Filipinos in Auckland features portraits of six outstanding Filipino women cho sen for their personality, their achievements, and the influence they exerted on their times in the field of performing arts, entertainment, culture and fashion.
Filipinas hold power within their own societal systems whether in the Philippines or elsewhere around the world. They manage this power by quietly taking on pivotal roles and use it to eventually come into their own strength. With a hu manity that transcends their history and cultural legacy, the result of their in dividual journeys is what makes them timeless.
Lea Salonga (photo in upper left image panel) is a theater icon and Disney legend. You may not have ever spoken to her but you will most likely have heard her melodious voice. Her first major role in international theater was in Miss Saigon, for which she won an Olivier, a Tony, a Drama Desk, an Outer Critics Cir cle Award, and a Theatre World Award – a feat that until today is unrivaled.
She was also the first Asian woman to portray the roles of Eponine and Fantine in the musical Les Miserables, in its 10th and 25th Anniversary Concerts, res pectively. She later on landed the singing voices in Disney films like Aladdin (as Princess Jasmine) and Mulan (as Fa Mulan). And just like a fairytale, Lea, along with Jodi Benson (the singing voice of Ariel) and Paige O’Hara (the singing voice of Belle), was officially honored a Disney Legend in 2011, an award that recog nises people who have made exemplary contributions to The Walt Disney Com pany.
Lisa Macuja (lower right photo above) is a legendary for being known as a prima ballerina who has performed more than 300 principal roles in some 81 cities around the world. In 1984, she was the first foreign soloist to ever join the famed and Russian-dominated Kirov Ballet (now known as the ‘Mariinksy Ballet‘) – a 260-year old institution in dance. Today she is the Artistic Director of Ballet Manila and Vice-Chairman of the Philippine UNESCO National Commission. Like a fitting applause, her numerous contributions to Ballet Manila has earned her the title, “ballerina of the people.”
Monique Lhuillier (photo in upper left image panel) is a fashion designer whose motto is “If you can’t find ‘em, make ‘em.” Cebuana-born Monique’s career began in 1995 when after discovering the lack of fashionable gowns for her wedding, decided to create her own. Her first collection was launched in 1996. Since then, she has a become a household name in the fashion industry – creating her own signature lines of evening dresses, earning various red carpet fashion awards, and garnering high-profile Hollywood celebrity clients such as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. One can only imagine how far Monique would have gone if she wasn’t happy with her shoes.
Josie Natori (lower right photo in above panel) has gone global but then she’s giving back. The ‘Josie Natori’ brand is known in some 40 countries and includes lingerie, ready-to-wear clothing, swimwear, home products, fragrance, and eyewear. The Natori Company – where she is CEO, has been around for more than 30-years and still going strong, gen erating about US$100-million in annual retail sales. Even with this wealth, for Josie it’s all about giving back; a factory she set up in the Philippines handles about half of her company’s production. Proving that good karma comes around when it goes around, she eventually received the highest honour that can be awarded to a Filipino civilian in 2007, the Lakandula Award.
Bea Valdes (photo in lower left panel) has made Filipino crafts fashionable. Coming from three generations of family jewelers, it’s hard not to recognise the trademark craftsmanship that goes into her handcrafted accessories, which have appeared in top-of-line international magazines from Vogue to Vanity Fair and seen worn on celebrities from Kate Hud son to Sharon Stone. From 1999-2000, Bea served as the design consultant for the Philippine Presidential Palace but her career took a turn when in 2005, Vogue USA described her work as that year’s “must-have evening bags.” To date, her creations – from bags to necklaces to headdresses, have been spotted in more than 20 Vogue issues.
Danica Magpantay’s (lower right photo above) stride is just as dynamic as when she struts through the high-end fashion show runways in all major capitals of the world. In 2011, Danica proved that Filipina beauty is truly world-class. She is the first Filipina to win first place at one of the world’s most prestigious modeling contests – Ford Supermodel of the World. Coincidentally, her mother Lala Flores was Supermodel of the World Philippines in 1990. Top-named in dustry photographers who have worked say she’s one of those few whose look is simplifyingly natural, which is rare. She has graced the runways of New York’s Fashion Week, and modeled for Levi’s, Porter Grey, Tim Hamilton, and Norman Am brose, among others.