By Katrina Angco
May 15, 2016 started like any normal day for 16-year-old Rita Gabiola. She left their house early, bound for the streets of Quezon to earn money by begging for alms. As it was the Pahiyas festival, their town filed up with more people than usual. Little did the teenager know that one man among the crowd of snap-happy, fiesta-lovin’ people was about to help open up a whole world of possibilities for her.
Let the photos speak
The timing was perfect. A photo of Rita, staring into space and holding a container of pancit canton, was just among the many scenes budding photographer top her Quinto Burgos captured and uploaded on social media—not knowing that the image would soon go viral. With over 100,000 shares, Badjao girl ignited the internet’s interest with what inquirer.net described as “her brown skin, striking jawline, high cheekbones, soulful eyes, and model-like physique.” Rita, on the surface, became a representative of the ethereal, unretouched Filipina beauty. Today, not only has she been featured on several tv shows, there’s also a “Badjao girl” facebook page dedicated to her with 116,741 likes and counting. More notably, opportunities to study have also been presented to her. Those touched by her story offered Rita a scholarship and some financial help so she may give her family a better life—a heartwarming tale of success and kindness, yes? No doubt. When you look deeper into the sudden turn in Rita’s life, though, you can’t help but think of the fact that she’s just one of the many other young Filipinos who live in the same circumstances—if not worse, with some living on the streets, without families to call their own. Here’s when it gets more depressing: Realizing that many don’t see past them if they’re not cute or pretty or gwapo.
So, the question now is: Are more windows of opportunity (government efforts aside) open for those with good looks? Will you really only be noticed if you’re good looking? Do people tend to be nicer to beautiful people? BBC.com’s article “The Surprising Downsides of Being Drop Dead Gorgeous” by social psychologists Lisa Slattery Walker and Tonya Frevert at The University Of North Carolina at Charlotte examined this, and they found “a wealth of research showing that better-looking students, at school and university tend to be judged by teachers as being more competent and intelligent—and that was reflected in the grades they gave them.” The same is the case in corporate jobs, show business (it’s really your physical appearance that people look at first), and even friendships—especially in the chaotic world that is high school where pretty girls stick together like “birds of the same feather” as opposed to seeking out their “normal” classmates. That’s why pop culture has birthed Regina George, Blair Waldorf, Serena van der Woodsen, and Elle Woods—while they were all out to prove that there’s much more to them than good looks, they’ve always been a couple of steps ahead of everyone else because of how beautiful they are. Now with social media providing easy access to the lives of celebrities all over the world, the world’s perception of beauty remains tied to how these glammed-up personalities look: The clothes they wear, the haircuts they sport, and the products they use are like the holy grail, the tickets to looking as close to Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid perfection as we can get. Get this: A 2014 study by personal care brand Dove conducted among 1,000 women between the ages of 18 and 64 in the United States found that 82% of women surveyed believe that social media is influencing the way people perceive beauty, while 63% of the group also believe social media trumps more traditional media in shaping the reality of beauty.
Beauty in Social Media
While there have been no recorded statistics of this, it’s safe to say that the immense power of social media holds true in a #selfie-crazed nation like the Philippines, too. Not just in the case of viral social media “hotties” like Rita and contemporary Jeyrick “Carrot Man” Sigmaton, but also right in your own feed, your own phone, and your own mirror. There’s really nothing wrong with wanting to nail that perfect shot and editing an image so it looks better—it’s human nature to want to look good, and to want to post a beautiful picture, after all—though not to the point that your reality and values are affected: “If you are obsessing about attractiveness, it may alter your experience and interactions,” Frevert adds in the BBC.com interview.
If there’s anything to learn from Badjao Girl, it’s that it’s not enough to just be a pretty face in the crowd. Rita Gabiola’s goals of finishing her studies and becoming a teacher to help her siblings ultimately paved the way for concerned citizens to want to help her achieve her dreams. More than her beauty, it was her desire to be more than just pretty that matters. The internet, while teeming with perfection in the form of Instagram superstars and bloggers-turned-celebrities, is a treasure trove of inspiring real women just like Rita—journalists, artists, athletes, opinion leaders, self-made billionaires—who are evolving the beauty conversation by showing that passion, drive, and smarts can also take you a long way. Choose your role model wisely.
As superficial as it sounds, looking good does matter in the real world—take these entry-level positions that put a premium on beauty!
Actress While you need to know how to act in order to actually become a full-fledged artista, being pretty will help get your foot in the proverbial door of show business because, whether you like it or not, this industry has its standards. Plus, you can take workshops along the way to harness your talent and potential.
Model As opposed to show business where acting, singing, and dancing are part of the deal, good looks is the number one requirement in modeling. It’s actually even tougher because everyone is just so good-looking! The key is to know your strength, your angles, and your market. Be professional at all times, so people will want to continue working with you.
Flight Attendant Three things you must have to get a shot at being a part of an airline’s cabin crew in the country: Good physique (most airlines have a minimum height requirement of 5’4” for women), with your weight and height in proportion to each other; a nice set of teeth; and a well-groomed appearance and charming persona. If you’ve got all three, then go for it! The travel perks are a total win!
Public Relations Executive This profession entails meeting lots of people; hence, being physically pleasant and socially adept makes you a natural for the job. Don’t be fooled, though—the PR industry isn’t just about partying and networking. A lot of work goes into every event, every campaign, and making clients happy.
Beauty Assistant Delve into the world of editorial production, events, and journalism by trying your hand at being the assistant to a magazine or online publication’s beauty editor. You have to walk the talk, so being impeccably beautiful and stylish is a must. How else can you make your readers believe in what you’re saying?
ALSO READ: In Focus: Why Rita Gabiola Just Might Be The Best Thing That Has Happened On PBB's Latest Season
Photograph Vyn Radovan. Hair and makeup Muriel Vega Perez using Clinique. Assisted by Eve Florida. Styling Danica Familara. Model Vahl Marco. Shot on location at Novotel Manila Araneta Center, Gen. Aguinaldo Avenue Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City. Special thanks to Kristine Facto of Novotel Manila Araneta Center.