Will a Davaoeña be Asia’s Next Top Model?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 March) — The return of Asia’s Next Top Model for its third season puts the spotlight on not one but three Filipino contenders–coming from diverse backgrounds–who will be waving the country’s flag and taking a shot at the coveted title.

Franchesca Denise Lagua, Amanda Bianca Chan, and Marlena Monika Sta. Maria are among 14 aspiring models from eight different countries in Asia who have been handpicked from the droves of hopefuls who auditioned late last year.

Meet the girls

Franchesca, 23, has been modeling since 2010 and has spent most of her years being educated in Laguna where she studied communication arts. She stands at 172 cm and considers her teeth and legs to be her best features.

Her first modeling gigs were with Folded & Hung (Streetcast) and Freego in the Philippine Fashion Week (PFW).

Franchesca Lagua
Franchesca Lagua

“My cousin who used to be a model from Davao introduced me to events modeling in Manila,” Franchesca said in this email interview. “It was just a part-time job to pay for my college tuition. There, I met some people who believed I could make it in the fashion industry. So I went by myself to the PFW go-see and booked my first show.”

Since then, Franchesca has been up and about modeling almost every season for Bench (Universe, and The Naked Truth shows), SM in-house brands, and labels like Dickies, Giordano, Freego, Penshoppe, Adidas, Planet Sports, and Roxy.

She said that she hasn’t done a lot of magazine features but “I did a magazine cover for Southern Living in March 2012. “Most of my prints are catalogues like Natasha, Hang Ten, Shapes, Karimadon, and Dakki.”

Franchesca describes her style to be casual chic. “I usually go for the basics, tank tops and jeans/shorts. I love knitted tops and scarves paired with boots when I play dress up. And I love the color black!”

But even with her already sophisticated aura, Franchesca confessed that she doesn’t buy expensive clothes or shoes. She turns to budget brands Forever 21, Bershka, or H&M but shops “rarely.”

“I would prefer thrift shopping! That is the one main reason I go to Davao,” she said. “I don’t really shop for clothes unless there’s a sale.

However, she considers expensive cosmetics to be her “weakness.”


Franchesca said that whenever people notice her unique looks and ask about her lineage, she always tells them that “I’m half-Bisaya, half-Waray. My mom’s side is from Eastern Samar.”

Davao is a place that she considers to be her home in the south. “My dad is from Matina in Davao.”

“I always look forward to our family reunions every year. But the most memorable trip was the first time I went there during the summer of 2004,” she narrated. “I fell in love with the place and wanted to stay there for good. I also dreamt of going to Ateneo de Davao! I stayed for two months and learned the Bisaya language.

“I explored that side of Mindanao–went to Samal Island, Tagum, and Bunawan–and met lots of relatives for the first time. I love the people there and it’s just so peaceful. Life seems so much easier in Davao, that’s why I always look forward on going there every year.”


Meanwhile, 17-year-old Amanda Chan—the youngest among the contestants—was born and grew up in Australia.

“Both my mother and father are from Cebu,” she said in an email interview. “I’m not very good at Tagalog because my parents both spoke Cebuano around the house!”

Monika Sta. Maria refers to herself as “Filipino-Malaysian” in her Instagram account. Monika is also into fitness; she used to play competitive volleyball before deciding to pursue modeling as a full-time job.

New host

Season three of the reality show also returns with a new host: superstar model Georgina Wilson. Wilson has a wealth of experience that she’ll be using to lead the cast of model contenders through their day-to-day activities.

As host, she will serve as the voice of the competition, giving direction to contestants when needed. As judge, Wilson will also help decide on the fate of contestants as they work to become Asia’s Next Top Model.

“I’m excited to work with such a prestigious competition that has launched the careers of talented models from Asia. I’m confident that this season will showcase even more bright and talented young women who will put Asia on the fashion and modeling map, and viewers will get to experience their journey in all its glory and drama,” said Wilson.

Also joining Wilson in the show are Alex Perry (who is himself a fashion icon and had previously done work with Australia’s Next Top Model) and model Joey Mead King, who returns to the show as mentor extraordinaire, having coached the aspiring models since the show’s inception.

Asia’s first Filipino Next Top Model?

Since the reality series debuted in November 2012 on the first season, the Filipino contestants could only go as far as getting to the top three. Stephanie Retuya (season 1) and Jodilly Pendre and Katarina Rodriguez (both from season 2) were all runner-ups even with the great potential that many saw in them.

During the auditions in Resorts World Manila last year, casting director Marc Checkley of Beach House Pictures said that Filipino models have a wonderful balance of Asian values and confident Western character. “They have an amazing range of backgrounds and lifestyle that not all other Asians can say they have,” he said. “I think that becomes their strength to push forward as a model.”

Jude Turcuato, territory head of Fox International Channels, believes in the same. “Part of the success of a model lies in the way they work with people,” he said. “When you have good relationships with photographers, producers, and editors, your career takes your far. The look of a model is not just the whole thing.”

StarWorld will be airing the first episode of Asia’s Next Top Model Season 3 on Wednesday at 8:45 PM. The reality show is centered on a “unique modeling boot camp that will immerse [contestants] in activities that define the modeling industry.” (Jesse Pizarro Boga/MindaNews)