Filipina "It" Girls: 5 Empowered Young Women To Know This 2021
In every generation, there are women who capture the imagination and catch the attention of a country because of their beauty, elegance and charm. As the editor-in-chief of this magazine for 20 years, I have been privileged to meet such women who, rightfully, are daubed “It” Girls. The tag line was first used in the early 20th century and were given to women belonging to upper British society who had appeal, allure and are especially engaging. Some of the “It” Girls of years past are Claudia Bermudez, Ina Ayala, Samantha Eduque, Kit Zobel, Bea Valdes, Mandy de la Rama-Santos, Celine Lopez and Wendy Puyat.
The next incarnation of that list pushed it further by achieving celebrity status and even having TV shows aptly named “It” Girls. The list included Georgina Wilson, Solenn Heussaff, Liz Uy, Belle Daza and Anne Curtis.
Today’s five ladies possess everything their predecessors were admired for. Because of the changing times, these women are global thinkers who manifest a greater level of empowerment. Here is our 2021 list:
1/5 Paloma Urquijo Zobel
Our January 2021 cover girl reappears, this time on my hot list. She is a woman with a truly carefree spirit, as shown by her passion for life and in her fashion sense. She is a modern-day bohemian, just like her mum, Bea Zobel Jr, and younger sister Monica. I remember when we were doing the shoot last December how she was very grateful and excited that she had a free hand in the look and feel of the shoot. Thus were achieved the stunning images by Shaira Luna that captured the beauty, colour, joie de vivre and brilliance of this lady.
As everyone probably knows, she is the creative director of Piopio the lifestyle collective that’s making a big mark in the fashion industry. Since her first exposure to the beautiful inabel weaves of our country, she has done her best to give other Filipino fabrics the exposure they so deserve. “This is an insanely intricate and amazing art form. I don’t understand why it’s not sold in every single corner of the street like they do in Mexico or Peru or Colombia,” she muses.
She doesn’t stop at fashion either. Though Piopio’s roots had originally begun in fashion, it’s now also grown to include businesses within the family’s Lio Estate in Palawan. Now, her label is an umbrella name that includes Tambok’s, a beachside restaurant offering Filipino-inspired dishes; Kalye Artisano, an artist’s village and cultural hub; and Bahay Artisano, an up and coming lodging house in nearby Lio Beach.
Like everyone else her business was not spared from the struggles that came with the current pandemic. But fortunately, she has a strong support system composed of business-minded family members and creative friends alike. “I think what the pandemic did was it made a lot of people more honest and vulnerable,” she explains. “Many were openly saying ‘I’m struggling’. Everybody was in the same boat.” Through these difficult times, she has found comfort in the empathy of those around her. “[The pandemic] really helped people [empathise] and [understand each other]. [We’re all] going through the same thing and it might be on different levels, but at the end of the day, everybody—at least my friends and the creatives I talk to—[we all] put other people first.”
Read more: All About The Piopio Brand
2/5 Katrina Razon
So young but so accomplished. This lady has done many things that some can just dream of doing. She is the director of Wonderfruit, an arts festival held annually in Thailand that features musical performances, arts, talks emphasising sustainability and eco-socio responsibility. She’s the founder of KSR Ventures whose portfolio includes Dear Frances, a line of Italian luxury shoes. She is an environmentalist, spokesperson, adventurer and more. Because of the pandemic, she is currently developing her yoga business into teaching classes and workshops on Zoom, as well as her own YouTube channel. “My goal is to share this beautiful practice to help people move and breathe with more awareness and functionality. To find joyful movement when the future may seem uncertain and scary. Focusing on the needs of others instead of myself gives my life fulfilment during the pandemic.”
She is full of passion and a go-getter, according to some friends; and once she puts her mind on something, she simply won’t give up. Kats, as she is fondly called, is a different breed altogether. She is fearless yet humble, confident and caring, an empowered woman perfect for the dynamic 21st century.
Read more: Katrina Razon Tells Us About Her Mount Kilimanjaro Climb
But what else would this ladylike to do? “Productivity does not measure our worth. I’ve learnt to be grounded in the present and have my businesses focused on creating positive change in communities. I’ve learnt to accept the things I cannot control and practice gratitude on a daily basis to my family and friends.”
And how does she the future considering the current crisis? “I know that people will crave for meaningful connection within their community. I strongly believe that experiences will make a strong comeback due to pent-up demand. My hope is that people realise the importance of going local and supporting local— whether that is supporting local fashion designers, local musicians/DJs, local artists and local teachers. The power of community never ceases to amaze me.”
Read more: Tatler Friends Share Books That Changed Their Lives
3/5 Jessica Wilson
She follows in the footsteps of her sister Georgina Wilson and cousin Belle Daza, but this stunning 30-year-old lady has come on her own and has made her own mark. She is the co-founder and brand manager of Sunnies Face, a line of successful eyewear and beauty products that have taken the metropolis by storm.
We caught up with her in late January when she shared her thrill to be spending time with Georgina and her husband as well as her nephews who were here on vacation from Papua New Guinea. When we asked her where she is in her life now, she answered, “I am content with where I am at the moment in my career. 2020 has been the most difficult year for everyone and it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Although the difficult times aren’t over, I am happy that Sunnies as a brand is still alive and I am able to do what I love to do, which is making beautiful products for everyone.”
I remember doing a fun shoot with her in Barcelona for our travel issue, and she was such a joy and a trouper to be with. It took us days to find the perfect spot and when she had to do a quick change, she readily did it out in the open.
Jessica is engaged to German businessman Mortiz Gastl, whom she met in university and they have been together for nine years. They plan to tie the knot towards the end of the year.
Read more: Jess Wilson On Her Relationship & Wedding Plans
4/5 Rocio Zobel
Our representative to the prestigious le Bal des Debutantes in 2019 is a lady with an interest in fashion and design. She is very passionate about the field that she even helped Dutch designer Jan Taminiau design her ballgown. In the February 2020 cover story, she said, “Jan was so easy to work with, and I had so much fun! It was so worth it though, and it felt amazing to see what I had envisioned—and in my favourite colour, too— materialise in real life.” The result was a beautiful piece that fit her perfectly: a strapless top embroidered with layers of beaded tulle that cascaded down to a skirt made of silk organza.
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We had a great time in Paris for le Bal, and it was always great to see the debutantes all dressed up and excited to make their mark in the world. She is the 8th debutante to come from the Philippines, which included her older sister Natalia. This is what she had to say of the experience from the same Tatler interview, “I was so nervous—especially for the walk—so I was glad I got to go with Marty Romualdez (her cavalier and boyfriend), who I am comfortable with because we have been together for some time. I also had a wonderful time with my parents, who were there for me every step of the way. Doing the waltz with my dad was a great experience! I had never danced the waltz before, but since I used to dance and my dad is also a really good dancer, it came easy for us.”
She is currently enrolled at Parsons School of Design in New York where she is taking up fashion design and online photography. For now, she is in town working on new photoshoots and art projects.
This petite and pretty 19-year-old youngest daughter of Iñigo and Maricris Zobel would eventually like to be involved in the field of fashion, be it in styling or concept designing with photography. “I love designing shoots and thinking of concepts!” she gushes.
Read more: Rocio Zobel Goes To Le Bal des Debutantes 2019
5/5 Nikki Huang
She is a Boston University student doing a double major in sociology and international relations. This pretty, intelligent and vibrant eldest daughter of Anton and Nina Huang is currently at home and doing her courses online. When not studying, she works as the communications director for Mind You, a tech start-up for mental health support; writes a column for the Manila Bulletin; volunteers at the WWF Philippines; and helps create content for Rustan’s and SSI Group. I asked her what her plans are after college and she said, “I am really interested in academia. Once I get my bachelor’s degree, I intend to apply to graduate school and perhaps even continue into a doctoral programme for sociology, international relations, or postcolonial studies. Really, my interest lies at the intersection of these three fields.”
Read more: Graduates From The Class Of 2020 Talk About Their Future In These Uncertain Times
Nikki, who has been exposed from childhood to the retail and fashion industry would like to help take the country to the international arena. “I truly believe fashion is instant communication and a key mode of cultural expression. It must change rapidly with the times. I hope to do my part to give all Filipinos access to the fashion brands they deserve to explore. I am likewise interested in pursuing a business model in retail that is more sustainable on all fronts: socially, economically, environmentally.”
As the world is on pause because of the pandemic, how does she view life at the moment? “I think the pandemic has given people all over the world an increased appreciation for life and its simplest blessings. I feel that we are poised to appreciate all that has been taken for granted as the world continues to heal.” And adds, “My takeaway from this whole experience is that we, as individuals, need to do our part to ensure a better, safer experience for humanity as a whole.”
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