiveness in us, the bad kind. Where we feel like we have to fake it to make it. Don’t. There is no other way to succeed than first, pay your dues. Work harder than the rest. And I’ll tell you this, be absolutely excellent.
We think seeing someone else’s success diminishes our own. That’s not true. Define your own success. You don’t let other people define it for you. When someone else succeeds, you don’t succeed less.
Stop faking it with female friends.
“If you can’t afford it, say you can’t. if it’s not that great today, say it’s not. Things aren’t great at home, say it like it is. Stop the lies that you tell each other. Kill the competitiveness with each other.”
Pursue women you want as a role model.
“Hang around women that you feel will make you better. Choose role models for their values—what they’ve done.”
And on that note, I think Karen Davila earned a few more followers on Instagram, and in life, as the many participants of that morning added her as their role model because for the 20 minutes the audience hung out with her, lives were changed for the better, and she did say choose role models for what they’ve done. She’s done us a solid by simply being there.
Photos by Chris Clemente