Find out how these Filipinas have earned the spotlight—from a world class ballerina, multi-awarded stage actress, and even an “Asian Kate Moss”—there’s just no ignoring them.
You may not have ever spoken to Lea Salonga, but you will most likely have heard her voice. Her first major role in international theater was in Miss Saigon, for which she won an Olivier, a Tony, a Drama Desk, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Theatre World Award—a feat that until today is unrivaled. She was also the first Asian to portray the roles of Eponine and Fantine in the musical Les Miserables, in the 10th and 25th Anniversary Concert, respectively. She later on landed the singing voices in Disney films like Aladdin (as Princess Jasmine) and Mulan (as Fa Mulan). And just like a fairytale, Lea, along with Jodi Benson (the singing voice of Ariel) and Paige O’Hara (the singing voice of Belle), was officially honored a Disney Legend in 2011, an award that recognizes people who have made exemplary contributions to The Walt Disney Company. - Jared Millan
Famously known for being a prima ballerina, Lisa Macuja has performed more than 300 principal roles in some 81 cities around the world. In 1984, she was the first foreign soloist to ever join the famed and Russian-dominated Kirov Ballet (now known as the Mariinksy Ballet)—a 260-year old institution in dance. Today she is the Artistic Director of Ballet Manila and Vice-Chairman of the Philippine UNESCO National Commission. Like a fitting applause, her numerous contributions to Ballet Manila has earned her the title, “ballerina of the people.”- Jared Millan; Photos courtesy of Ballet Manila
If you can’t find ‘em, make ‘em. Cebuana-born Monique Lhuillier’s career began in 1995 when after discovering the lack of fashionable gowns for her wedding, decided to create her own. Her first collection was launched in 1996. Since then, she has a become a household name in the fashion industry—creating her own lines of evening dresses, earning various red carpet fashion awards, and garnering high-profile Hollywood celebrity clients such as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. One can only imagine how far Monique would have gone if she wasn’t happy with her shoes. – Jared Millan
Josie Natori’s brand is known in some 40 countries and includes lingerie, ready-to-wear clothing, swimwear, home products, fragrance, and eyewear. The Natori Company, where she is CEO, has been around for more than 30 years and going strong, generating about US$100 million in annual retail sales.
However, for Natori, it’s all about giving back; a factory she set up in the Philippines handles about half of her company’s production. Proving that good karma comes around, Natori eventually received the highest honor that can be awarded to a Filipino civilian in 2007, the Lakandula Award. – Isabel Templo
Coming from three generations of family jewelers, it’s hard not to recognize the trademark craftsmanship that goes into Bea Valdes’ handcrafted accessories, which have appeared in magazines from Vogue to Vanity Fair and seen on celebrities from Kate Hudson to Sharon Stone. From 1999-2000, Bea served as the design consultant for the Philippine Presidential Palace but her career took a turn when in 2005, Vogue USA described her work as that year’s “must-have evening bags.” To date, her creations–from bags to necklaces to headresses–have been spotted in more than 20 Vogue issues. – Anika Ventura
In 2011, Danica Magpantay proved that Filipina beauty is truly world-class. She is the first Filipina to win first place at one of the world’s most prestigious modeling contests, Ford Supermodel of the World. Coincidentally, her mother Lala Flores was Supermodel of the World Philippines in 1990. “She was one of those, a natural,” says BJ Pascual, Danica’s photographer during her first test shoot. Since then, she has graced the runways of both Philippine and New York Fashion Week, modeling for Levi’s, Porter Grey, Tim Hamilton, and Norman Ambrose, among others. – Pat Nabong; Photo by Phillip Angert for Levi’s
Only 14 yet already 5’10”, Samantha Gomez has more than one reason to stand tall. This towering beauty from Angeles, Pampanga clinched the grand prize and Photogenic Award in the Ford Supermodel of the World Philippines in 2011, the youngest in the year’s batch of contestants. Local newspaper Business Mirror describes Samantha as “a dazzling gazelle with legs so endless Elle Macpherson, Oluchi Onweagba and Nadja Auermann will weep.” She received her first modeling stint at the age of 12 and today she models for popular local brands like Oxygen, Penshoppe, and Human. What were you doing when you were 14? – Joshua Lagandaon; Photos by Jo Ann Bitagcol and courtesy of CalCarrie’s International Models Philippines
Charo Ronquillo: The “Asian Kate Moss”
Charo Ronquillo was once a boyish 12-year-old girl from Laguna who dreamt of walking the runway. Five years later, she won third place at Ford Supermodel of the World in 2006. Dubbed as the “Asian Kate Moss” because of the similarity of their features, the former president of Ford Models Inc., Bill Ford, gave emphasis on “her unique look from the Philippines,” which has landed her modeling stints for brands like Lacoste and Kenneth Cole and editorials in glossies such as Marie Claire and Vogue. – Pat Nabong; Photo by Bien Bautista; Location: Amanpulo resort