There are times when our principles are put to the test.
We might be tested by finding something of value. For argument’s sake let’s say you found money. You found it on the ground, you know it’s not yours, the person either in front of you or in back of you on line might have dropped it. Do you ask either person if it is their money, and they may have mistakenly dropped it?
Or, sometimes, we may be put in compromising situations. Unknowingly, I have agreed to do things at different times for people without fully understanding what the situation entailed. I hate saying no to someone when they ask me for help. So, even if it turns out unpleasant for me, if I gave my word…I have had to stick through a disconcerting situation to make sure I fulfilled my responsibilities and what I volunteered for.
For a little more than a year, I have ventured into commercial modeling. I know that this is an industry where I am based solely on my looks (and maybe an ability to follow directions well) and I have made peace with that fact. While I may have dabbled a little in modeling when I was younger, I always had the internal debate of which was more important. Is it more important to fit the bill and follow FORM? Or is it better to carry myself with the SUBSTANCE I know we are all judged on, even after our looks have faded because of age.
FORM VS. SUBSTANCE
I have learned a little bit about the modeling and the advertising industry here in Manila. I know I was quite ignorant of the culture, the expectations, and the workings of this industry when I began my adventure…but with more than one year under my belt, I can say I have created a new understanding of what it might entail, who I am, and where I want to go with this new-found facet of my life. I am sure I will learn a lot more, if given the opportunity, after the incident that I write about today.
(My very first project was a TVC for Mother’s Day. This was an incredible first experience!)
I have enjoyed the attention I have received because of the fun projects I was approved for. I have enjoyed meeting new people, hearing about their stories, and somehow learning from each experience and each new person I met.
BUT, I have never lost sight of the fact that I was hired to do a job. If I am hired to do a job then I must do it to the best of my ability. I make sure I am early for my call time. I come prepared with costume adjustments that might be needed. I leave what ever problems I might be carrying around with me at the door, and I make sure I am ready tackle the task at hand.
I accepted the challenge to learn new dance steps (literally-because I have two left feet) for a project that was completely out of my comfort zone. I learned to appreciate Filipino Spaghetti, and I was able to cry on demand by thinking of my baby girl taking her first steps at home while I was working and could not see it for myself. (After that one, Nino said he would never believe me if I cried again! ha ha ha ha.)
While the compromising situation that I was put in, was a misunderstanding on my agent’s part…it still doesn’t negate the fact that I had to make a tough decision on the spot. As the situation unfolded, I really tried my best to put myself in all the different players’ shoes. I was overwhelmed with emotion because I was empathetic to everyone’s situation. (Remember, I’m a self proclaimed Cry Baby.) I knew we were all between a rock and hard place because of a miscommunication/misunderstanding (darn Mercury Retrograde) but it still couldn’t sway me enough to compromise what I knew and believed in…
Go figure…a model who actually has to believe in a product that she is selling.
Anyway without being so vague the situation unfolded like this.
I was approved for a project where the client was oral whitening.
I had asked my agent to confirm it was oral TEETH whitening and not skin whitening.
I was assured it was TEETH whitening, but when I arrived at the studio I was informed the product was in fact, skin whitening and not teeth whitening.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Let me share with you why I was so conflicted. I knew that once Nino and I got married, that I wasn’t living for myself anymore. Once we were blessed with our first pregnancy, that fact became even more evident because a little baby was growing in my belly…depending on me for everything she would need to grow strong enough to join us in this world.
When Gia was born, my perspective completely shifted. I needed to be the best person I could possibly be, because I needed to be an example for her. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m a perfect parent by ANY MEANS. I’m human. I have made a ton of mistakes in my parenting journey with her. I have learned some pretty hard lessons , and I have shared some of those lessons in life and integrity with Gia as we both have grown up, together.
As she has gotten older, (and after the birth of her fair skinned sister) Gia has asked me why she is darker than her siblings. I have had the discussion with her that she is beautiful just the way she is…that she shouldn’t buy into any one else’s opinion of what’s beautiful and what’s not. I have explained to her that in other cultures (like her Italian side) that we LOVE the sun, and getting a nice tan with some sun kissed color is desirable. It just so happens that we live in Manila, where fair skinned people are valued in media and advertising. (Heck…I know that’s why I have been chosen for some of the projects that I was cast in.)
So-I had to walk away from this project…even though I was chosen for it. Even though, I would have had lots of fun being on set again…and even though I would have enjoyed the compensation afterwards as a treat to myself and my family.
I know that there might be some back lash because I was approved for a project and walked away. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the first to have been put in a compromising situation and I’m certain, I won’t be the last, but I couldn’t possibly tell my daughter that she is perfect the way she is…and then accept a project that tells her (and other women) to alter the color of their skin?
As a Mom, I have to live the life and set the example that I want my children to follow and learn from…if I accepted that job then deep inside it would be like I’m contradicting what I have told my daughter time and time again…and that just didn’t sit well for me…
The casting director asked me if I could separate myself from my ideals, just so we could push through with the project and do the job we both originally set out to do that morning. He even shared with me how he doesn’t drink, but was cast in a project where he was promoting the sale of liquor and alcohol and-for him, it was easy to separate himself and do the job that was required of him.
I asked him this, “Are you married?” He said, “No.” I asked him further, “Do you have kids?” He again, answered, “No.” And then I explained to him that when you are married, and when you make the decision to have children, you no longer make decisions for yourself. As a Mom, I can talk the talk in raising my children…but it’s more important for me to walk the walk…because my children learn by my example….
The entire experience pushed me to a different kind of edge. I know that I can rest easy, explaining to my daughter, who is beautiful inside and out that she doesn’t need to alter the color of her skin to be beautiful…I stood by what I believed in and set an example for my daughter to see…
I don’t have any problem with women who choose to use skin whitening products, nor do I judge their choices. I just know they are not for me or my daughters.
Peter Ames Ressa says
I am so proud of my daughter Michelle Ann Ressa Aventajado for standing up for what she believes in! Love you Michelle Ann, Daddy