In an industry that recognizes fiercely talented transgender woman models like Geena Rocero and Andreja Pejic, one may wonder if their equivalents exist in our local modeling industry. Enter Martine Tuanquin, a professional model and proud transpinay who is shaking up the fashion scene as we know it!
In an email interview with Cosmopolitan Philippines, Martine gets candid on what it's like to be a transgender woman model in Manila, her style icons, and what's next for her.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue modeling? Did you know before or after you transitioned?
I actually started to model prior to transitioning. In 2015, I went to try out for a casting for the Manila Fashion Festival. At that time, I hadn’t transitioned yet, and was casted as an androgynous model. I never really expected to get booked, but by luck or accident, Jaz Cerezo (who wasn’t at the casting) saw a photo of me after the casting and decided to book me not knowing I wasn’t a cis woman.
After walking for my first professional runway gig, I realized how much I loved the feeling modeling gave me. I’ve always been obsessed with fashion, but I never thought I’d actually be working as a model. My first walk with Jaz definitely opened up doors for me. I remember shooting for my first solo editorial for a magazine just a few months after that.
When I did decide to transition, I actually had doubts. I thought that it would hinder me from modeling since I would no longer be androgynous, per se. However, I think I’ve made the right decision as I’ve booked more high profile jobs after. I cannot explain in words how grateful I am for these opportunities.
Who were the models you looked up to, growing up?
Oh I definitely have looked up to Natasha Poly. She inspires me with her work ethic and despite achieving legend status in the industry, she makes sure to stay hardworking. One of my favorite quotes from her is: “When you are a new girl with a unique face and a good body, people want you on their runway or campaign. You are instantly popular. But after a while everyone gets used to your face, and that’s where your modeling talent and professionalism matters. In this industry, your relationships and connections are essential. You have to be a professional.”
Nowadays, I’ve been so into Teddy Quinlivan. Now that woman’s a QUEEN. She’s a model who recently came out as transgender. I find her so refreshing. I think what makes her relevant today, is her personality rather than her beauty. I love how she’s so outspoken and is not afraid to speak her mind. She’s so funny too!
What are the struggles you still face as a transgender woman model?
I can say that I’ve been so lucky to have experienced what I have, but I know there are still a lot of clients here in the Philippines that either don’t hire trans models or only hire them for novelty. I think the biggest struggle every trans model faces is that some clients see their gender identity first, before seeing their potential as a model.
Do you think the local modeling industry is more inclusive to transgender models now?
The modeling industry has definitely gone so far in terms of diversity. More people are open to hiring trans models. I also think trans models are very much respected by their peers and not looked down upon. I really do see a bright future for trans models in the local modeling industry.
Do you have a dream campaign or runway show you want to be part of, someday?
It’s to book another campaign for a brand with values that resonates with me much like how Skinni Swim did. Working with Skinni not only opened up so much opportunities for me but it also gave me a new family who made me discover things about myself I never thought were there before. They empower women of all kinds, giving each of their models the confidence to be comfortable in their own skin no matter what shape, size, and age.
I’m pretty sure there are so much more brands out there who are good to the core. I can’t wait to work with them!
What's next for you?
I’ve recently worked on an exciting beauty campaign. It’s my first high profile one and I am beyond excited to share it with you guys! (Stay tuned on my Instagram account!) I have a good feeling that this will open up even more doors for me and I’m very thankful to have done it!
Oh and one more thing, my boyfriend has been teaching me how to program lately. I think it's so nerdy. Just kidding, it's cute! I’ve definitely gotten interested in it with how fast digitalization is going. Who knows, it might come in handy one day! (Watch out brands! I can model for your campaigns and create your websites or apps while at it!)
*Answers have been edited for clarity.
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