This cover story goes beyond what happened that day when we had our fashion editorial shoot with Katarina Rodriguez. This narrative, for me, is a story of how I’ve thoroughly discovered that indeed, Katarina is the perfect choice for a project that aims to epitomize the definition of stylista in this day and age.

I first met Katarina at a press event for Sperry, when I was heading the Philippines’ marketing communications for the global shoe brand. We were launching Sperry’s Eco-Collection at the time, the brand’s selection of sneakers created from plastic bottles gathered from the sea. During the event, she passionately shared with me how she personally loved the idea that Sperry was making amazing shoes that were not only fashionable, but were doing good for the environment.  She shared that plastic bottles could really do some harm to the environment, and how she herself would pick up plastic bottles by the shores of Siargao, an island in the Philippines that she calls her second home.

Katarina is wearing a streetwear ensemble from YCMNG Studio by Yves Camingue

Katarina Rodriguez was Miss World Philippines 2018 titleholder when I met her. With her effortless grace, intimidating poise and mesmerizing beauty, it was almost easy to forget that Katarina after all first caught the world’s attention as a fierce chameleon model with classic Hollywood looks on Asia’s Next Top Model.

In 2014, 21-year-old Katarina entered the global fashion scene as one of the aspiring models on Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2. She finished the competition as the show’s third placer, behind Filipina model Jodilly Pendre and Malaysian winner Sheena Liam.

The prestigious modelling competition dubbed her as the show’s model version of an icon during the golden era of Hollywood: Elizabeth Taylor. The competition gave her opportunities to don high fashion pieces from plush brands such as Dior, Gucci and Prada during the show’s fashion editorial shoots. One of her challenges as a top model aspirant was that she was “too pretty” for the common mould of a high fashion model. But just like the real winner that she is in life, Katarina overcame the barriers along the way and made it as that cycle’s top 3.

She described the show as her entry opportunity to the world of fashion.

 

“I definitely learned a lot about fashion from Asia’s Next Top Model. In fact, this was my introduction to fashion and styling. Meeting and knowing fashion designers, and understanding what their brands stand for, and where their inspirations derive from taught me a lot of lessons about fashion. I’m blessed that I’d gotten to work with some of the legends in the Asian fashion industry because of the show,” Katarina narrated.

“When you model, you’re modelling a brand and what that brand believes in and stands for. The more you want to get casted, the more brands you’d have to understand from their very core,” she added.

Katarina shared that being part of Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2 “almost feels like a dream ago”.

“It was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much about a whole new world– the world of modelling and fashion. I learned more about other cultures, and of course, I’ve learned so much about myself,” she said.

Katarina found a whole new side of herself after the competition.  Not everyone could transition from a top model to a mainstream beauty queen, but Katarina did just that— successfully and seamlessly.

BEAUTY AND PURPOSE

Katarina Rodriguez is wearing a customized couture by Catherine Cavilte

After giving pride to the Philippines with her high-profile run on Asia’s Next Top Model, Aces and Queens founder Jonas Gaffud encouraged Katarina to train for beauty pageantry.

Katarina thoroughly trained under Gaffud’s wing. She then entered the Binibining Pilipinas 2017 competition, and won the Miss Intercontinental Philippines 2017 title.  She represented the Philippines at the Miss Intercontinental 2017 pageant held in Hurghadam Egypt, wherein she won first runner-up to Mexico’s Veronica Salas Vallejo. She also bagged the Miss Media Popularity award and first runner-up in the Best in National Costume segment of the competition.

“I would compare my transition from model to beauty queen to the transition of a girl becoming a young woman,” Katarina shared.

“Modelling teaches you to be raw, to be the very core of yourself. To act on instinct, be spontaneous, and let your personality shine. It’s about being who you are, naturally, and effortlessly.”

“Being a beauty queen, however, is much like being a professional athlete. It’s a lifestyle. You have to be a refined version of yourself. You have to be prepared for anything, and you have to be able to stand firm to your values and beliefs without offending anyone else,” she said.

In 2018, Katarina had yet again made headlines when she won the Miss World Philippines 2018 title. She once again represented the country abroad, this time in the Miss World competition in Sanya, China. She was one of the favorite contestants, but she failed to place in the semi-finals. Mexico’s Vanessa Ponce won the title.

Although she did not take home the Miss World crown, Katarina still cherishes her experience as a beauty queen as one of her life’s brightest milestones. “I have so many favorite ‘beauty queen’ moments. From the trainings to the preparations, to getting dressed every day. The entire two and a half years of my beauty pageant career was challenging, but was so much fun. It was my favourite time in my life so far,” she said. “Through beauty pageantry, I got to push my advocacy in empowering children. I became the ambassador of Save the Children Philippines. For me, that’s the most rewarding thing about being a beauty queen”.

THE REDEFINITION OF STYLISTA

Satin Dress by Mikee Andrei

Katarina’s fashion editorial shoot with Stylish e-Magazine was done on the same day when we taped the primer episode of Stylista TV, an upcoming fashion-based TV show wherein Katarina is set to be introduced as the host. This entire process allowed me to get to know Katarina Rodriguez more, and today, I can say that she is the perfect choice for the TV project set to empower women from all walks of life through the power of discovering self-love, style and well-being.

With the slogan “Style that empowers, creativity that inspires,” Stylista TV is definitely not your typical fashion-based TV program. It aims to epitomize what it is like to be a fashionista, or stylista, or a role model. It goes beyond fashion, and it goes beyond beauty. The upcoming show is all about finding your own brand of self-love, through the power of honing your style and protecting your well-being.

Katarina sees fashion the same way, an important tool to rediscover one’s empowerment.

“I absolutely believe that fashion can empower people. A lot of the leading figures in the fashion world have shaped a lot of the way the world works. On a smaller scale, simply dressing and styling yourself in a way that makes you feel good can change the mood and direction of a person’s entire day,” Katarina reiterated.

“One simple example is when I wear sleek workout clothes and fix up a bit before a workout. I don’t know what it is about fashion, but these days, I feel more enthusiastic to work out and even more focused, and the comfortable and feel-good vibe of the clothes I am wearing play a part in making me feel inspired. I’m sure many people can agree,” she shared.

The host said she loves casual and classic fashion, and the 1980s era of fashion too.  But she is gravitating towards sustainable fashion these days.

“Sustainable fashion can save the world in more ways than one. I think the fact that trends within the fashion world can somehow help make the rest of the world a better place, really gives people in the fashion industry such power to influence changing our planet for good,” she said.  “I also have been looking back on the trends from the past decades to draw some personal inspiration. I’m predicting that especially in these times, we’ll see a lot of fashion resurrections, like tie dye prints!”

Although very much used to the edge and fierceness of high fashion and the glitter and glam of being a beauty queen, these days Katarina also describes her current fashion mood and personal style as “island girl but make it fashion”.

Kat has been based in the island of Siargao all throughout the quarantine period placed in the country in the time of COVID-19. It is refreshing to see a beauty queen and top model doing some typical island girl activities on Instagram, such as surfing and playing with the waves, and working out and hanging out by the beach.

But just like a real queen that she is, she is also still saving the world on her own terms. Katarina has been very active encouraging people to extend help in the time of Covid-19 through her advocacies with Save the Children Philippines. With her influence, the non-profit organization has been able to gather funds to help affected people in the time of pandemic.  She has been sending messages that push a call for good quality of education for kids, revamping one’s career in the time of Covid-19 with WorkWise Asia, and of course raising funds for the needy–  all of which are connected to Save the Children Philippines.

She is also the ambassador and voice behind Teach Build Peace Movement, another non-profit group that advocates youth to be peace builders.

“In this time of pandemic, it is very important to do what we can to help those in need. And if that means using your voice and influence to inspire life-changing advocacies, then let us do that,” she said.

Aside from her work with Save the Children Philippines during pandemic, Katarina has also been in the forefront in the call for help to end hunger in the storm-stricken Siargao. “While we focus a lot on COVID-19 global pandemic, still there’s a lot of important things to do like to help those people who suffered from the stormy weather. I believe that part of living a fulfilling and purposeful life includes being part of a close-knit community where you can share, help and support the people you care about,” she said as she encourage people to support Siargao’s Be Nice, Give Rice campaign.

These advocacy-driven efforts are what have separated Katarina Rodriguez from a typical stylista. She has epitomized what a real model is— what one fashionista should aim to embody and aspire. While she can be high fashion with all the couture pieces she wears or be sleek with all these edgy streetwear statements, she can also tone it down, put her hair in a bun and do actual work to help people in her island home Siargao.  For Katarina, still the most fashionable thing in the world is to wear a good heart. To influence people to do good and be kind, to offer a hand where help is needed.

But of course, she believes it would not hurt if you do these good things in style, too. She believes that a little inside push through fashion is not bad.

“Wear what you feel makes your body attractive the way you want to. Sometimes the cuts of certain trends just won’t look the part on certain body types. This is where real self-love comes in. Understanding, and truly knowing your own body, is a form of self-love. Knowing what colors, prints, and the likes are flattering for you will definitely change the game for a person when it comes to styling oneself, and more so, to loving oneself,” she said.

“The best fashion advice I’d received, believe it or not, actually came from a man! My Ninong Archie, partner of fashion designer Bea Valdes, would always tell me ever since I was a little girl, ‘The simpler, the better’. The more I’ve discovered and found my individual style, I’ve realized that in a way, what my ninong would say to me became my fashion mantra, if not my life’s mantra,” she said

And Katarina is more than thrilled to share that mantra, and message of empowerment, self-love and hope on her new TV show, launching this 2020.

“To be the host of Stylista TV, the newest fashion-based TV show in the Philippines, almost feels like I’ve reached my diploma in fashion. The last 6 years of my life, I have been exposed to so many facets of the fashion world,  and now I have the honor of sharing all of that with all of you, and not only talk about fashion, but how important it is to find your place in the world by achieving your own sense of self-love, so you can also share that love to the world,” she concluded.

As the executive producer of Stylista TV in this time of “the new normal”, this is the kind of stylista that I would love girls and women to look up to. The kind that shamelessly wears a good heart be it in urban, high fashion places or casual spots in the island shores— with a beautiful soul dressed in feel-good style.

Photographed by Niel Santiago
Styled by Keith Angelo
Assisted by Dominic Moreno
Makeup by Janina Dizon
Hair by MJ Rone
Creative Directed and Produced by Marane Plaza

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