Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Having a grand time—our first shoot after the pandemic

Miss Grand International 2022 wins over Manila in gowns by Mike dela Rosa and Joel Escober

Miss Grand International 2022 Isabella Menin in a Mike dela Rosa

Miss Grand International 2022 Isabella Menin’s eyes lightened up the moment I played Brazilian music from my track list, to rev things up for her fashion shoot.

Isabella Menin in a Joel Escober black sequined serpentine with 3D accent

This Sao Paolo native who has spent most of her time in Europe, particularly in London, for modeling, flew into town along with Miss Grand International chairperson and owner Nawat Itsaragrisil to announce that Arnold Vegafria of the ALV Pageant Circle is the new Miss Grand International national director, and his firm is now tasked to select the Philippine representative for Miss Grand International 2023.

While waiting for the rest of the glam team to arrive, Menin quietly sipped her coffee at the McArthur Suite at Manila Hotel, the shoot venue. “Pageants are quite big in the Philippines no?” she asked. Everyone agreed.

Miss Grand International 2022 Isabella Menin in Mike dela Rosa black halter lame gown with boa feather neckline

Miss Grand International is only 10 years old, but the pageant has a huge fan base especially in the ASEAN region, particularly Vietnam and Indonesia, aside from its home country Thailand. Miss Grand is slowly winning the hearts of Filipino fans who make up the strong fan base of Miss Universe for various reasons. But Miss Grand has been proving that it could give its pageant competitors a run for their money, especially in terms of grand show productions, giving bigger opportunities for winners such as world-wide travel and endorsement campaigns. The Philippines has yet to win Miss Grand International, but it has come close— first runner-up positions twice.

We were given only a few hours to shoot Isabella for she had a dinner engagement with the rest of the Miss Grand entourage, but she and the Thai Miss Grand staff led by Phakapan Homglob were very gracious and accommodating. There was no pressure to hurry up, and they had a fun chat with us and even brought snacks. It was a fun challenge to explain chicharon, piyaya.

Since things have largely opened up, people are out and mingling, COVID seems to be a distant memory. This was actually my first shoot since the pandemic where there was a sense of normalcy.

“I can actually stay here the entire night,” Isabella said, “I’m still full actually.” It was because they were treated to a Jollibee lunch and she was raving about the Chicken Joy, the Jollibee burger, Jolly hotdog and peach mango pie.

The shoot was far from pageantry. The colors were subdued, the textures– not even beaded, but only a hint of shimmer, the silhouette in elegant body form. They were gowns by Joel Escober and Mike dela Rosa. Mike braved the Manila traffic on a Friday night to bring the finale piece—a black long dress with feather collar.

A professional model, Isabella is no stranger to the fashion camera. She understood readily what we wanted, the vibe—make it fashion. She knew her perfect angles, so the shoot went smoothly and fast, so that even after we wrapped up, there were still a few minutes for photo ops with the team.

Filipinos have a way of laying out the red carpet for celebrities, from K-pop and K-drama stars to beauty queens, and this shoot proves how we go the extra mile for a “grand” welcome.

In Joel Escober mocha organza shift dress with bias stripes

Photography Roj Miguel
Styling Luis Carlo San Juan
Makeup AJ Castro Jose
Hairstyle Angel Tolentino
Editorial Assistant Marco Tubo
Shot on location The McArthur Suite, Manila Hotel
Special thanks to Harley Tan, Krishna Balsarza and ALV Pageant Circle

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