It was a night filled with cheers, tears, and resounding pride as 19-year-old Filipino Maureen Wroblewitz beat the towering contenders of “Asia’s Next Top Model,” bringing home the elusive title for the first time in five years.
Wroblewitz finally took home Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM) title. It was the country’s first since the Asian version of Tyra Banks’ popular reality modeling competition premiered in 2012.
Surrounded by friends and well-wishers on Wednesday night’s finale viewing party at The Palace Pool Club, Wroblewitz had tears welling in her eyes as the winner of the regional version of Tyra Bank’s popular production was about to be called.
And when host and judge Cindy Bishop finally announced Wroblewitz’s name, pandemonium erupted at the venue as the Asia’s Next Top Model let go of her emotions and cried with joy.
The 5’5” stunner impressively won over much taller and more experienced co-finalists in Vietnam’s Minh Tu Nguyen and Malaysia’s Shikin Gomez.
“I feel really happy because a Filipina has never won [the modeling competition]so I’m really proud of myself. I am so happy that I was finally able to make the fans’ dreams come true,” Wroblewitz declared during the after-show interview.
The nation immediately celebrated her triumph as social media exploded with congratulatory messages for Wroblewitz, in turn catapulting her name to the top trending spot on Twitter.
Fans of the reality competition on Fox Philippines had indeed waited a long time for a winner, after Filipina contestants emerged only as runners-up in the past: Cycle 1’s Stephanie Retuya finished third in 2012; Cyle 2’s Jodilly Pendre was first runner-up in 2013; Cyle 3’s Monika Sta. Maria also first in 2014; and Cycle 4’s Julian Flores finished a semi-finalist.
Road to victory
Dubbed as the most “inexperienced and shortest girl” in the competition, having no modeling background before joining the reality show and standing inches below the usual height of moving mannequins, Wroblewitz was hardly a strong contender at the beginning of Cycle 5 in April.
In fact, by the third episode of AsNTM, Wroblewitz was pegged in the bottom two of 14 contestants from around the region, along with fellow Filipina Jennica Sanchez. The latter was eventually eliminated.
Acknowledging her weaknesses Wroblewitz said she had no confidence going into the competition.
“At first, I was doubting myself—I didn’t know what I was doing in front of the camera. I always felt shy to show the few poses I had because I knew everyone else had so much experience. I felt they were all watching me and judging me,” Wreblowitz confessed.
She got back into the game when the other contestants admitted Wroblewitz had a “pretty face.” But behind her back, they whispered it was the only reason why she was surviving eliminations. In fact, by the eighth episode, the group confronted the Filipina rookie and told her she did not deserve to stay in the show.
And that was all Wroblewitz needed to give the fight of her life, pushing her to give the best performances of the season from then on.
“I’d say AsNTM was a crazy, roller-coaster ride. I had a lot of ups and downs, I was at the bottom but I eventually gave the best performance. I’d say I finally saw myself as a strong competitor after ignoring the comments. I told myself, ‘Just forget about them—do your own thing. You’re doing this for yourself and not for them or anyone else.’ So for the rest of the episodes, I started getting better and feeling more confident,” Wroblewitz recalled.
Indeed, Wroblewitz was on fire on the day of judgment with the panel comprised Bishop; Yu Tsai, AsNTM creative director; Ruby Adler, Storm Management’s model agent; Adele Chan, Nylon Singapore editor-in-chief; and special guest judge and Philippine pride, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach.
“I never cared that you were the pretty one, or the youngest and the shortest one among the bunch because truthfully in modeling today, none of those labels matters to me. Somehow I knew you would be here and you deserved to be here,” Tsai—who also served as a creative director for America’s Next Top Model—told Wroblewitz at the final deliberation.
Lack of experience
Asked what she felt was her biggest advantage in the competition, Wroblewitz quickly credited her very lack of modeling experience.
“I really feel like being inexperienced is not a bad thing because it just gives you more room to learn. You become a sponge—you hear everything and learn everything and then you use them,” Wroblewitz affirmed.
She talked about how experienced models come to the competition set in their ways already.
“As an experienced model, you’ve already had many photo shoots so when someone comes up and tells you that you have to change this and that, you may say, ‘Why should I when I’ve been modeling for so long and it was never a problem?’ So it’s kind of harder to change your ways compared to someone like me who was learning everything for the first time and doing everything for the first time,” Wroblewitz analyzed.
The new top model of the region said she believes the judges saw “an overall package in her.” Elaborating, she said, “It’s not just about the look—the whole package also includes how you will fare outside the competition.”
Thoughts on bullying
As the show’s new winner, Wroblewitz finally came to terms with the bullying she experienced in the competition. For the levelheaded young woman, it’s just all part of the game.
“We really felt the competition all through the show because that’s really how it is. But in the end, we can all just forget about it and be ourselves now,” Wreblowitz told The Manila Times.
She also defended fellow Filipina Sanchez who was among her vocal critics in the roster.
“I know Filipinos should support each other so at first, I didn’t really understand why that was happening. But on the other hand, if you forget about being Filipinas and really get into the competition, it makes more sense. Maybe she was threatened by me so maybe she thought she had to bring me down and make me feel like giving up,” Wroblewitz surmised.
But in the end, all’s well that ends triumphantly and Wreblowitz is grateful she proved her critics wrong.
“I’m really happy that I proved them wrong—that I’m not just a pretty face. I am so much more that.”
Asked for her message to those who experience bullying in their lives, she said, “You shouldn’t really mind them. Just focus on yourself, focus on the people you love and who love you, and get positive vibes all the time.”
Asia’s new top model is now ready to conquer the international scene as part of her prize. Besides driving home a new car and landing the cover of Nylon Singapore, she also has the chance to be represented by Storm Model Management of London based on her output from here on.
As she spent her night of victory though, the Filipina-German was happy to kick her heels off and express the happiness in her heart.
“I want thank you all so much for accepting me and for supporting me—the last Filipina standing,” she ended.