Most of the top Asian models working today come from South Korea (Hyoni Kang), China (Liu Wen), and Japan (Tao Okamoto); the Southeast Asian sector has always been heavily underrepresented in the industry. Enter Filipino newbie Charlene Almarvez, a 16-year-old who has been charming editors with her sweet personality and doll-like features. Almarvez's major breakthrough happened last year when she became the first runner-up in the Ford Supermodel of the World contest. Towering at nearly six feet, she made a small but strong debut in February, walking for Diane Von Furstenberg, Sophie Theallet, and Peter Som. Although visa troubles put an end to her Fashion Week adventures in New York, editors at V courted Almarvez for a Richard Burbridge–shot editorial shortly thereafter. A European visa is in the mail now, and we can't wait to see what Almarvez does next.
How did you get discovered?
I was discovered by a director of Philippine Fashion Week during the parade in our town festival. He asked me if I wanted to be a model and encouraged me and my parents.
You represented the Philippines in the Ford Supermodel of the World contest. How has your life changed since? Do people recognize you?
I haven’t gone home since the competition! But because some press [was] released in my country, people have recognized me. They add me on Facebook and congratulate me. It can feel a bit overwhelming but I’m grateful!
You've already walked for some top New York designers and worked with Richard Burbridge. What else would you like to accomplish before the year's end?
I have a lot of things I want to accomplish, actually! I want to walk shows for big designers, especially in Europe, and continue to shoot for great magazines and fashion brands. I just have to get my visas for Europe first!
What are some of your favorite Filipino restaurants, stores, etc., in New York?
My favorite restaurants in New York are Grill 21 and Krystal's in Queens. They sell different kinds of Filipino viands and sweets. When I go there, I feel like I’m home in my country or like I’m in a movie scene in which a Filipino is traveling abroad.
If modeling never came into the picture, what would you be doing?
I would probably be continuing my studies in business or becoming a professional volleyball player.