LET'S TALK LABELS
Scout crosses the line and strikes a conversation people usually never would: Gender roles, homophobia, and why we’re all so insecure
On the cover:
Bruce wears a denim jacket from H&M, gray shirt (P695) from Bleach, navy blue joggers (P1050) from The Ramp, and white Birkenstocks (P5490).
Cedric wears khaki shorts (P1150) from The Ramp, a Navy blue pullover (P1680) from Forever 21, and a printed button down (P2450) from Topman.
Tommy wears a white cropped top (price available upon request) and loose cropped trousers (P4595) from Rajo Man, blue hoodie (P3295) from Barba, and black sandals (P850) from Sewn.
The three models speak out their thoughts on today’s most relevant sociopolitical issues: self-image, selfbranding, labels and prejudice. Breaking the dumb-model stereotype with in-depth opinion and strong ideals, they share with Scout how to override criticism, pride yourself even in fluidity and complexity, and eventually, be that closer to true selfacceptance.
Scout: People know you from the magazines or billboards, but what do you wish they knew about you?
C: I’m really into music— like playing guitar; [and I can] play a bit of the piano. T: I can sing. C: I want people to know I’ve got other interests and hobbies apart from what I do.
T: That’s a hard one. I don’t know. I feel like most people already know the basics of who I am. I can’t think of anything I would want to show at the moment without getting too personal. But simply put, I love to dance, but I’m too damn shy to even start, so I never learned. I think dancing is one of the most beautiful things in the world.
C: But earlier, you were dancing upstairs!
T: No. That’s not dancing. (Everyone laughs) I mean real dancing, like the art. I love music, I love singing, I love art—I love so many things, but I’m just too scared to pursue them. That’s what I want people to know, but at the same time, I don’t want them to because I’m not comfortable with it.
B: Usually when you say you’re a model, people assume that you’re maarte. I just don’t want them to think that of me; [I want them to know] that I could ride along with them, and that this isn’t the only thing I do. I’ve got other things to focus on; I graduated in Fine Arts so right now I’m working on pieces.
S: When they started booking you for shoots where you blur the lines between looking feminine and masculine, how did you feel? What was your first reaction?
Bruce: I just followed orders and the photographers seemed happy. When I was young, I was secretly a
Zoolander fan. In college, they used to call me Zoolander and tease me for being vain. But deep down, it was something I was proud of. I don’t find it an insult—I actually consider it a compliment.
Tommy: You feel proud about it, in a way. I live my life not really caring about what people have to say—like my parents—about who I wanted to be. So if I wanted to grow my hair, do gymnastics, or anything expressive of a “who you are” type of thing, I’m openly welcome.
Cedric: I feel that being placed in this kind of category gives you a different perspective. You really learn to understand the different LGBT cultures [that being androgynous encompasses]. Since I’ve been labeled that way, I’ve been a lot more supportive of that cause. I feel like we are [becoming more open-mined about it]. You see it everywhere— billboards, TV, radio, Internet.
T: When I came here, I thought there was going to be culture shock. What I was surprised at was how much is actually being shown and how it’s not [as] conservative as I thought it’d be.
S: Do you appreciate it though, to a certain extent that you were raised abroad?
C: It [taught me to have] more respect for myself. I honestly don’t care what people think about me and my job. This is my job. I’m doing what I do to stay alive.
T: Same with Cedric. I couldn’t pick a better way to grow up. [There,] they teach you to be strong.
S: Bruce, was it the same for you?
B: I’ve had experiences before, especially in college, when I first wore my hair long. They were afraid of me. When I sit in the bus they don’t sit beside me; they move away. Even if I wasn’t sitting next to anyone, people would rather stand than sit next to me. Or they’d pretend to sit next to me, but as soon as more seats opened they’d change places. They probably thought I was a holdaper or something. It makes you lose confidence, but I was able to accept it. You’d just wonder why they judge you by your looks. I’m appreciated in the fashion industry, but outside that people are weirded out by me. S: Is it the same when you return to Bicol? B: I don’t really go out. So when I returned the time they found out I was a model, a lot of people I wasn’t close with before suddenly approached me. It was like I was some VIP. It was sometimes embarrassing, since we’re all really the same people—it just so happened that I’m in this position.
C: I feel men are objectified in a different way. [The conventional manly look is still] a dominating figure, with the six pack and pecs. S: Modeling is one of the few industries where women are more successful. How does that make you feel as male models? How do you deal with the double standards? T: I’m actually very happy that it’s a job women can pride themselves in. C: And they completely dominate it. T: That is true. They are good. Women are good. That’s why, as an androgynous male model, reaching the level of women when it comes to bodily expression makes you realize there’s a lot to modeling you don’t understand. It’s an art, a constant expression you put out. It takes more effort for male models to achieve the poses female models can. That’s why it’s pretty cool being androgynous—you can work on anything you want to do, a little more over male models.
S: Do you feel that you are really popular now because you’re novelty?
C: At first, I felt it was just a trend that would come and go, but now androgyny almost rubbed out the lines between menswear and womenswear. You see it in fashion shows and circuits. Clothing is becoming a lot more gender neutral, especially with the normcore trend and everyone returning to the basics. I feel there’s always going to be a market [for it] whether it fluctuates because of that merge, and it’s getting more visible.
B: I was actually surprised because I didn’t expect the good feedback—especially from the media, when I was interviewed for this show, Jessica Soho, in 2012. They featured androgynous models—Andrej Pejic, a model from Thailand, me—and after that, I was surprised someone made a fan page [about it]; that there was this kind of market. So I pursued it, and eventually some designers or photographers began booking me.
S: Did you ever go through a period in your life where you weren’t comfortable with yourselves?
C: I feel like you can’t really go through life without going through that [stage], where you sit down and question who you are, what you’re doing, where you’re going to go and what you’re going to be.
T: It is a bumpy road. Before you can accept yourself, you need to take a few hits. There’s never going to be an easy route. I was bullied a lot, and everyone in my town thought I was that kid that everyone messed with. But when I was about 13 or 14, I started telling myself that I was amazing all the time. Back in high school, I was into wrestling and gymnastics, which was big back then. I was one of the people who were 50/50 homophobic and kept saying I wasn’t gay. I’d put my hair in ponytails and walk around school without giving a f*ck because I knew I wasn’t gay—I was just expressing myself. There are going to be people in your life that do things to you. Once you realize that, you’re going to find that it doesn’t even matter. There are going to be a couple of realities in your life you don’t understand, the kind people don’t tell you, so you have to learn the tough way.
B: Since high school or elementary, I’ve been competing in art contests. I understood it was art I was doing. I understood what the people wanted to see [in the posters I’d make], even if I doubted myself at first. I knew from the start this was the path I was going to take. All the while I was in the middle of this androgyny thing, I have already accepted it. I think the concept of sexuality is becoming more fluid now, maybe because of the media. They get the idea and think, “Why can’t I try this? If he can do it, why can’t I?”
T: Definitely. I think The Philippines is pretty far ahead in this, as compared to most of the world—even in America. In America, it’s a straight split: People either just tolerate or hate them. It’s more accepting here. It’s actually become part of the humor here; Filipinos aren’t scared to express themselves. C: It’s a snowball effect—you just learn from everyone. T: But certain people are going to be the forerunners for everyone else to follow—there’s the 99%, and there’s 1% that pushes forward. [Sexuality] doesn’t even have to be a big component of someone’s identity—it’s just one part of someone’s personal life. People should be cool about it and be who they are without any worries. S: Emma Watson spoke out about feminism and clarified that it’s not about hating men, it’s about wanting equality through genders. C: I think the whole idea of feminism shouldn’t even
be an idea, I feel like it should be the norm. Everyone should be equal.
T: Why is this a question in the first place? I don’t get that.
C: I feel like gender roles are going to break down, because we’ve got countries being governed by women now. We’ve got amazing athletes and musicians that are women, and it’s definitely something that’s continuing. People are seeing this, and it’s going to come back to how it should be, where everyone is just equal—even with old questions about the LGBT and all that.
T: We’re coming to a point where people don’t care. S: It’s such an interesting paradox. Society pegs you to standards to live up to, but as individuals, you don’t subscribe to how society feels you should act. But it’s such a millennial thing now to have “branding,” to package yourself in a certain way. Do you think that’s important for success? B: Well, it’s about how you present yourself to them. C: The packaging works, but ultimately it’s who you are that the designers want.
T: It’s good to know how to package yourself, because you want to show people that you have your life in order. How people perceive you is a painting canvas: You slowly detail what you want people to see about yourself. You don’t know what’s behind it, but you’re marking what people see. I don’t think branding is bad, but it can be negative if people brand themselves for the wrong reasons.
T: When you focus too much on how you and other people see yourself, you tend to have all these insecurities to a point that you don’t know how to handle it because it’s another life you’re choosing for yourself.
C: Everyone’s more judgmental, especially with Instagram and the gossip magazines out on the shelves.
T: You’ve got these TV shows that are always going to be about judging people, making fun of people— you always have a first impression of someone even when you don’t want to. I think we somewhat prided ourselves for it, but some people overdo it.
C: The weird thing is, back then, we were quite happy with what we had. Now, however, we’re demanding for more things, faster things. [Anxiety] usually goes hand in hand with depression, and I feel like people need to be more educated about this, especially with the demands that are being placed upon the younger generation today. B: It’s like they’re programming us. T: If you mess up one little step, you’re already scared. Imagine people who mess up years of it—they think that’s what they are for the rest of their life, and the anxiety [from that] really brings you down.
C: With that being said, to anyone who reads this or who is going through anxiety, talk to someone, because it’s horrible to go through that alone.
S: Do you ever feel like you just want to unplug and get away from it?
C: I’m already unplugged. I was scouted in this image; I didn’t mold myself into what I’m projected as today. It brings you to the point when you realize if you don’t listen to other people’s opinions or anything like that, you’re limitless. You’re infinite.
T: Nothing can be said to you, nothing can be done to you. You are you and that’s all you need to know. Once you know who you are, you’re never alone, because you have yourself.
B: I just go with the flow—if I could see myself being happy with it, then I do it. I know modeling isn’t something permanent. I also have other pursuits, like art.
S: How do you feel about your chosen career paths— art and modeling? Are you anxious about whether you’ve chosen the right one? B: At times, I do. When I’m with my college friends, some of them go all “I have work tomorrow,” while I’m here thinking about all the free time I have. Sometimes, I get a little envious; and it’s weird because we’re given the opportunity to have all this free time, since we’re only contacted when needed. As a model, you’re only as good as your last show. S: How do you stand for the choices you’ve made?
B: I don’t want an office job because I don’t want to be stuck. One of the things I like about modeling is that you have the opportunity to travel, to meet new people. But if I had an office job, I’d just be sitting the whole day. No sun, no exercise, so I’m also grateful for the spare time. I still look to my friends, though, since their day seems so full and scheduled. Sometimes I feel like I’m undergoing a mid-life crisis—what am I doing? Is this really it?
C: Getting old is so scary. S: Why? C: Because it’s unknown. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I live each day for what it is—or I try to, anyway—but because of that I don’t know anything about the future, so it’s scary. I mean, it’s good to plan ahead, but don’t waste your time on it because you got to remember that you have today. You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce does, and look where she is! (laughs)
S: At the end of the day, the issue is about selfacceptance. So far, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself? Ever since this crazy thing started.
C: Don’t dwell on the past, and don’t focus too much on the future. We may feel like we have all the time in the world when we’re actually running out of time.
T: You think I have all day, but you’d be surprised at how short a day really is. C: If you want something, go for it now. T: When you start doing it, when you start pursuing it, enjoy it because you’re going to grow.
C: Whether things go right or wrong, either way, it’s progression.
T: When you begin pursuing the things you want to pursue, your life will change. But if you only want it to change in a safe route, you are going to wake up one day and realize it’s too late. Start right now!
B: I learned how to know my limits, because you have to know when to put yourself first. If you’re not comfortable with what’s happening around you or if you feel exploited. Things like that happen, and much like what I’ve learned from modeling, you just have to be patient.
Bruce VenidaCedric PascoTommy Esguerra