Dubai is definitely no stranger to Filipino talents. Just think of sought-after designers Michael Cinco and Furne One of Amato Couture, who have both dressed countless A-list Hollywood celebrities. Even actress Maymay Entrata has done a modeling stint there, having been the first Filipina to ever walk at the Arab Fashion Week.
Now, another Filipina model has thrown her hat in the ring and is trying to make a name for herself in the City of Gold: Meet Denise Omorog. Hailing from Catanduanes, the 24-year-old Bicolana just recently signed with one of the most elite modeling agencies worldwide and moved her whole life on the other side of the world to pursue her dreams.
If she looks familiar, that's because you've probably seen her in JAG's huge billboard along EDSA for this year's Binibing Pilipinas pageant. Denise previously competed in beauty pageants; she won Miss Ibalong in 2018 and made it to Top 25 of Binibining Pilipinas 2019.
For most people, getting eliminated early in the game would have been a devastating thing, and not winning the crown she's trained years for. But Denise's passion is greater than her fears even at the face of defeat. And little did she know, a thousand miles away, another big opportunity was waiting for her.
Below, Denise talks to Preview about the serendipitous start of her modeling career and what living independently in Dubai is like.
Before becoming a full-time model, you competed in beauty pagents. What was your experience like in the world of pagentry?
"For me, pageants really made me discover who I am and what I can offer to people. There's a bigger picture—more than just the glitz and glam. Pageantry developed my character as a person, I discovered a lot about myself and most of all I found an advocacy that influenced people and made an impact to our society."
What made you want to pursue modeling full-time?
"Modeling is something I'm passionate about. And if I were to join [Binibining Pilipinas again] in the coming years, I believe it would be advantageous to me to use this as an opportunity to really enhance my skills in front of the camera. I love to learn and grow my modeling skills in different environment. And a good friend once told me this advice she learned, 'Honor the task that is in front of you. Don't ignore it because you're dreaming of something bigger. Whatever you're doing now will help you in whatever bigger thing you're going to do later.' I really believe that, too."
Tell us a little more about your journey. How did your start with Wilhemina Models?
"It was actually unexpected. Right after Binibining Pilipinas, I took up small projects like photo shoots for local beauty brands, guesting at regional and local pageants, and attending several events. But then I realized that I needed to grow, you know what I mean? I need to have another perspective, another lens to see the next path. And so I decided to work abroad. Dubai was the first country I thought of because my aunt already lives there. I originally wanted to apply as a flight attendant for Emirates. But while waiting for the update for my application, my handlers here asked me if I wanted to try modeling in Dubai. I did a casting with Wilhelmina, then boom! I got in. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, actually. So everything just worked out."
How has your experience been so far?
"Right now, I am trying to learn and grow in this industry. I'm currently booked as a model for an e-commerce clothing brand right now. It's a big company here in the UAE. I've experienced photoshoots and runways so far, and e-commerce is a totally different experience for me."
How different is modeling in pageantry for you personally? Was it a big shift?
"Honestly, it wasn't that big of a shift. Based from my experience, both industries imvolves being in front of the camera. But I will say, pageantry has more of an involvement in social causes and women empowerment, while modeling tends to be more of a business deal."
What's been the most challenging part of all of this?
"The most challenging part is working abroad. Being away from my family was the hardest sacrifice I had to make just to pursue this dream. Also, living independently abroad is no joke. I'm new in Dubai so I'm doing a lot of adjusting and settling in before I can say that I've fully immersed myself in the country."
Would you go back for another try at the crown?
"One of my biggest achievements in life was when I joined [Binibining Pilipinas]. Somehow, I became fulfilled with my dreams in becoming a beauty queen. I've been in the pageant industry for a couple of years now, and my end goal was to reach Binibini. And overcoming that goal was really worth it. But I feel that there's so much more that I can offer. Things to work on for a better performance and outcome. And if God permits, I would love to have a second shot."
What's your advice for aspiring models or queens?
"Being a beauty queen or a model does not happen overnight. I am a strong believer of hardwork. If you want something, you really have to chase it and put in the hours of work. Be passionate and committed to your goal. Never doubt and believe in yourself because however small the effort is, you're one step closer to that moment were everything will feel surreal and magical."