NAIMA: More Than Just A Top Model

by Marane A. Plaza

America’s Next Top Model is without a doubt the biggest modelling competition in TV history. It has grown into more than just an American TV show, as the franchise has produced over 30 global versions. And still, one of the favorite Top Model winners ever is Naima Mora.

Naima first made the world fall in love with her when she debuted on ANTM’s Cycle 4 with her Mohawk hairstyle, and beauty as resplendent as her personality. But more than anything, she was remarkable for the way she performed at the reality TV contest. She won 4 mini-challenges, 9 Cover Girl of the Week, and two first call-outs during her run. And of course, she was named America’s Next Top Model Cycle 4 winner.

These days, she effortlessly dazzles in front of the camera and on the runway, but Naima did not always have modelling as her top priority. A serious student of ballet, Mora attended Detroit’s Ballet Renaissance in Michigan where she grew up. When she decided to move to New York, she was supposed to further study ballet at the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

“I was actually scouted for the show. I was working at a coffee shop in New York City that hired a lot of models and actors. The casting team found me there and asked me to audition. I was really nervous about the audition, but decided to be honest and be myself,” Naima shared.

“When I moved to NYC to study ballet, my roommate at the time was a makeup artist and asked me to model for her a lot. That really spiked my interest in modelling.”

She also recalls that modelling has always been somehow connected to her. “My mom actually wanted us to model one year when my twin sister and I were very young. I remember her dressing us up, and taking pictures of us in the living room. It’s a very dear memory to me.”

Artistic Roots 

Naima Mora grew up in Detroit, Michigan with a twin sister named Nia and four other sisters. Her mother is a jazz vocalist, while her father is a jazz percussionist. Her paternal grandparents are artists. Her grandfather is a painter and sculptor, while her grandmother is a printmaker. In fact, a black marble bust art made in 2001 by her grandma Elizabeth Catlett was titled “Naima”. The model inspired the art with her “very dynamic personality”, as the artist herself shared. Growing up with such a colorful art background has definitely molded Naima.

“It is absolutely wonderful growing up in a household of such colorful personalities. My parents taught me to express myself and to be bold. My grandmother taught me to be disciplined and focused on my successes. It is really a blessing to have had them in my life. My parents actually named me after a jazz song by John Coltrane. My name means ‘serenity, calm or fresh’,” she said.

Her strong artistic background is why Naima has easily recreated herself in different genres of art and entertainment after her ANTM stint. She appeared on the season 2 premiere of hit TV series Veronica Mars, and filmed an independent film called Sarbanes-Oxley. She also released some music, which is a natural turn for her. She became the vocalist of bands Chewing Pics and Galaxy of Tar.

“I have always loved music because my parents are musicians. They raised me and my sisters in a very musical household,” she said. “I released a dance album called ‘Dancing In Starlight’ on my YouTube page. As of now though, my focus is on modelling and acting, but I am sure something musical will come along someday soon.”  

Beyond Top Model

ANTM and fashion fans have stayed smitten with Naima after many years since her win because of the way she has shared her journey– keeping it inspiring, and real.  

“My experience was something a little different from what a normal model goes through. I was actually famous before I knew a lot of what I was actually doing,” she narrated. “I still had to learn the ropes and ins and outs of the industry, while navigating being a household name. A lot of clients actually didn’t want to work with me because I was on a reality TV show.”

Although being a winner of America’s Next Top Model meant having global fame and celebrity perks, the stunner noted that it was not a total walk in the park towards being a real working model post-ANTM.

“It was very taboo at the time in the fashion industry. I had to work very hard to prove that I was good as a model. It took a few years longer than I expected, but I never gave up and I relied a lot on the support from my fans all over the world,” she said.

Since her win, Naima has walked for some of the world’s biggest fashion events such as New York Fashion Week, graced many pages of various international fashion magazines, and modelled for numerous brand campaigns.

“I have done a lot of campaigns and editorials. I have a client in the British Virgin Islands called The Islander Swimwear. Traveling there to do those campaign shoots has always been a dream.”

Aside from the glamorous side of modelling, being an inspiration to fans has always been Naima’s favorite thing about being a model celebrity. So much so, that she has authored a book titled Model Behavior. The book is meant to help her fans- both aspiring models and fashion fans alike- to stay inspired and motivated.   

“I have had fans reaching out to me online since I won ANTM. I really wanted to create something tangible for them to be able to be inspired by,” the model slash book author said. “The book is all about my life experiences and adventures in the fashion industry. In short, it’s an inspirational book for young people.”

“I have always loved writing, so it was a dream come true for me to publish it. Last year, I had a re-release of the book and toured my book signings to Harvey Nichols in England and Atelier Cologne in New York City. I can’t wait to write another one!”

Model Behavior

While pop culture may link the phrase model behavior to being a diva, Naima has been effortlessly redefining the meaning of it into a real good, positive thing. With her book Model Behavior, Naima highlights her personal insights and stories from her own journey– from living a consciously healthy lifestyle to overcoming adversities in the fashion industry.

Aside from her book, Naima has been very creative in terms of sharing her knowledge in the business of modelling, as well as the fashion industry. Her podcast on Spotify called Model Tips Live is very educational and entertaining. And her free modelling workshops online have been very helpful to aspiring models worldwide.

“I want to give all the advice and instruction to aspiring models that I wish I had gotten when I first started off,” she said. “ANTM was a great experience, but it definitely did not prepare me for the real world of modelling.”

“I have learned so much and it’s taken me a little longer than I thought to learn the things I have. So now I am passing the baton to aspiring models of all ages. I’m showing them the ropes of the industry while building confidence and technique. This is a hands-on course where I work with each student individually!”

Besides teaching aspiring models the ins and outs of the business, this model and artist also uses her time with her many creative pursuits.

“I am actually doing a lot of photo shoots now, taking all the precautions as possible. I do a lot of art direction for my shoots and I love it. I just landed one of my shoots that I produced in Vogue Italia online. It is always very rewarding to see your work gets published,” she said.  “Another one of my shoots is published for Cosmopolitan KZ. I love to write as well, so it all comes together. I do a lot of shoots by myself as well, a simple set up with my phone camera and a dramatic light.“

For this September Issue of Stylish Magazine, Naima actually exclusively produced these amazing editorial photos.    

“I wanted to create something simple and beautiful that reflected me as a person. A lot of times we see models dressed up in all kinds of crazy clothes for a grand editorial shoot. This time, I wanted to make something simple and pretty,” she said.

Top Model Influence

Naima has always been known for using her voice and influence in advocating diversity in beauty and fashion. She has been teaching her students about embracing different types of beauty on her online workshops.

“My online course is one thing, as I am teaching models of all ages, backgrounds and diverse cultures to be the next wave of models to take the industry by storm,” she said.

Naima has shown over and over that hard work and determination really do pay off at the end of the day, despite various hardships. She has these pieces of advice to share to aspiring models:   

“Follow your dreams, work hard and never give up. You’ve got to take your career in your own hands and decide what you want. There is no time to second guess yourself. Love who you are and let it shine all over the world.”  

“I’ve been told no so many times, that now it’s a drop in the bucket. I’ve been given almost every excuse from people that I couldn’t model, even after winning ANTM,” Naima said. “My career is proof that being different is the new norm.” 

Indeed, Naima has come a long way from being a top model, to an actual role model.

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THE CREATIVE SPECTRUM OF RICHIE RICH

by Marane A. Plaza

Long before influencers on Instagram were a thing, ‘90s New York had Club Kids— and the most fashionable was Richie Rich. But Club Kids were definitely more than just giving rise to influence on a platform. Club Kids were a social revolution, hyper creativity, gender-bending forces of style and larger-than-life representation of what nightlife and pop culture was like emanating from New York. Thus, Club Kids were setting a new trend throughout the world pre-millenium.

All that music-filled, dance floor gyrating, sexy energy transitioned into wild self-expression in the nightlife scene, and Club Kids were the off-the-wall queen bees. They would spend an entire day creating their outlandish clubbing, fashion looks that their party personas would wear for the night. This overflowing artistry presented an alternative culture for the city, as the group of Club Kids turned clubbing into an international phenomenon. Soon they’d become regular guests at various national TV talk shows, red-carpet events, fashion shows, and radio stations in America, and in different parts of the world. And Richie Rich was getting loads of attention. 

Though initially introduced to the public as one of the flamboyant Club Kids, Richie Rich successfully transformed himself into everyone’s favourite fashion designer by 2000s. He designed iconic looks including for Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw at the height of the Sex and the City series popularity. “When I got to NYC I quickly saw that Patricia Field was setting all the trends in fashion here and internatinationaly in a big, big way. So when she approached me to lend a design for the show, that changed fashion forever with her style vision I was gagging. And Pat is still changing fashion today, and I will never be able to thank her enough or show my love for her enough for putting me on the fashion map”, Richie shared with us. 

That kicked off the launch of his very own clothing line Heatherette along with designer Traver Rains. “I couldn’t have done this brand without linking up with Traver Rains and Zach Augustine. We built a powerhouse together!” Richie stated. Heatherette became an instant cult favourite– as worn by Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Gwen Stefani, Paris Hilton, Mariah Carey, Aerosmith, Britney Spears, and other famous faces. The fashion brand had become a regular on the many seasons of New York Fashion Week too, as his creations were walked down the runway season after season. Heatherette also had a highly sought-after collaboration with MAC Cosmetics and the launch was attended by Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and Teyana Taylor. All while Richie continued touring around the world as a well-known personality, trend-setter, taste-maker and a music performer. “We started doing photo shoots by our friend David LaChapelle, and styled by the fabulous Patti Wilson. We started to show on the runway – Paris Hilton walked in our first Heatherette show with Amanda Lepore. They became our muses.” 

Soon, the fashion glitteratti dubbed Richie Rich as “New York’s McQueen”. The designer recounts that it was definitely a dream come true for him. 

“Designing began from when I was a little kid, drawing my Halloween costumes that my mom would also help create with me. I always knew I’d wrap my world around fashion, music and pop culture all swirled together. I constantly have ideas and images going through my creative DNA,” he said.

RICH BEGINNINGS, RICH ARTISTRY 

“I was born in New Jersey with my two older brothers. All of us were very close in a very loving household,” the designer narrated. “My father worked in NYC and he and my mother took us some weekends to see Broadway shows. That is where my young, creative mind exploded! The dancing, the energy– I wanted to stand up in the audience and sing for everyone! When we would get back home, I would sketch the costumes I saw from the shows, putting my own twists on them!”

The creative energy of New York has always inspired the young Richie, and he knew he wanted to be based in the city that never sleeps someday–New York City. 

“I always wanted to live in the Big Apple, I mean who didn’t want to live in NYC? But we moved from New Jersey to California when I was young. So by then, I lived very near to San Francisco and I was getting an entirely fresh vibe on a beautiful culture,” he said. 

Always inclined into creativity and arts, Richie recalls a special moment in his school life when an art teacher gave him some books on Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Basquiat. “That art teacher would always tell me that I belonged in the Big Apple. So I would read and read and read those books! I knew one day I would get there!” 

“I always did theatre in school. In San Francisco, I also formed a band called ‘Richie Rich and the Tambourines’”, he recalled. “I would write songs.” Aside from performing, sketching clothes and making music, Richie was also very into figure skating. 

“Growing up, my parents Carol and Joe, would take us to a show called ‘The Ice Capades’. I became interested in figure skating, and soon I was competing. I always made what I wore for competitions. From my ice skating days, my mom would sew my outfits based on the designs in my sketches, and I would wear them for all my competitions. The other kids on the ice all wanted to know where to buy my looks!”

Soon, Richie was invited to be one of the stars of the show. “By 18 years old, I was offered to audition for the show I had seen years before with my family– ‘The Ice Capades’ by a big Hollywood agent. And next thing I know, I found myself joining the show,” he beamed.

“I flew on a wire in the arenas and worked with magicians, tigers and even a lion! It was amazing to fly first class, get picked up in big limousines and learn about the touring life when I was figure skating!”

REACHING RICH

It was also in his teenage years when Rich would first discover the fun in clubbing.

“I was going to the clubs with my friends, getting dressed up together even though sometimes we didn’t know how we would ever get in, but we did so by the way we presented ourselves in our glitter inspired ‘looks’. The official first club my fabulous friend Kenya took me to in San Francisco was called the Ibeam. It was an amazing paradise! I was a total fish out of water but I worked it! The club owner noticed me and hired me on the spot to dance at the bar– in my sequins!” 

When the owner asked the future designer what his ‘stage name’ was, he immediately yelled Richie Rich. “My friends in school called me that!” he said. 

“For going out, I created clothes that I couldn’t get my hands on, or what didn’t exist,” he said. “People started to call me a club kid and unbeknownst to me, there was a movement starting to happen in NYC,” he said. “Although I was dancing in the clubs in San Francisco, I knew New York was calling in my heart.” 

TURNING POINT

“So one weekend in San Francisco, the Club Kids from New York came to town and held a contest and I won it!” 

Winning that contest started Richie Rich’s publicity blitz, and was an introduction of Richie Rich the superstar to the world. The contest organizers went back to New York, and immediately put posters of the image of Richie Rich all over the sides of some buildings for the opening of a big, new, fabulous club in New York.

“I didn’t know anybody in New York, but I had no fear– just excitement! I dreamed big and I always believed in my positive energy. I was having so much fun! My art teacher had introduced me to the iconic artists of NYC through books, and all those times I had always wished big, and it was finally happening for me.”

The designer noted that by the time he was in NYC, he knew right away that he would change the game in culture and fashion. “Our fashion looks were all inspired by not having any rules, so you could be the ultimate version of yourself.”

Soon, the out-of-this-world stylings and dance club performances of Club Kids made such a huge craze in New York, and in the USA.

“For me, the moment I knew the Club Kids were getting our statements out there on individuality, fluidity and self-expression was when I was on The Joan Rivers Show. I would get fanmails like crazy from kids who wanted to join our posse,” he said. 

It was this era when the Club Kids had truly started the conversation on gender fluid style. “Having inspirations from Bowie, Debbie Harry, Leigh Bowery, Boy George and Madonna, gender was never a question with the Club Kids. Our motto has always been, ‘be yourself’,” he said. 

“We didn’t realize the impact it would have as an inspiration as we started conversations on gender, self-expression and creativity. I believe we helped to spread love and confidence in the youth generation.”   

Rich would always dabble on music too while performing at the clubs. “While I was performing at a benefit, NYC club DJ and producer Larry Tee had seen me perform. Larry had become super famous and written the hit ‘Supermodel’ with Rupaul. When I moved to New York we recorded my song ‘Love You a Million’,” he said. 

“I then recorded a cover of ‘Magic’ from the cult-classic film Xanadu and remixed it for the clubs. I also wrote ‘Collision’, and did other music collaborations with amazing artists in NYC. It became a thing for me, and I toured in the US, Europe and Japan. So much fun! My original outlet into my music was the clubs. That is clearly what led to my musical journey and inspiration. I’m still writing fun songs as we speak,” Richie said.

During his club stints, TV appearances and performances, Richie Rich has always stood out with his fashion choices. “Three of my favorite fashion staples among my Club Kid creations would be my big vanity hand mirrors to start conversation with people, my roller skates which I would wear down my runways, and the hand-beaded sequined jacket I wore years later on The Joan Rivers Show,”  the designer said.

“As I was creating my looks for the clubs, I was asked a lot by people to create pieces for them. It was then that nightlife impresario and social-scene legend Susanne Bartsch encouraged me to put my collection in her friend’s boutique. Susanne has an amazing relationship with the fashion industry and looks so fabulous in everything!”’

By 1999, Richie Rich and co-founder Traver Rains founded fashion brand Heatherette, just in time for Richie’s perfect transition from a fashionista celebutante to a respected fashion designer and visionary.

Heatherette became an instant iconic fashion line since its launch, a fashion toast of New York. It has become a constant on the runways of New York Fashion Week for many seasons, ramped by supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kimora Lee-Simmons and heiress Paris Hilton, and even Ellen Degeneres to name a few, and often featured by Vogue Magazine and other top fashion publications in the world. Heatherette was carried by more than a hundred stores in the US, and had its own in-store boutique at Macy’s in Herald Square in New York. 

The brand also dressed up Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw on the hit HBO series Sex and the City. 

A couple of the fashion critiques’ raved collections of Heatherette are its NYFW RTW Fall 2007 collection, and its NYFW RTW Fall 2008 collection the following year. The Fall 2007 RTW show was a runway fashion take on The Wizard of Oz titled “Over the Rainbow”—made of uber colorful yet wearable pieces of mini and maxi dresses, jumpsuits to even leather trench dresses, mixed with outrageous fashion numbers you could only expect from a Heatherette runway show. Meanwhile, the Fall 2008 show was dubbed as “Star-Spangled Smiles”, a series of red, white and blue creations, some with gingham prints, others with camouflage while others are simply Americana-inspired, but the fabulous fashion kind. 

One remarkable Heatherette creation that would be documented as its most timeless and iconic ones is the infamous Hello Kitty ensemble, which was first presented at the Mercedes-Benz runway show at the Los Angeles Fashion Week Fall 2003. The Hello Kitty x Heatherette fashion piece would later on be iconically showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Met Gala 2019’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibit. 

Heatherette also had a collab collection with MAC Cosmetics in 2008—a true pioneer endeavour that would only start the trend

Fashion became the center of Rich’s career, and after Heatherette he continued shocking the runways from Beverly Hills to Tokyo, with help from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Pamela Anderson, Dita Von Teese, Kelly Osbourne and Boy George. Celebrities, rock stars, and hip hop legends,throughout the globe called upon Rich for his camera-ready styles and one-of-a-kind designs that always catch attention and lots of fun.

NEW BEAUTY BEGINNING

Through the years, Richie Rich has become an icon and a fixture of the worldwide fashion, entertainment, and pop-culture scene. He has successfully made a name for himself as a bigger-than-life embodiment of glitz, glam, style and art.

These days, his passion is his very own virtual makeup world that’s been recently launched: BEAUTYKWEEN.com.

“I’m so excited for this epic, magic, rainbow ride into BEAUTYKWEEN by joining forces with the sought-after fashion-entertainment genius and brand hitmaker Mister D of Hollywood,” he said. “Nobody has their finger on the pulse of pop-culture like Mister D. Larry Namer, the founder of E! Television, is onboard as well. We are headed to the moon, the stars, and beyond with BEAUTYKWEEN!” Rich proudly declared.

Log on to the website and instantly, you will be blown away and be taken into a virtual world of glam and art. As a member of the virtual beauty club, you’d have access to different digital beauty shows worldwide, and be treated to the exclusive beauty secrets of the biggest names in Hollywood. 

“Together, we are at the helm of THE next generation beauty empire! It’s a new experience for makeup junkies everywhere! It is the new “it”-spot on the internet– the world’s first cyber beauty club that everyone has only dreamed of! And of course all my famous friends are already asking me about BEAUTYKWEEN. And a whole new set of Club Kids will now be born out of it. Everyone can join the fun and become a member at www.beautykween.com! So get ready for the glam, cause everybody is a star and the glitter will be oozing out of your mobile phone!” Richie said.

CREATIVITY AND A DREAM

Richie Rich believes that fashion and art are always instrumental in sending revolutionary messages that inspire some changes in the society—as he had personally seen during his revolutionary days as a Club Kid, a music performer and a fashion designer. 

“When we get downtime, I have been so fortunate to do whatever outreach I can with local charities that help many less fortunate people cope with various situations. I try to also add my own silver lining to everyone I get to virtually meet these days, and let them know their rainbow is always shining! I continue to pray for everyone’s health, and safety.”

“These days, you can always catch me on my couch with a great pair of Chanel stilettos on at midnight mixing up future legendary colors that Pantone would be gagging for,” he said.

“I believe whenever society makes a conscious shift for positive change, it reflects onto the arts and fashion too, bringing creativity back to a sense of one’s DNA mixed with one’s DIY! That’s when fashion dreams really come alive! We all need to stick together and dream! My mantra has always been ‘Never stop dreaming and always ride that rainbow! BOOM!” 

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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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