Justine Llarena is the 20-something artist on the rise with her dreamy art and killer style.
Plaid skirts, Mary Janes, Vivienne Westwood and blunt bangs. Just some of the things that Justine Llarena loves. If you’re in the constant loophole of Tiktok, you’ll immediately recognize her for her amazing style that reminds us of Jules Vaughn on Euphoria and her content that brings us back to the wholesome side of Tumblr circa 2013. But aside from her whimsical outfits, it’s Justine’s art style that had us hooked. As frail as her subjects look like, they’re mostly portrayed with a killer instinct no matter how raw and real their emotions are—the same metaphor that best describes her journey. Luckily, we were able to catch up with Justine Llarena on how her transition has helped her re-discover herself, her aesthetic as an artist, designer, model and became real-life Ramona Flowers (without the red flags, of course!)
How long have you been illustrating?
I’ve been drawing since I was 3 or something. My aunt gifted me a set of coloring materials and I can still remember it vividly. It consists of markers, watercolors, crayons, and colored pencils all packed in black plastic case. I treasured it so much that one time I brought it on my mom’s visit to her friend’s office. She told her friend that I’m good in drawing. The next thing I remember her whole floor is covered with my artworks.
Tell us the story about how your aesthetic and POV came to be. We love the dreamy, almost psychedelic vibe of your artworks.
Thank you so much! It all started when I watched Agnes Cecile’s water color paintings on youtube! I was fascinated by how transparent—almost ghostlike yet full of emotions her paintings are. My mom bought my first Winsor & Newton water color set in LA as a Christmas gift and I still use it today. I tried copying her techniques, but something doesn’t sit right until I discovered oil paints! I love how realistic I can paint with oils and as a person who pays attention to detail, oil became my number 1 medium. I tried incorporating what I’ve learned in Agnes Cecile’s videos and I guess that’s when I developed my own aesthetic. I like to keep the proportions realistic and add my own fantasy twist to capture the viewer’s eye.
We found out that you were the only Filipina who made it to the First Worldwide Trans Model Search in LA. How has your transformation influenced your journey into becoming the artist, model and fashion designer that you are today?
At first I had a lot of self-doubt cause there were times that I thought some people are more deserving. But then I realized that the universe will not give this opportunity if it wasn’t for me. I’m not gonna lie, I had a hard time in the early years of my transition, my mind and body’s experiencing changes. I became more emotional but most importantly, I felt that my mind and body’s now aligned! I can express who I truly am and I guess that’s when I regained my confidence to join the modelling competition which is a big step for me. Because growing up, I’ve always been shy and scared to step out of my comfort zone. I’m so blessed that my family has been supportive of my journey. To all people that are struggling and questioning themselves, I want to let you all know that you don’t need to rush yourself. Time will tell if you’re ready and don’t feel pressured because of societal reasons. Do it for yourself and everything else will be aligned.
Who are the artists you wish to collaborate with in the future?
I have so many artists in mind! For international, I wish to work with Agnes Cecile, Lauren Tsai, and Little Thunder. For locals I like to work with JC Peñaflorida, Alagad ng Sining and my friend Neil Anthonie!
If you’d have a chance, what would you say to your younger self?
It’s not your fault that you’re different than most of the kids in your school. Time will come and your parents will be supportive and proud of the real you! No more hiding (and) playing with dolls because you’ll become the dream girl that you’ve always wanted to be and I know the world out there is harsh but with the support and love of your parents, you’ll be complete.
Do you have a message to rising queer artists?
There’s a reason why we have to grow up strong, especially in the world where we still have to fight for our rights. Continue expressing yourself and when an idea comes, go for it. never wait for inspiration cause look around you, it’s everywhere.
Today marks my 3rd year on e and t blockers! I still get discriminated at times but I’m happier than ever??️⚧️♬ Something about you – Jade ?