FILIPINO AMERICAN MODEL Kelsey Merritt as she explores a beach in the Philippines where she said she wants to stay forever. (Facebook page of Kelsey Merritt)
Don’t look now but Filipino-American model Kelsey Merritt is breaking new ground for Filipinos in the world of fashion, as she has passed audition to become one of the models of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
On Facebook, an elated Merritt shared a photo of her in tears, while holding a bouquet of flowers. “We did it, Philippines!” she stated. “I’m walking in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018! I can’t believe this!”
The Filipino-American model with Pampango roots, now 21, and stands at five feet and eight inches, went on to enumerate colleagues who were instrumental in “making my dream come true.”
Merritt has long set her sights on participating in the iconic Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which has featured the likes of Tyra Banks, Gisele Bündchen, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum, and Adriana Lima.
Merritt moved to the US to pursue her modeling career full time, but only after she graduated with an AB Communications degree from Ateneo de Manila University in 2017, according to published reports of ABS-CBN, Coconuts Manila and other media groups.
It was gathered that Merritt managed to finish her course, Bachelor of Arts Major in Communication, at the Ateneo de Manila University in four years while she was flying in and out of the country for her modelling assignments.
The proud Ateneo graduate recounted her ordeal while studying and at the same time modelling. “It was not easy always flying more than 15 hours and then fighting jet lag, going to work the next day, and having to go home after work to finish papers or study for a test. It wasn’t easy trying to fight back sleep on the plane because I had so many readings to catch up on,” she stated.
Merritt added: “God knows how hard it was to constantly fly back and forth New York and London while still in school. I had to miss classes, but still make sure that I was on top of every thing. At the same time, I had no right to complain I was having a hard time because I was blessed with work. I was living my dream! People often ask me how I managed to do it, and all I say is that as long as you have your priorities straight and manage your time well, then it really can be done.”
In May 2018, she clinched her first-ever shoot with Victoria’s Secret for its active-wear line. More opportunities with the brand followed, particularly as a model for its online catalog, it was reported.
In what now appears to be a foreshadowing of her casting on the catwalk, Merritt, in June, was photographed by Australian lensman Russell James for the lingerie line of Victoria’s Secret. James is credited as the main photographer of the brand’s annual fashion show. His book “Backstage Secrets” chronicles a decade behind the scenes of the highly anticipated event.
Coconuts Manila and ABS-CBN reported that prior to Merritt, beauty queen Janine Tugonon became the first Filipino to be featured in a Victoria’s Secret promotional material. She was shown in an advertisement for the brand’s Pink line, for younger women.
Tugonon also auditioned to join the fashion show in 2016, but reportedly failed to make the cut, making Merritt the first Filipino to take the catwalk alongside international supermodels.
Merritt’s accomplishment immediately burned the social media with comments commending her while some questioned her looks as different from those of typical Filipinos.
The comely model said while she is not pure Filipino, she is more Filipino than the “pure” Pinoy who have not even visited the Philippines.
“Pinanganak ako sa Pilipinas at lumaki ako sa Pampanga. Tinapos ang pag-aaral ko sa Manila bago ako lumipat sa US last year (I was born in the Philippines and grew up in Pampanga. I finished my studies in Manila before I left for the US last year),” she wrote on social media.
“Mas Pinoy pa dugo ko kesa sa mga ‘pure’ na hindi pa nakatapak sa Pilipinas. I love my country and I’m proud where I came from,” she stressed.