The first time I saw Selina Woo Bhang was when she modeled for Sandy Cheeks in 2019. I thought, “Oh, this girl looks like Jun Ji Hyun,” a detail I think of fondly now because that’s exactly who Selina dressed up as for Halloween this year!
But it turns out, 2019 was actually a big year for the half-Filipina, half-Korean model. In an exclusive interview with Cosmopolitan Philippines, Selina shared that was the year she landed her *first* TVC—an ad for a Korean fast-food chain—after attending more than 40 (!!!) castings. A feature on Preview.ph was what got her noticed by IM Agency, where she connected with her current agent. “As a model, you have to be smart about who you’re [working] with. It’s great to have someone who manages you for contracts, making sure brands don’t coincide…If you have a good agent managing you, they usually do the follow-ups for payments. You don’t have to exert effort in messaging that [account executive] who got you for that job. You need that type of trust with someone.”
In college, Selina discovered that she’s actually her most confident self when she’s in front of the camera. Not everyone can say that. “I feel like a totally different person when the lens is there. That’s what I like. I grew up really introverted, and I still am, but when you work, you have to force yourself to know how to talk to clients, how to talk to people, in general,” she explained. She recalled a funny moment at the beginning of her career, when she attended a go-see for a local fashion brand: “I printed my set card, without knowing anything, on a bond paper. And set cards are photo cards, so [they’re] tiny. I also didn’t know how to dress. When you’re a model, you have to dress down, and I think I wore something nice pa. It was so embarrassing. I didn’t even know how to walk! I was really exploring. I just kept trying in college.”
Asked about how she determines what modeling gigs to go for, Selina is adamant about respecting people’s ethnicities. She expounded, “It’s been like that my whole life and why can’t I do the same for other girls who deserve the job more than me? We’re all struggling for a job but if the job requires someone Chinese, for example, I would prefer it if I didn’t go and a Chinese girl goes. There are so many Chinese models.” Selina related this to her own experience. “It just hurts ‘cause would it mean that if I didn’t get a Korean job, is it ‘cause I didn’t look Korean enough? It makes me think [about] those things. So if I get a job where I have to portray someone Chinese, wouldn’t people feel uncomfortable if they know me and they know I’m Korean and they see me in that ad? It’s about time that we become more aware and respectful.”
What might come as a shock to you is that modeling isn’t Selina’s only job. After college, she worked as a graphic designer for an agency for four years. Though she learned a lot from that experience, she began feeling burnt out, which is why she took the leap and resigned at the beginning of 2021. This wasn’t a decision she took lightly. In fact, Selina asked for advice from older professionals in the industry. Describing herself as a “very calculated person who needs a Plan Z,” she wanted to know what kind of preparations were necessary to leave a full-time job and become a freelancer. “One of the greatest pieces of advice I got was, ‘Umalis responsibly.’” She began building her clientele towards the end of 2020 to ensure that she had some work lined up and saved enough money to build her emergency fund. (One of the first projects she had as a freelancer was for Yardstick Coffee, and the experience was “amazing.”)
These days, she’s working with different clients, doing some email marketing for brands, and freelancing with a local design studio. Selina balances her design work with her modeling jobs, so she attends castings, which is more difficult now. Sometimes it takes two hours just to prepare for one. She shared, “My recent casting was for an ad. When I made it to the final casting, we did so many takes. It’s kind of crazy.”
As you can imagine, she has an incredibly busy schedule, with all her commitments jotted down on her Google calendar. A hectic week is when she has two shoots to attend because that eats up a lot of her time; luckily, she’s the type of person who can work anywhere, so in between layouts, you’ll find Selina working on her laptop by a nearby outlet.
But what does a typical day look like for the 5’5 beauty? When she doesn’t have a modeling job, she wakes up at 6:30 a.m.—after, hopefully, at least six hours of sleep—and heads over to a co-working space because “it feels more productive when [she’s] in an environment that forces [her] to work.” She has lunch around noon and spends the next couple of hours watching videos or movies before jumping back in to finish a task. Selina squeezes in an hour of workout time and if she’s on a tight deadline, she goes back to work after leaving the gym. “I want to get the job done. If I don’t meet a deadline, maraming madadamay. It’s not fair for anyone else, so I always make sure I meet deadlines. It’s a very weird schedule,” she said. On weekends, she tries to rest as much as she can, even sleeping for 12 hours from time to time (so, so relatable!).
“This year was my most challenging,” Selina revealed, “[but also] this year was the most growth I’ve ever seen in my work. It was a good, ballsy move. I would say I’m a risk-taker, in terms of career stuff.”
Her secret to upskilling and staying creative? Creating something for herself: “It’s always good to make personal work, something inspired by my latest read or a movie I watched. Personally, I love movies. They are my comfort items. I feel like I’m so inspired by the things I grew up with. When I learn something new from a job, I try to apply it in my personal work. My Instagram Stories are my creative outlet ‘cause I feel like I can maximize it. If I read a book and I find an excerpt really touching, I make something out of it.”
Like many of us, Selina isn’t just working hard and hustling for herself; she is her family’s breadwinner. To unload some of the financial burdens from her parents, she was a scholarship grantee in college where she majored in AB Multimedia Arts and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Next year, her brother is going off to college—something Selina says they’re all getting ready for. While the model-designer is currently based in the metro, her family moved to Nueva Ecija after her dad passed away two years ago. “I don’t really get to visit my family as much as I want to because the travel time is exhausting. It takes six to eight hours. I don’t have the luxury of going back and forth too often. It’s easier to stay in Manila.” Still, she’s hoping to spend some much-needed quality time with her family in December after wrapping up her projects for the year.
As for what she’s got planned for 2022, Selina said, “Hopefully, bigger projects, who knows? I’m not the type of person na kailangan structured din yung goals. It’s more, whatever goes...but I have to put in the effort to make ‘whatever goes’ happen.”
Check out more of Selina’s work on Instagram.
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