Congrats to Danica Magpantay, first Filipina to win Ford Models’ Supermodel of the World Competition! While researching info for this post, I stumbled upon this gem of news and couldn’t help but be reminded of Samantha Chang’s op-piece in Vogue, Asia Major, regarding the upswing of Asian models in the fashion and beauty industries.
I, too, remember flipping through Seventeen magazine as a tween, and looking wistfully at White girls swipe on coral and pink shades like there was no science to it. My struggle to find make-up that looked right with my skin tone proved unsuccessful and I spent much of my middle school years copping samples of Covergirl’s Toast of New York and Wet N’ Wild’s Raisin. I wasn’t alone in this, thank goodness; my fellow Asian classmates also bore the marks of a tint that may or may not have been slightly too orange (Covergirl) or gothically dark (Wet N’ Wild).
Anyway, while I’m happy for the 17-year-old Magpantay and the exposure it brings to Filipino beauty, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the first Asian supermodel was Filipino herself. Damn! Who woulda thought, right? Re-introducing Anna Bayle, one of the glamazon supermodels of the 80’s.
Her story isn’t much unlike any other model’s story: started off in Manila, Philippines going to college; was “discovered” while competing in the Miss World Beauty Pageant; realized that modeling was giving her money and freedom…cue superstardom, walking the catwalk for top dogs like YSL, Christian Lacroix and Versace with equally top models Cindy Crawford, Linda Evagenlista and others. But what is different is that this is a story from a Filipino woman’s perspective. Apparently, she coined the Anna Bayle Walk, a stride she created that emulated
the washer women from my country, the Philippines. They would wash their clothes in the river and when they were done, they would balance their wash load on their heads. They had to cross the river, stepping on wet stones, barefoot. They were light on their feet and always had pointed toes in order not to get wet or fall from the slippery surfaces.”
No models walk like this anymore! I miss that vibe, when runways had more personality. I have to agree with Bayle who noted that the newer generation of models appear “robot-like” as they “‘march in’ and ‘march out.'” With all the fashion mags I look at, none of the models really capture my attention, except maybe for Lara Stone. It wasn’t until I started Youtubing the walks for Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell that I realized how much the 90’s have stuck with me. There was definitely a trend toward chiseled cheekbones and womanly features, a trend that has phased out to make way for the youthful looks for the Lindsey Wixsons of today.
Nice Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue-esque shot! Meanwhile, I’m trying to devour as much info about Bayle as possible. It serves as an inspiration for me to embrace the same gung-ho attitude she had that brought her success. No compromises. At one point during her career, it was suggested to her that she change her name to Maria Montezuma to which she replied, “I am Filipina. No matter what they do to me, I will always be a Filipina.” In fact, it’s rather comforting to know that as she was trying to break into the modeling business, she endured hardship, a fact of life that I’m still struggling with at the ripe old age of 30.
Although the fashion industry is trending toward Asians at the moment, “Asian” still means Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean. But, it’s different reading about these rags to riches stories of other models of different nationalities and ethnicities. When I read about Anna Bayle, her stories are rich with meaningful layers. There is communication on a whole new level; levels of validation, understanding, pride, kababayan.
Maria Montezuma. *shakes head* Ay sus! What will they think of next?