Filipino models hit their stride

MULTIPLE CHOICE - Luis Espiritu Jr. -
Modeling today is big business. From North to South, East to West. The search for the next "it" girls cuts across nationalities and ethnicity, capturing the watchful eyes of top photographers, modeling agencies, makeup artists, stylists, fashion editors, designers and advertisers.

Most of those who turn out to be "supermodels" are fair-skinned. But there will always be Asians who manage to rank among the crème de la crème. The likes of Jenny Shimizu, Navia Nguyen, Ling and most recently, Devon Aoki have made the list with their stellar status. Darker-skinned models of African descent have also made strides–Iman, Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Alec Wek.

Only a handful of Filipinos have reached "supermodel" status. Anna Bayle, Melanie Marquez and Valerie Celis have graced top international fashion magazines like Vogue, ELLE and Bazaar and strutted their stuff on runways of top fashion houses from Paris to New York. Ping Fideris, France Dionisio, Malu Ramos, Jinky Tecson and a handful of others have also tried their luck in the international modeling circuit.

From the latter part of the ’80s to the ’90s when modeling grew as a profession in Asia, several Filipinos braved the competition and penetrated the Asian circuit. Anna Lingad, Adele Go, Anette Coronel, Ivy Primicias, Myrza Sison, Joyce Orena, Lala Flores, Abbygail Arenas, and Gemith Gemparo made an impact in Southeast Asia, chalking up countless print and runway exposures, paving the way for more Filipino models to snag jobs abroad.

Their success also boosted the popularity of modeling locally. Modeling competitions sprung left and right, creating a demand–and greater hope–for Filipinos to break into international shores. It also transformed the Filipinos’ perception of modeling as one of being a "hobby" into one of being a lucrative profession.

Yet it was not until after mid-’90s that Filipinos gained regional recognition with the likes of Cristina Garcia, Teresa Herrera and Phoemela Barranda snagging regional beauty product endorsements. They paved the way for Filipino models to be competitive with Asians in the highly-selective world of international commercial modeling. This has made the Philippines a potential "gold mine" of star models just waiting to be discovered.

With the growing demand for models, modeling agencies in Manila have affiliated with agencies of neighboring countries. The demand brought about a more professional approach to model representation, resulting in the birth of more modeling agencies in Manila.

The growing popularity of the Filipino face had its biggest impact on modeling when it transcended commercial modeling and crossed over to VJ hosting via MTV and Channel V. From these arose former Channel V’s modeliscious hosts Joey Mead and Amanda Griffin, and the Class of MTV initiated by Giselle Toengi and now headed by Donita Rose with Belinda Panelo, KC Montero, Anna Shier, Derrick Ramsey and advertising’s next superstar model Sarah Meier. Filipino models have reigned over the VJ post for a couple of years now, proving that Filipinos have gained regional acceptance.

But what makes the Filipino model so sought-after? Could it be the Filipino’s ethnic origins? Inter-racial make up? Whatever the reasons, what is undeniable is that Filipinos have become major players in the field of modeling in Asia.
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