Kelsey Merritt is definitely someone who should be on anyone's keep-tabs-on list.
At just 20 years old, she’s accomplished so much in the fashion world—all while balancing life as a normal university student. In between classes and tests, she’s graced a number of brand campaigns locally and abroad, and has met and worked with top models and fashion designers.
With that said, it’s hard to believe that the leggy Fil-Am didn’t always aspire for a career like this. In a previous interview with Vantage, she admitted that school was and has always been her main focus. “To everyone else, school is not important. Parang wala lang,” she observes. Kelsey then went on to explain how, when the opportunity to do part-time modeling presented itself, she took advantage of it.
One opportunity she certainly didn’t pass up was a commercial about two years ago—a proud moment that not only changed her life, but one which she can talk both humbly and excitedly about. Kelsey reveals, “My agent told me that I confirmed the commercial with Gigi. I was like, ‘Wait, what? I’m shooting with Gigi Hadid??” And not only Gigi, but Jourdan Dunn and Emily DiDonato, too. It was one of my first jobs. I moved to New York in April 2015 and I booked [it] in May."
It’s also hard to believe that she had her own bouts of insecurity, too, but that only adds to her charm and relatability. “Up until then I was doubtful of myself and I never thought I could do it. Just booking that job made me feel like, ‘Maybe I could make it happen!’ And here I am!”
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Indeed, the AB Communication senior at the Ateneo de Manila University hasn’t let the instant fame or the glitz and glamour of her job get in the way of her studies. “I don’t want to be delayed and I want graduate on time,” she insists. Kelsey is just weeks away from getting her diploma, especially now that she’s done with thesis. But throughout her university years, juggling both school and work was no walk in the park. Most students in her major are required to take anywhere from 15 to 20 plus units in one semester. Imagine how many classes those are!
Luckily, Wilhemina Models, the agency that represents her, was very understanding. Kelsey admits, “It’s been really hard to balance both school and work because before I went to New York, I only had to balance my school and the Philippines. But now I have to balance flying out of the country and flying back in.”
This erractic schedule took a toll on her on several occasions. Once, Kelsey was forced to finish a paper on the way to a bridal shoot in the Empire State. And when she returned to Manila, she was greeted with two long tests (one of which, she only found out about in flight).
“There are so many factors I have to consider," she says. "Before I accept a job, my agency asks first if I have the time to fly. Usually, in one semester, I miss a whole week so I can work. Feeling ko maiiyak ako pagdating ng graduation kasi ang hirap [everything I went through].”
With a good head on her shoulders and immense drive that sets her apart from most people her age, it's easy to see why 20-year-old Fil-Am model Kelsey Merritt is the newest face of Maybelline New York. She takes everything in stride, and does it so beautifully. Plus, like many women out there, she’s obsessed with lipstick. It’s the one product she refuses to leave the house without. “Even though you’re not wearing any makeup, just as long as you put lipstick you look fresh,” she says.
Still, girls can be very picky with their lippies. Maybelline’s latest collection consists of matte lipsticks, which are great for when you want a velvet finish, but aren’t exactly known for moisture. According to Kelsey, “I think women hesitate to wear matte lipstick because it’s very drying and it cracks. Diba, parang there’s nothing more unflattering than a cracked lip. The Powder Mattes are a gamechanger. They’re very lightweight and you don’t feel like you’re wearing anything. It’s not drying and there are no cracks. I really love it because aside from those, Maybelline has a lot of shades that you can choose from."
Her fave ones? “I’m personally really obsessed with Touch Of Nude kasi it's perfect for that everyday, no makeup makeup look. But I also really love Plum Perfection,” she admits.
[related: Cheat Sheet: Avoid Makeup Meltdown With These Secret Weapons]
So what’s next for Kelsey? “My agency is in London but I think I’ll be based in New York. I’ll fly back and forth London and New York but also come back to the Philippines during the winter. I love the heat!”
Get ready, world. This is just the beginning for Kelsey.
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Photographs from Instagram.com/kelseymerritt / Interview by Katrina Angco