WHEN Ria Bolivar and Rachel Santillan met at a fashion show in Australia, their connection was immediate. Both hailing from Iloilo City, they bonded over shared experiences, a common heritage and a passion for fashion.
So the two supermodels thought of something to give back to the industry that has been kind to them. They decided to conduct a modeling workshop, which is fast becoming a cottage industry in the big cities in the country. It’s also a way for models to earn income while fashion shows are off-season.
“I’ve taught in several modeling workshops in the past but I’ve always wanted to do things differently. So when I met Rachel in Sydney and found out she had plans to host a workshop of her own at the time, we eventually decided to partner up instead,” Ria reveals. “Ria and I have been in the modeling industry for several years now. Before we started our career as a model, we both had zero knowledge about the modeling industry. There wasn’t any guidebook that we could have referred to back then,” Rachel says.
As the country’s catwalk queen, Ria has first dibs at all the big Manila and international shows of Filipino designers. But when she got married and gave birth to baby Liam, she opted to settle in her hometown. “Being in Iloilo and being a mother to a 1-year-old son definitely make it much harder to get booked in Manila or other major cities, but I still get to work from time to time, especially if the offer covers the flight,” Ria says. “Managing my career without an agent has never been easy, but fortunately I had good friends throughout my career who were there to help me in times of need.”
For her part, Rachel has returned to her roots only 18 months ago after living in Australia and Europe. “Iloilo City’s fashion scene has definitely seen a lot of development and growth over the years. Ilonggo designers promote our very own handloom textiles, such as hablon or patadyong, which are the fabric focus for gala shows. The city also becomes a busy factory for making clothes and accessories. It also gives income to so many, including production people and models.”
The stunning, long-legged Ilonggas believe in the importance of sharing their knowledge and experiences. So they conducted the Passion for Fashion Modeling Workshop to help those who want to join the industry but don’t know how and where to begin.
“Whether it’s simply to improve self-presentation or to become a model, our workshops aim to deliver a positive, confidence-boosting experience and provide modeling tips for young participants and adults alike,” Rachel explains.
The programs include modeling tips and industry overview; health and well-being; grooming and etiquette; hair, makeup and styling; photographic workshops; and catwalk lessons and runway trainings, which not only help to display confidence, but also empower girls and young women when responding to casting calls, auditions, job interviews and everyday interaction with people.
“And if they do happen to become a model, then they’ll be all the more prepared to get their career started on the right foot,” says Rachel, who was a reluctant model until she was signed on the spot by Chadwick Model Management, the same agency that handled Elle MacPherson.
Anyone between the ages of 6 to 12 for the kids group and 13 and up for the teens and adults group can join for a fee of P5,000. The workshop last November lasted four days spread across the month, every Saturday in The Mansion hotel in Iloilo, with the first three days, involving talks about careers in modeling, exercises for proper runway techniques and photo shoots to practice posing in front of a camera.
“Some of our participants were interested in a professional career in modeling. Others were there to develop their skills, boost their confidence and learn how to carry themselves,” Ria says. “Us teachers, on the other hand, were looking to create a new platform for young aspiring models to learn about modeling in a more unique, hands-on kind of way. Our goal wasn’t just to teach runway modeling but to help with personal development, as well.”
Modeling, Rachel adds, gave her so many experiences, with all the traveling and exposure to global cultures. But her most memorable experiences have been working with designers and creative individuals who are visionaries in their field. “Although more jobs may be available in larger cities, competition for these jobs is expected to be very strong,” Rachel says.
“Aspiring models may have the best job opportunities in smaller cities like Iloilo, working for smaller modeling agencies, local clients and businesses.”
With that reality in mind, Ria and Rachel will return for another round of knowledge giving. “We will be holding our second Passion for Fashion Modeling Workshop this summer,” Ria promises. “But for now I’m keeping myself busy with gigs in my local area.”
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