February is never a good time to go to New York, especially when weather reports use phrases like “polar vortex” and “arctic freeze,” forecasting the city’s coldest temperatures in 20 years. Nevertheless, we proceeded to go ahead with our shoot with Pia Wurtzbach.
This all started right after she won the Miss Universe title. I got an email from my good friend, noted photographer Nigel Barker, asking, “Why don’t we shoot Miss Universe?” I then spoke to Pia’s manager Jonas Gaffud to facilitate the appointment in New York. Once they said yes and approved of the dates, I contacted my favourite hotel in New York, the Baccarat Hotel, asking if we could do the shoot there. Meanwhile, Nigel gave me some names for hair and make-up, and referred me to Next Model for the stylist. There were different options for the clothes, both local and international, but in the end I decided to ask Monique Lhuillier, making the feature about two Filipina women in the international spotlight and making the country proud.
Via a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila, with an hour’s stopover in Vancouver, I arrived in New York two days prior to the shoot. Pictorial day started early, 7:30 am, at the Baccarat Hotel. I did the ocular with Nigel, also making sure that the suite for the shoot was ready. Naheed Hadjisoffi, our stylist, had all the clothes and accessories prepared. At exactly 8 am, Pia arrived with her manager Esther Swan, holding a coffee cup, and proceeded to the suite.
When she was ready, we photographed Pia first at the petit salon, then the grand salon, and finally at the Baccarat bar. The team was extra careful not to hit any of the multimillion-dollar Baccarat chandeliers with their hefty equipment. I wasn’t sure if we could play music during the shoot as there were other guests at the hotel lobby; but the hotel gave its go signal so I asked Pia for her favourite tunes—hip-hop and, towards the end, some classic Madonna.
All in all, there were about 15 of us at the shoot, including Isabel Francisco and her friend Tiffany Kontoyiannis, who took care of the behind the scenes photos and the accompanying video of this story, which can be viewed on our website.
By 1 pm, the last photograph was taken at the bar (our cover shot). Nigel took some more individual and group shots and called it a day. Then, I met Pia three days after for our interview at Rue 57 restaurant. We are elated with the story, which you can read on page 202.
Right after the shoot, I stayed on for another week to catch some shows since it was fashion week. (Thank you to SSI for securing the highly coveted invitations.) The first was the Monique Lhuillier show, which fell on the coldest day, but I braved the weather and saw a beautiful collection. The other shows were Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Marc Jacobs. It was such a treat to see my idols, such as Anna Wintour, Carine Roitfeld, and Suzy Menkes. Other highlights of my trip were seeing the Jacqueline de Ribes exhibition at the Met, catching some Broadway shows, shopping at the new Barney’s store in Chelsea, and checking out the members-only clubs Neue House, Norwood, and Soho House.
I am very proud of this issue, and hope you like the outcome as well.
Photographer: Nigel Barker | Stylist: Naheed Hadjisoff | Assistant Stylist: Suong Phan | Make-Up: Leah Bennett | Hair: Kristi Wilczopolski | Clothes: Monique Lhuillier F/W 2016 Collection | Location: Baccarat Hotel, New York