Filipina illustrators pay homage to famous female characters with their art

Published March 12, 2021, 3:51 PM

by John Legaspi

Netflix puts the spotlight on its strong, diverse, and authentic female characters through the eyes of two Filipino artists—Betsy Cola and CJ de Silva

No more damsels in distress. Television shows and movies these days no longer play with the cliché plot of women in need of help or just standing on the sidelines. Stories of empowered women telling their own narratives, fighting for what is right, earning the respect they deserve, and more have dominated our viewing pleasure in order to break the wrong notions about women and to inspire others ladies to do the same.

This Women’s Month, Filipina artists Besty Cola and CJ de Silva honor Netflix heroines with their art, celebrating the strength and diversity these female characters bring to the table. 

A fine arts graduate of the University of Philippines, CJ illustrates Seo Dal-mi from “Start-Up,” Maeve and Aimee from “Sex Education,” and Devi from “Never Have I Ever,” among others, respectively described as the “pragmatic dreamer,” a “powerful representation of female friendship,” and “intelligent and eloquent.”

Creating the cover of the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s book “Stupid Is Forever,” CJ knows the imporantance of having good female role models on media art, not just for the sake of entertainment but also to help shape young girls’ minds and the people around them. 

“I wish I had an Enola Holmes to look up to when I was a young girl,” she says about the movie “Enola Holmes.” “I hope a lot of parents saw this movie. Because imagine raising a girl in a home filled with knowledge, skills, art, and most of all, freedom!”

Besty Cola went for strong female characters like Beth Harmon from “The Queen’s Gambit,” Captain Jang from “Space Sweepers,”  and the tandem of Eloise and Penelope from “Bridgerton” as the subjects of her illustrations. 

According to her, these characters exemplify the true power of women, be it championing in a male-dominated field, rising above societal pressure, and assuming the role of a badass leader.

Her other pieces also featured Vivian and Lucy from “Moxie,” and Mildred Ratched from “Rachted.”

“I’ve always been fascinated with the Riot Grrrl culture and movement, and when I saw that ‘Moxie’ was inspired by that same fierce, feminist spirit, I was thrilled,” Besty says about the film. “I decided to illustrate Vivian, whose warranted anger pushed her to fight for her fellow female students, and Lucy, who is so inspiring by being unapologetically herself.”

Check out more of their works on Instagram @betsy.cola and @cjdesilva.

For more stories by, for and about women, check out the International Women’s Day collection at