Katarina Rodriguez: Leap of Faith

WE’RE having what she’s having—a slab of beef, five barbecue twice  larger than   Larsian’s, and biriani rice.

The closest we can get to becoming a beauty queen, in the meantime, is to mimic what Katarina Rodriguez ordered for dinner.

“Do you diet?” we asked. We must ask. For someone who has this kind of platter, the svelte form is already a supernatural case to us who are terribly going through crazy celebrity diet fads and still cannot slip into any of those sample sizes.

“The other day, I ate 16 chicken wings in one sitting. I’m currently following the keto diet, which means high protein, high fat—no carbs

(carbohydrates), no sugar—and I love it. I noticed that if I have carbs all day, I am still so hungry all the time. But if I eat meat, it’s like a solid treat,” the Bb. Pilipinas-Intercontinental titlist told us over dinner, less than an hour after she closed the first day series of shows at the Fashion Festival Northern Mindanao in SM Premiere in Cagayan de Oro last August.

Thanks to her stint on “Asia’s Next Top Model,” she could be the first Filipino to take home the crown.

Poised for a different battle this time around, she has emerged from her self-built cave and into the centerfolds of magazines. And wherever she goes—whether she wants to or not—she steps on an instant runway.

Sometimes, her outfits are copied, and for the die-hard fans, every milestone commemorated in T-shirts. “It was two of my best friends who really pushed me. For my birthday, one of them bought me a pair of six-inch black pumps.

And then my other best friend was like, ‘You need to audition for Asia’s Next Top Model.’ So I went to the audition in Hyve and I was thinking, ‘Why am I here? What am I doing? I’m not a model.’

But they both knew that deep down, modeling is something I really wanted to try. Next thing I know, I’ve made it to the first round and it just went all the way from there,” recalls Katarina, who earned a degree in philosophy at the De La Salle University. Born to Filipino parents but raised in Orlando, Florida, she has already armored herself through acid-tongued gawkers: “I was only 15 when people started calling me names.”

As the new jewel in the crown, she is the last of her kind to topple a traditional reign of a Filipino beauty queen. It’s an end of a regime, crumbling the theories of the elitists.

She was a reluctant prospect in the beginning, always too shy and too lazy to dress up.

Still, in fact: Katarina only wore a floral lace tank top and denim hotpants to this appointment sans the seven designer frocks she wore earlier on stage.

She rides the train in Manila, no yayas, and definitely, not a crybaby. She has vignettes of tattoos … that she can no longer account. Of course, a few solid principlesremain. But while she is now on the brink of transformation, how groundbreaking can she leap? … Because the world could stand by only so long for the next generation to grow into the void. Should you be the first Filipino to win the crown, what would be your first major action? I’m going to attach my victory with an advocacy.

I’m a peace advocate. I did not think that it’s going to be my advocacy because it’s such a stereotype. But it’s timely in our country, in Mindanao, in my home province—Davao.

Peace is a perfect advocacy to have now more than ever. It is underestimated. It’s more than just a sign or hugging or rainbow signs. There’s so much more to it.

It’s complex because there are layers of peace—agricultural, economic, personal, community. I think why we have war for 50 years because the Philippines has so many provinces and that affects the national decision.

What do you think is your edge against the other 70 candidates?

I have noticed in the previous year that the candidates were tall and had bigger legs. I’m a little bit short; I’m thinner. If I put myself there, I have a different look. I have a commercial beauty queen face compared to the previous holders who were very “model-esque.” I am not the typical beauty queen. It’s the 21st century. I’m not an elitist. I have tattoos all over my body. I can’t count them anymore. It’s not like they have no meaning. For technical reasons, I cover it. But for moral reasons, I really do not mind.

Are you the smartest?

I could probably say I have the fastest wit (laughs). The question and answer was the easiest for me because I took up philosophy in La Salle. My advice to aspiring beauty queen is to take up philosophy in college.


It teaches you how to connect things: there’s philosophy of business; there’s philosophy of modeling; there’s philosophy of architecture. And it teaches you how to make these connections that people don’t normally make. Our oral examination is like: What is death to you? You have a minute to discuss. Go. It’s just like pageant Q and A where you have 30 seconds to explain. My professors in La Salle are very funny. I only practiced with tito Nat of Aces and Queens, and he said I’m okay. Practice the walk nalang.

Talk about your preparations.

It’s very tedious; it’s very time consuming.

You have to sacrifice time with your friends. You have to make sure your family understands that. Your sleep is important. Your training is important. I had makeup training at least one hour a week. I have walking training at least four hours a week. I read a lot, then we have personality development classes. What else? Meeting with your designers for the national costume, evening gown, preparing what you’re going to wear for the two to three weeks while in the host country —the branding—how you dress, because it’s important to understand your style…  like what if something goes wrong and you have to improvise?  Gym and diet are my number one priority.

Do you exercise?

I do. All the time. I have a personal trainer, one-on-one twice a week and more often soon when I’m closer to the pageant. It’s targeting different body part like shoulders, core, butt because it’s more of body shaping. I do Pilates, too. I don’t run as much as before because when I run, I have the tendency to run fast and that burns a lot of the shape that I’m trying to shape. So there’s a lot of strategy to it.

Are you affected by criticisms?

Ever since high school, I was never affected by  bashers. I’m thankful to my parents, that they sent me to a high school in Orlando because that made me tough skinned. The girls were kind of mean; the guys there can be very rude also. I was just 15 when they called me names. On My Space, I used to get affected after reading them. But now, I just “heart” it.

Give us a review of the Asia’s Next Top Model stint.

I think it would be epiphany on how to actually model because the first half of the show I was very confused. I kept thinking, “Why am I here, why am I still here? I’m sure I’m going to get eliminated in the   next episode” but there was an  instance where I realized what you’re supposed to do during a photo shoot and that is not just pose, pose. After that, my experience became a lot of fun. I got better as a model.

How did everything start?

I’d say on the show. I auditioned on a whim; my friends were telling me that I should join. It was the second season in Asia, and it was just my 21st birthday that I did something different. And I guess every girl wants to be a model—whether they admit it or not, there’s always that interest inside. But in my case, it wasn’t until they pushed me to audition. The show itself was my first time.

Do you think fashion has certain standards, or is it more diverse now?

I have to say, it’s a little bit of both. I see in one end that people pay for the traditional model status, so some brands would really prefer the stereotype of a model—tall, skinny, monotone face. But then there are others who are embracing … shorter girls, prettier, commercial girls like Maureen

(Wroblewitz, the first Filipino who won ANTM).

You can see that there’s already a transition; the fit is the in-thing with models now. It changes, but I think it’s still subjective, depending on which part of the world.

What category of models are you recognized?

I’ve tried it all, eh. When I started, I had  an athletic build. I was an athlete prior to that, di ba? I got really payat after. When I started writing my thesis, I gained weight. But now, I’m in my fittest and healthiest looking because that is what beauty queens are about. That’s what it takes to be a beauty queen. I feel I’m at my happiest, too.

Is showbiz opening doors for you?

Before I joined Binibini, I was doing a “sari-sari” show with Empoy and Candy Pangilinan. I do miss acting. I miss the workshops. But for now, I want to focus on pageants because I feel that it has its expiration.

You’re one of the few who  successfully crossed over from modeling to beauty pageants. How did you do it? 

I feel like I’m the luckiest girl, but I’d say it depends also on the face and the attitude of the model. I haven’t met Kendall Jenner, but I see that she has a very conventional face, beautiful face. She can do pageants if she really wanted to.

But then, she is seen going the extra mile to make herself edgy or “fasyun.” But being a beauty queen isn’t just a job; it’s a lifestyle. You have to be at it 24-7. But you only have to be a model during a shoot or the runway—you don’t need to wear a bra, you don’t need to do your hair. I didn’t know how to make up when I was modeling. Now as a beauty queen, I have to know how to put on makeup; I make sure I look presentable every day. I’ve to speak appropriately. I must be punctual, neat, and organized.

What do you love more—  being a beauty queen or a model?

A beauty queen. I think in today’s day and age, there’s been that crossover from the traditional beauty queen that has stereotypes to a modern-day woman who has the personality who can have her likes and dislikes. There’s a new style to it. It’s not always those big princess ball gowns. There’s this stereotype of beauty queens of being a diva. But we have slowly defined her reign that is more relatable to a lot of people.

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