Response to "Rise of the Asian Male Supermodel"


Last month, published a photo article done by photographers Idris & Tony entitled “Rise of the Asian Male Supermodel.” With the intent to shine the light on a gender and a race that is significantly underrepresented in the modeling industry, the photographers did a photo shoot with the likes of Sung Jin Park, Phillip Huang, JaeYoo and Daisuke Ueda.

Once I saw the headline, I immediately clicked the link. Firstly, “Rise of the Asian Male Supermodel” are not words you usually see in the same line. Secondly, I guess it hit a little close to home for me and I was intrigued.

I think by Pilipino standards, I look “mixed,” - thanks to my parents for those genes, I suppose. I have a fairer complexion, a bit mestizo-looking despite being full Pilipino. Ever since I can remember, most Pilipino adults that I encountered have told me to “just be a model or an artista.” It’s okay - you can roll your eyes at this part. At family parties, my mom would introduce me to friends and I was programmed to say “Thank you po” every time I’d hear “Ay ang guapo mo iho!” Later on, when asked what I planned on studying, no one really wanted to listen to my responses about being a journalist (which is what I originally pursued in college); they would jokingly tell me to go back home and just be a model or a celebrity... in the Philippines. 

Never have I ever heard someone say “You should be a model here in the States.” Not that I think my 5’6” stature or my lack of a six pack would really work to my advantage if I did pursue something like that here, but I do find it interesting that a Pilipino guy like me could only be deemed “marketable” among fellow Pilipinos and not on a world stage.

So when I scrolled down through the photo article and reached the bottom of the page, I was a bit bummed that out of 15 supermodels featured, not a single one was Pilipino. The text of the interview with Idris & Tony mentioned that they had also wanted to shoot Paolo Roldan, a Pilipino-Canadian supermodel who has been featured in Vogue, but weren’t able to do so in this series. But otherwise, where were the Pilipinos? Where were the guys that look like me? Where were the guys whose titos and titas told them they should be models? Where were the guys to serve as role models for young Pinoy men trying to break into the industry? 

Perhaps there just aren't any. And that’s a shame.

Another thing I found interesting in the article was that a lot of the models featured are mixed, mostly Eurasian. So yes, there is a rise of the Asian Male Supermodel, yet how authentic is that headline? I get it though -- “The Sort-Of-But-Not-Really Rise of the Asian Male Supermodel” takes up way too many characters to be easily tweeted.

I do appreciate the spirit of the photo article and the dialogue that Idris & Tony aim to spark within the fashion community. They can’t be faulted for not including a Pilipino male supermodel if there simply is none.

However, I think this absence of Pinoy supermodels in the international scene might be perpetrated by how Pilipinos view their own. Look up a BENCH runway show and you’ll see quite a few quality guys. If they’re good enough for home, they’re certainly good enough for the rest of the world. And it all starts with believing that might actually be true.

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