Wednesday, January 11, 2017

SM Woman: Where are the Filipino Models?

I'll get right down to it. Growing up with everyone telling you that you should have lighter skin and more Caucasian features, e.g. high-bridged nose, long limbs, big round eyes, sucks, especially when you're brown, barely five feet tall, and have a tiny nub for a nose. Turn on the TV and all the main characters in teleseryes seem to belong to a different world. Let's go back in time - in the 50s, when Filipino actors looked even more Caucasian, as if they came from Denmark or Germany or Hollywoodland.

As someone who has traveled quite a bit, I have always been extra sensitive to hints of discrimination. Not because I'm paranoid, but only because I know it happens. You go abroad, you turn on your racism detector, and step away ever so slowly when it starts beeping. I am happy to announce that the only time I felt remotely discriminated against was when I was a young teenager in one of the shops in Hong Kong. Well it probably wasn't even a case of racism, but merely a case of an innocent girl encountering a rude person, who tsked-tsked behind me and sighed audibly while I was looking at socks at an Esprit store. I turned to her and saw her roll her eyes. She was probably thinking, "You can't afford socks here." and I so wanted her to be a sales person there and see me buy all the socks I could find, and as I exited the store, I would smirk at her and say, "Big mistake. Huge!" But alas, that Pretty Woman moment was not meant to happen.

Anyway, that was the closest thing to discrimination that I ever experienced, until now. I recently saw this SM Woman ad on Facebook and I noticed that none of the models were Filipina. And I live in the Philippines. Man, the fashion industry here must be so cutthroat if Filipino models need to compete, not only with one another, but also with foreign models who look like Hollywood stars. A model, in my opinion, should represent the people they are modeling for. I didn't realize we, all of a sudden, turned into Brazilians.

Hey, I am all for giving the job to the best person. But the color of your skin should never give you an edge over people of other races or ethnicity. Why do SM Woman models have to be white in a country filled with brown people? Is there a logical explanation to this? I can imagine Ikea catalogues printed in Sweden to have platinum blond couples with platinum blond children washing the dishes in their pristine kitchens. But how do these white models fit in our very Filipino lives? Does a Filipina suddenly become Caucasian when she wears SM clothes?

It is sad to think that in 2017, some people still think there is only one kind of beauty. It is like saying there is only one literary genre worth reading, or only one kind of film worth watching. That if you enjoy drama, you can't enjoy comedy. Or if you love fiction, you cannot possibly enjoy nonfiction. I see a lot of beautiful Filipino women on social media. And I'm not even saying that they should all look morena. There are mestizas and chinitas, too, for they, too are Filipino. But these models are not. And that is sad.

I can't believe I'm going to say this - but it's sad that we have to clamor for diversity to be included. No, I'm not a model. I'm just someone who writes. And I think Filipino models should speak up about these things, without fear of offending their colleagues. It is a legitimate issue, an issue, I believe worth discussing.