In the last two years, casting director Ricky Toledo has noticed a shift in the preferences of major advertisers. Rather than requesting for models who represent high society, they’ve come around to celebrities, who happen to reflect more diverse types of beauty: Sarah Geronimo, Anne Curtis, Heart Evangelista, Kathryn Bernardo, Julia Barretto, Kim Chiu, and Heart Evangelista.
Recently, The Cut continued their 100 Years of Beauty series with a look into the evolution of Filipina beauty, featuring singer April Villanueva. The video opens in the 1910s, before widespread colonization by the Spanish, to an Imeldific look for the 1960s, and closing with red lips and a killer blowout for the 2010s.
However, the evolution of faces we see flashing through our TV screens tells a different story. Granted, the world in advertising isn’t a realistic one, but the talents who appear in commercials through the years will tell you a lot about the market, and how attitudes towards certain faces are changing.
In an interview with Preen, casting director John Reyes* puts it very simply: In every project, the client is king. In the early ’80s up until the early 2000s, clients frequently requested for “aspirational” beauties—fair skin, a prominent nose, long, black hair, and a trim waist. Think of the famous Revilla sisters in those iconic Camay and Lux ads in the ’80s. From there, trace the career of Bianca Araneta-Elizalde, the daughter of Maritess Revilla, as she appeared in spots for Palmolive and Ivory in the ’90s and early 2000s.
Today, however, major advertisers are less about ideal faces; instead, they prefer endorsers who can move product: celebrities. “If you have a catchy campaign and pair it with the right celebrity, that’s all you need,” John explains. We see this in the current crop of faces dominating billboards and TV ads: Anne Curtis, Kathryn Bernardo, Sarah Geronimo, Julia Barretto, Kim Chiu, Heart Evangelista.
In comparison to yesterday’s “high-end models”—who, John says, might charge nearly the same rate as celebrities do—Georgina Wilson, Nicole Hernandez, Amanda Griffin, and Solenn Heussaff, the look of endorsers now is still conventionally beautiful, but feels more relatable and attainable. Mestizas like Anne Curtis and Liza Soberano are now outnumbered by morenas Kathryn Bernardo, Nadine Lustre, and Sarah G.
Take, for instance, singer/host Toni Gonzaga, who has skincare and conditioner endorsements under her belt. In the early ’90s it was unlikely forToni to bag a Pond’s endorsement. When Pond’s launched her as their newest endorser, she admits as much, saying landing a Pond’s commercial during her early days of auditioning was a “suntok sa buwan.” But times have changed. “You see her every day, acting and hosting, and that gives her power,” John says.
Another interesting trend that John noted was that recently, clients have begun to request for bloggers like Laureen Uy, Camille Co, and Patricia Prieto to front campaigns. With this set, advertisers are less preoccupied with their looks, and more keen on how many followers they have. At the moment, few bloggers have landed endorsements, but as the focus on advertising shifts to the internet, this could change in a big way.
But what should the average viewer take away from all this? The ones who can identify more with April Villanueva than with Anne Curtis? “As a person coming from this industry,” John notes, “I’d like to say that all advertising is false advertising. None of it is real! Sometimes, not even the products are. The skincare brands that I’ve worked with? I’d never use them. Those soaps with glutathione in them? Tigil-tigilan nila ako. They don’t work!”
So the next time a commercial tries to point out your “flaws” in order to convince you to buy a product, you have it on good authority to quietly whisper to yourself that there is no “ideal” Filipina beauty and, if ever there was, whatever product they’re hawking won’t help you attain it.