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The Truth About Being A Model In The Philippines

It's not as glam as you'd expect.
PHOTO: Jico Joson

It’s nearly impossible to go a week without talking about supermodels like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, so we think it’s fair to say that there’s a certain allure and curiosity when it comes to the lives of models. How much do they really make? What are the perks and perils of working in the industry? How often are models body-shamed? Three Pinay models tell us as it is. 

When did you start modeling, and how long have you been working in this industry?

Model A: I started modeling when I was 18 years old, and I’ve been in the industry for over five years now.

Model B: As an official model, I started when I was 19. That was around two years ago.

Model C: I became a model when I was 19, which was two years ago.

What were your expectations when you entered the business? Were your expectations met or were you disappointed?

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Model A: Upon entering the industry, I expected all the "glitz and the glamour." I was excited to get dolled up, play around portraying different characters, and meet inspiring people in the industry. Sure, I experienced all of that, but I quickly saw the bad side of the industry as well.

Model B: I expected a lot of events and social intereactions—and I was right. It’s been really fun, but it can get pretty exhausting as well.

Model C: I started out as a freelance model and because of that, I didn’t have many expectations or high hopes of getting anywhere. That said, it was harder for me to get gigs because I didn’t have as many connections. You really need friends in the industry so you can get noticed.

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How much money do you get from a modeling gig?

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Model A: It really depends on a number of factors: brand, duration, commercial vs. editorial, among other things. Magazines pay the least (around P2,000). TV commercials pay as low as P15,000 and as high as P200,000; the six-digit budget jobs are rare in Manila though. Runway jobs pay anywhere from P4,000 to P11,000. Catalog books shell out P5,000 to P15,000. But when it comes to comparing local and international rates, let’s just say we’d be lucky if we got paid a third of what models earn in other countries.

Model B: I don’t get paid as much as most people think. In fact, I’ve yet to see how much magazines pay because the payments from the recent magazines shoots I’ve done haven’t arrived yet. When I was just starting, I accepted almost all the opportunities that came because I wanted to build my portfolio. These days, I get paid P3,000 to P7,000 per shoot. But I haven’t done a commercial or booked an international gig yet, so we’ll see.

Model C: The Philippine market is nothing compared to the international market. Based on other models who’ve tried modeling abroad, our industry is very low-budget. In Hong Kong, for example, one fashion show can pay for a month’s worth of rent!

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Do you think you’re paid fairly?

Model A: Sometimes. There are other factors to consider, like the time and effort I have to put in. Being a model entails a lot of waiting. It eats up a lot of valuable time, and the amount you receive afterwards doesn’t always seem worth it.

Model C: Not really. A lot of clients want to make "tipid" so they cut the budget, and sometimes, my payment is below the average rate. Some people also want ex-deals, and they pay me with clothes. If it’s a close friend who is trying to start a business, it’s fine. But to be honest, this is my profession. I need the money.

Tell us about your best and worst gigs.

Model A: One of my favorite gigs was when I shot with Cosmo out of town. We spent three days in an island, but we finished the shoot earlier than expected. I was able to hang out with the whole team and we explored the city for the rest of the trip. As for the worst, I had a difficult time during a TVC shoot abroad. Imagine hearing people speaking four different languages trying to direct the talents all at the same time. It was chaos, and we were lost in translation. Working with different nationalities can be exciting but can get very confusing as well. On top of that, I was only shown in the TVC for two seconds out of a 30-second video. We started at 5:00 in the morning and ended at 7:00 a.m. the next day.

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Model B: My favorite gigs are the ones where I have the most freedom to move and pose. I absolutely love creative shoots, especially ones with wild themes. My worst gig was when I was just starting out. An amateur photographer contacted me and told me to shoot with around five products. The shoot was apparently for students, so I agreed to a small pay with some freebies. When I got there, they did not look like students, and they made me shoot with 40 products—not five. I still did my best to be professional about the whole situation.

Model C: My best was an out-of-town shoot! It was the perfect #workation—everything was paid for! On the other hand, my worst experience was when I did a catalogue shoot for a brand that had no intention of feeding us, despite the fact that we shot all night. 

What are the perks of being a model?

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Model A: Brand sponsorships, exclusive events, and lots of travel!

Model B: Apart from all the free stuff, you learn to have more confidence in yourself. Modeling really pushes you to get out of your comfort zone, be adaptable, and work hard in whatever situation.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said about your body?

Model A: It’s such a Filipino thing when people greet you with, "Parang pumayat ka," or "Tumba ka ha!" It ruins my day. Now, I know that I can’t always please everyone with my appearance. What matters more to me now is that I’m healthy and confident. Whenever I’m abroad, I would often hear, "You don’t look Filipino," as if there’s a template of how Filipinos should look like. The worst comment I got was, "You’re Filipino? How come you don’t look like my maid?"

Model B: I’m naturally skinny, so I’ve been called "anorexic" a lot. In grade school, people called me "Olive Oil," but comments like that don’t hurt me as much as before. I just focus on staying fit now.

Model C: I’ve been told to lose weight a number of times. I’m not at my target measurements yet, so I’m not too offended when it happens. Still, it really sucked when a designer told me I gained weight without knowing that I had been dieting for months.

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What are some tips you have for aspiring models?

Model A: My number one tip for aspiring young models is to finish school first! Modeling is not a long-term gig. This line of work has an expiration date. Education can empower you more than any makeup ever could.

Model B: Don’t skip jobs you’ve agreed to just because you don’t feel like it anymore. Remember, a team of people is always behind each project, and they’re probably working just as hard as you are. Be humble and ditch your ego.

Model C: It may seem easy to just "sit or walk pretty," but this career needs a lot of patience, discipline, and a good attitude. No matter how tired you are, you have to show up. 

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