Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Photo by Paul Borromeo

Bayo-logically speaking, she’s a Davaoeña born of African and Filipino descent. The lineage is made more evident by the frizzy hair and mocha skin, which have, consequently, helped 18 year old Nikita Pia Ortega McElroy’s modeling career skyrocket its way to success.

Photo file courtesy of Nikita McElroy
Comparable to the hullaballoo that followed the launch of one of the country’s most established clothing brands, for which Nikita models, the buzz about this new and charismatic Davaoeña in Manila did not go unnoticed by key people in fashion and advertising industries.

Photo by Paul Borromeo 
Regardless of what the percentage in the ad said, her bio is as 100% dramatic as any Maalaala Mo Kaya episode. Think Venus Raj in MMK, except that Nikita’s childhood was set in cosmopolitan scenery and that she didn’t join the prestigious Binibining Pilipinas pageant… Well, at least not yet.

Nikita (3rd from left) in the fashion shoot I co-styled with my friend, Ayie, in collaboration with
Leadfoto Studios. Photo by Paul Borromeo.

I first met Nikita in the year-end fashion shoot we collaborated with LeadFoto Studios, for which I styled in tandem with my photographer/stylist-friend. To me, Nikita is more than just a pretty face on camera. She is friendly, down to earth, funny, and full of life. By the way she talks, her life would seem like it is all picnic and party. In truth, her childhood was a difficult one.

Photo by Paul Borromeo

“When I was young, I didn’t have any friends and I wasn’t part of any clique. I was an outcast. Maybe it’s because I look different. To sum it all up, I’d say my childhood was nowhere near normal or ideal.” Talking numbers, Nikita adds, “I can only count a few of those times when I was happy. And that won’t even total to a full set of fingers.”

Photo by Paul Borromeo

Despite the lack of friends, she found solitude in her family, with whom she was able to show off a bit of confidence in singing and dancing. The videoke at home was her saving grace, allowing her to belt out any tune she wanted to. She never got in any of the choral club auditions, but it was her talent in dancing that got her to the final cut of her school’s stage productions.

Photo file courtesy of Nikita McElroy 
Nikita reached her turning point at the age of 14, trying out her luck in performing arts by joining a modeling workshop in one of the malls in the city. “I wanted to do sometime different at that time, to kill boredom over summer time. I didn’t think I had what it took to be a model, and it helped that my mom encouraged me to go for it. I had her full support, though there were relatives who were against the idea of juggling studies with modeling. Nevertheless, I pursued it, even if I had to sneak out of the house to attend go-see’s and join runway gigs and fashion shoots. While I did all that, I began to accept who I really am and see the good in me. Beauty, I realized, is not determined by color. That acceptance helped boost my confidence and develop my love for this profession. Soon, right after high school, I became part of Glam Model House, managed by Jon Nuñez. It was under his management that I got a lot of projects and was able to meet wonderful and talented people --- models, designers, photographers, make up artists, stylists, and event organizers. It was all about building my portfolio and network.”

Photo file courtesy of NIkita McElroy
Determined and hopeful, Nikita grabbed the opportunity offered to her by a TV station, which specifically was for an acting job. She used the “once in a lifetime” code to get her family’s approval of her appeal to move to Manila. Contrary to the job offer, she prayed she would be given a hosting job instead, and that she’d be able to make it big in the modeling scene as well. “I was lucky because I had friends who were already well connected. Still, I had to work my way around go-see’s and some other fashion events. I somehow made a couple of breakthrough’s, even though they were not as monumental as some other models have achieved. I wasn’t bankable at that time for any modeling agency to pick up my name and draw a management contract for me.”

Photo file courtesy of Nikita McElroy 
True to her nature, Nikita struggled in the city jungle and lived every single day full of surprises. Nothing was predictable. One day, she plays the part of a fashion-inflicted teenager, walking the streets of Manila in unisex clothing such as blazers, suits, oversized tops, and combat boots. The next day, you see her getting fit in Zumba class, swimming a few laps in the pool, or jogging to the beat of her i-Tunes playlist. On normal days, she undergoes training under Professional Models Association of the Philippines (PMAP), where she is an official member and is one of the selected few who are being groomed by celebrated artists such as Rissa Mananquil. “She is my idol,” Nikita quips.

Photo file courtesy of Nikita McElroy
In a launch party for a top billed ice cream brand, Nikita was approached by an agent who was looking for models for the upcoming ad campaign of BAYO. The agent took note of her credentials and presented her portfolio to the head honchos. It didn’t take long before Nikita got a call back from the agent, announcing the good news. It was no less than Xander Angeles who photographed her for the ad layout, which was placed in magazines, on internet and billboard.

Photo by Ayie Hernandez

Phones were ringing off the hook, and Nikita was getting more bookings here and there. Not to mention calls from friends in Davao, screaming in excitement over her blossoming career. She may call herself a late bloomer, growing up shy and friend-less during her formative years, but her career is fast advancing at such an early age. To date, she has taken part of the Holiday and Spring/Summer seasons of the Philippine Fashion Week for 3 years in a row. She has also done an editorial shoot for United Colors of Benetton and a couple of other endorsements and magazine shoots.

Photo by Paul Borromeo
Nikita humbly shares her other dreams and wishful thinking. “I hope for bigger things. Ten years from now, I’d probably have found my courage to take my chances in other fields such as hosting, or maybe join the academe. Who knows? I may end up as a teacher here or abroad. The thought of going international, in terms of modeling, won’t hurt either. After all, nothing is impossible. Everyone has to do their own part to realize their goals. You just really gotta have a brave heart, and I never give up even when challenges try to hinder my path. It helps that I went through an unhappy time earlier in my life, because now I get to appreciate my assets and blessings, and know what it is I really want to do in life. I put my heart and soul in everything I do, no matter how big or small.”

Photo by Paul Borromeo
Story published in my newspaper column, Metro Mom.
A1, INdulge section, Edge Davao, Vol. 5 Issue 122, 22 August 2012.


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