Saturday, July 26, 2014

Model Off Duty: Kelsey Merritt

1:30 AM

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Model (and student) Kelsey Merritt takes the time to tell us about her big break, her model persona, and her #goals.

Does this girl look familiar to you? You’ve probably seen her face before. You may know her from the recent editorials she’s done with a number of well-known publications lately, like Mega, Cosmopolitan, Candy, Preview, Metro Society, ChalkThe Philippine Inquirer, and The Philippine Star in the past year. Tim Yap named her the next “It Girl” and compared her look to that of local celebrities Georgina Wilson and Anne Curtis. Without a doubt, Kelsey Merritt is a rising star in the Philippine media and in the local fashion industry.

Kelsey isn’t just a model – she’s also a full-time student at the Ateneo de Manila University. Kelsey and I met in our Filipino class during the first semester of our first year of college. From the start, she was friendly and fun to hang out with and we became friends after we found we had the same breaks and PE schedule. It was only a few weeks after I met her that I found out that she wasn’t just some regular student – apparently she had been a model too for quite some time! I was so surprised: she is so down-to-earth and humble about her career – the kind of uber cool double life that most teenage girls dream of having. 

Recently, Kelsey has signed on to a campaign for Forever 21 and another for Robinsons Department Store. In fact, she’s begun to branch out into modeling and doing commercials for fields outside of the fashion world, with huge brands like Nescafe, Smart, Palmolive, and BDO Mastercard. A lot of people just know her as an upcoming model and a pretty girl – both of which may be true, but there is so much more to her than just that. 

Here, we interview her about her modeling debut: when she started, what inspired her to start, and what it was like for her as she began her career. Without further ado, I give you the girl behind the countless fashion and beauty editorials – intelligent student, stylish lady, hobby photographer, super shopper, and awesome friend, Kelsey Merritt. 

When did you start modeling? What is the story behind your debut in the fashion world? 
I started modeling when I was 14 in my hometown of Pampanga. I modeled for a local designer and he has a friend who happens to be a director of Philippine Fashion Week. The director saw my photos and he wanted to meet me to talk about the possibility of (a) career in the modeling industry. My career blossomed after that. 

What made you decide to pursue it?
I never dreamt of modeling, but my friends convinced me and told me that since the opportunity is there, then I might as well strike while the iron is hot. Never did I regret taking their advice.

You were 14 when you first started. What was it like starting out that young?
Starting at such a young age I was very insecure about a lot of things. I was short, I was unexperienced and I didnt feel good enough. Being surrounded with a crowd that's been modelling for years and have developed names, it was hard not to stay confident in your own skin. 

How did you get over those insecurities?
There was this one time, my agency told me to go to a fashion show go see for Forever21. It was the second go see I've gone too in my life at that time. Going to the casting, I was greeted with drop dead, long-legged models from all over the world all casting for the same job. There was no way I was going to get the job. No way. But I did it anyway. When I got home, I received a text from my agency telling me that I got the job. I never felt so happy about myself at that time. I started to feel confident and less insecure.

Tell us about your first photo shoot and fashion show. What were those like? 
My first photoshoot was for a local designer in Pampanga. At that time I thought my photos were pretty good but now I realize how bad I posed and how unprofessional I looked. It really takes experience to be good at what you do. Modeling isn’t as easy as people deem it to be. 

How quickly did you adjust to the routine? 
When I was still in high school in Pampanga, I would only take jobs during the weekends because I had school on the weekdays, but now that I am in college and [I] already [live] in the metropolis, it’s much easier taking jobs after class. It was really hard for me during the first semester but I ended up adjusting really well and learned how to manage my time well. 

Does your model persona match your identity as a person? 
Being a model, you get the chance to be different people. Sometimes they want you to be the meanest bitch in town, sometimes they want you to be a sweet girl, and sometimes they transform you into a witch. Different clients want different things, and because of that I get to portray a lot of people. I get lucky sometimes when the character they want me to be is just [the] typical me. It makes the job so much easier. 

How would you describe "typical Kelsey" then?
Typical me is very fun, happy and all smiles. I enjoy doing shoots when all I have to do is smile and be pretty!

Your exposure is focused mainly on the visual aspect of media. What’s that like? Are you comfortable with it or are there some times when you feel that you want to be heard? 
Well, not necessarily. When I model I become the face of the brand or rather, I represent the image of the brand. Yes, I'm comfortable with it cause that's part of the job description. I'm supposed to be comfortable with it. That's why people always tell models to know first what they're getting in to before they do. There was this one time I did a billboard for Wil Tower Mall and the only thing seen was my legs. It felt weird but it really happens. 

How did all of the exposure affect you at first? How does it affect you now? 
I was overwhelmed with all of the big names I got to meet in the run but I always remind myself to stay grounded. 

Considering everything that's going on in your life right now, what are your main goals (for both the present and future)?
Well, right now I'm more focused on my studies and modeling is just something I do part time which I have been doing quite frequently. I want to be somewhere under Advertising and PR.

Is there anything that you want to prove?
Well, one of the many things I'd like to prove is that models aren't "patapon".

Why do you think that the stigma of models being "patapon" even exists? 
Well, for me it's mostly because most people think its an easy job? You don't need a degree to model.

What do you plan to do on your 18th? 
I don’t want anything extravagant. I don’t want a debut, either. I don’t have plans yet though.

Article by Monica
Interview by Gaby
Artwork by Nikki, Photos taken with permission from Kelsey's portfolio

Monica grew up in Manila and is currently a college student majoring in Creative Writing. Her favorite food in the world is chocolate, but bacon is a close second. She loves fashion, art, travel, old TV shows, films, and music. She is also a singer-songwriter. You can check out her music at :)
Nikki Santos-Ocampo is a girl that sometimes feels like a boy, and is also an all-around art enthusiast and a linguist that likes the mysterious sounds words make. She likes wearing round spectacles of any sort, playing with her makeup when she’s bored, and envisioning outfits for various kinds of occasions. She has a style diary here and maintains a twitter that experiences extreme lows and highs of activity.  


  1. Oh I am a fan of Kelsey Merritt! I love seeing her photos from the glossy pages in countless magazines and in billboards too. But what inspired me most about her is that she is serious about her studies too. Well claimed "It Girl" label 😘😘