Claudia Barretto Is Not Your Victim
May of us grew up watching Disney, and one thing was abundantly—though unfortunately—clear: in order for a woman to make a name for herself, she had to find a charming prince with money and power to make a name for herself. It was a man that slayed dragons, broke spells and defeated evil. Men had adventures and weapons and something to offer. And women were their muses, the reason for their change of heart and their ultimate reward.
Listen, my generation might have had Mulan and Pocahontas, but we didn’t have Merida, Elsa, Anna, Rapunzel or Moana. I didn’t see a Disney princess take her rightful reign and be more than a victim of something until I could go to the cinemas by myself. There is so much to unlearn from our pasts, but unlearning is made so much easier when you see a woman—and a younger one at that—take complete control of the strides she makes.
Claudia Barretto is a woman that needs no introduction. She’s an honor student, a musician, a mental health advocate and a content creator who is willingly fighting her own battles. She’s only 22—which is something anyone could easily forget within five minutes of meeting her—but she’s claiming a space to call her own.
“I like to think I’m pretty independent,” she begins our chat. “I have a strong personality, so some find me intimidating…I do, however, think I’m friendly and anyone can strike a conversation with me.”
Easy to talk to, striking to look at and unafraid to speak her mind? That’s Claudia Barretto at surface level.
Our day with Claudia was quick but memorable. From the moment she stepped onto the set, she was a force to be reckoned with. She knew how to strut her stuff, but she was open to direction. She would review her photos with the rest of the team, and give herself notes to improve on. As the snapshots started to flash on screen, it was clear that Claudia came prepared; the photos just kept getting better and better. And this level of dedication isn’t something that automatically comes with a last name.
“A lot of people try to discredit me because of my entrance into the industry. I acknowledge that my journey [looks] a lot different compared to many other talented artists,” admits Claudia. “Ultimately though, I think what’s most defining is what I choose to do with the attention and platform I’m given.”
There’s no denying that a family—any family—with means is a privilege for the generations that follow. But when you’re not after the sheer thrill of it all and are actually trying to do right by yourself and everyone else, then what’s the issue?
“I know in my heart that I desire music, and that this desire is good,” continues Claudia. “[I] might as well give it my best shot and work my hardest.”
As it is said, let the one without fault cast the first stone. But who among us can honestly say we’ve never used a key that was given to us to open a door? At the end of the day, no matter what that door leads to—a job, an opportunity, a movement—it’s only ourselves we have to rely on to push it open, and it’s up to us to keep it open for the next person.
Our cover star puts it simply: “There’s space for everyone, and everyone deserves a space.” But Claudia doesn’t just deserve space, she’s also unafraid to take it.
Despite all this evident growth and maturity and determination, Claudia admits she hasn’t always treated herself like the main character in her own narrative. Ironically, she still quite often plays the role of her own villain.
“Most of the time, I do think that I’m the loudest and clearest voice in my head, so on days I would doubt myself, it would take up my headspace and wouldn’t leave me with much left,” she recalls. “It’s so draining to lack confidence in something you love to do. This was a weakness I didn’t know how to overcome for the longest time.”
Overcoming something isn’t a one-off experience, and it’s only harder to do when you are your own worst enemy. That voice inside is oftentimes harder to silence, especially when it talks in a tone of doubt that is so suspiciously trustworthy.
Claudia knows this for a fact. She’s been in the public eye for years, and is still learning to put herself first.
“I became my life’s main character a little less than a year ago, I would say. I grew up a lot and went through life experiences that I do think changed me a lot,” she begins. “My goals and aspirations became clearer, and I loved myself more through that process.”
Not all of us are made of thicker skin, and we all have our own timelines to follow. But for the moments that you need a little push, Claudia wants to remind us: “Don’t look to others when wanting to set yourself apart, embody yourself wholly, [embrace] all your differences, and you will stand out, in your own simple ways.”
Currently a student of Psychology in Ateneo de Manila University, Claudia understands too well the importance of mental health. Having had her own struggles, she explains that “We all have [our] mental health. Our mental well-being translates into the way we live our [lives], and it’s always been a priority for me because of my own struggles with mental health.”
We’re all experts in hindsight, but it’s always important to learn from those that know more—and no, wisdom isn’t based on age alone. “Because I’m depressive by nature, I am so easily jaded,” says Claudia. “[If I could go back,] I would tell myself that not everything is doomed! Not all the noise in my head merit attention.”
Maybe this is why Claudia is pursuing music. She has so much to say, has heard even more and has experienced circumstances beyond what anyone can imagine of her 22 years. All of this—the thoughts, the voices, the realizations—is simply being translated into something beyond her. I wish there were more of us that could say the same of ourselves.
For now, Claudia is reveling in her newfound love for growth and learning. But what does she expect of herself next? “Lots more music,” she answers quickly.
Claudia Barreto’s tunes may not be on a Disney soundtrack, but she’s making it clear that she is no one’s victim. And there’s something very empowering about seeing the next generation of women unapologetically take what is given to them, and multiplying that tenfold.
There are still patriarchies to humble and people to surprise, but at least this is clear: Women are taking their space, and fighting their own battles.
Photography Renzo Navarro
Art Direction Alexandra Lara and Matthew Ian Fetalver
Art Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Adie Pieraz
Fashion Direction Nicole Blanco Ramos
Styling Florian Trinidad, assisted by Gian Gonzalez
Beauty Direction Elisa Aquino
Makeup Anton Patdu
Hair Kierlo Velasco
Location Chroma Studio