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Remember Her Name: Reins Mika Melitante Is the Next Filipina Model You Need to Pay Attention To

by Maura Rodriguez | Mar 8, 2021

"I believe [models] are some of the world's most insecure people at times. Even the most stunning models I've met are self-conscious over everything."

“Here! Have some cookies,” Reins Mika Melitante offers shyly under her mask as she handed me a container of home-baked Belgian chocolate chip cookies. “My mom made them!” she adds before proceeding to give out her treats to the rest of the team. Usually, models aren’t the ones sharing food on set; rather, they often refuse to take a bite of our default "shoot food" that tends to be carb-heavy (read: fast food). It’s not because they’re picky, mind you—it's just that their job requires them to look good and maintain a certain physique. Obviously, looking bloated before your first layout isn’t the most ideal way to start off a pictorial. But for the 21-year-old who's the first Filipina winner of Elite Model Look, she seems to take the unbearable pressure attached to the modeling world, and it's unrealistic beauty standards, in stride. “The modeling industry is an exciting place to be. Many people would give anything to be a part of this industry, just like in [the movie] ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’” Mika says. “However, it has disadvantages, such as the demand to meet this kind of standard, which is also an issue that needs to be addressed today,” Mika tells us matter-of-factly, fully aware of the pitfalls of the profession she worked hard to be in.


Reins Mika for Preview March 2020

To give you a better idea of Mika's blossoming career, Elite Model Look used to be called “Look of the Year” from 1983 to 2010 before rebranding, and the international competition discovered the likes of Cindy Crawford, and Victoria’s Secret models Giselle Bündchen and Alessandra Ambrosio, just to name a few. Meanwhile, the Elite Model Management network handles talent like social media juggernaut Kendall Jenner and even Euphoria star Hunter Schaffer, so it's safe to say that it's one of the most prestigious modeling agencies globally. Being the only Asian in EML’s Digital Creator category and the first Filipina winner in her division, Mika’s triumph poses more significance than simply snagging an international modeling contract and flaunting Pinoy pride.

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But how did the self-confessed introvert (who adamantly refused to do live events or interviews on YouTube or Kumu when she won because of her stage fright and awkwardness) come up on top? During our cover shoot, the model on the rise showed us firsthand how she caught the attention and favor of the judges, international scouts, and mentors like supermodel Coco Rocha. Photographed by Koji Arboleda and art directed by Bacs ArcebalMika moved languidly and with intelligence as she was given instructions on how to strike a pose for her Preview cover shoot—ranging from “make love to the log” to “look elven.” While most models will just do what they’re told, Mika did more than what was required and was collaborative in the most creative sense. To quote makeup artist and hairstylist Cats del Rosario, “Ang dami mong baon!”—an industry saying that means someone is bringing her A-game on the set.


We watched Mika, clad in Louis Vuitton’s Playing Cards collection, strike a pose in front of the camera for a good five hours before we wrapped up our cover shoot. But her day wasn’t over yet. Being part of the Preview Clique, the brand’s exclusive group of content creators and KOLs, the model had to jump into a video shoot that required more of her commercial modeling skills.

As a team, we’ve seen Mika on the runways and campaigns of local brands and designers and quickly took notice of her. So, we were pleasantly surprised to see the college student at our Preview Clique auditions—that there was an engaging and bubbly personality behind the pretty face.


As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we sat down with Mika for a candid chat as she shared with us her humble beginnings as an aspiring model, how dedication and the willingness to learn gave her the opportunity of a lifetime, and why accepting your flaws is a must in an industry that strives for perfection.

Hi Mika! Congratulations on winning Elite Model Look! Can you tell us what it felt like when you found out?

"I couldn't believe it when they told me I had won. I thought, 'Why would they even choose an average girl to meet their international standards?' It's also a dream come true to have represented the Philippines. Throughout the competition, I've been amazed at how supportive everyone has been, particularly my family, friends, and colleagues.


"I think what made me stand out during this competition was the creative input I delivered to the challenges and sharing something out of the ordinary. I made people feel and see my creative/artistic vision."

How did you find out about Elite Model Look? What made you join?

"I found out about the Elite Model Look on Instagram and applied there. They invited me to participate after I submitted my picture. (Actually, it's as plain as that!) But I entered because I wanted to advance my career by taking the extra mile; I just didn't realize the Elite Model Look would be such a significant jump on my career."

What made you compete in the digital creator category and not the normal model category?

"Traditionally, models don’t grow their own career into a brand. But as the digital age progresses, what defines a model is someone that has something to say, stands for something, believes in something, and can connect with their audience. There has never been a time in this industry that talent has wielded the influence that it does now, and many people are unaware of it.


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"I decided to compete in the digital creator category because I want to evolve not only as a model, but a brand. All are digital, virtual, and rendered in-house, particularly when we are still in the midst of a pandemic. It's not like I'm trying to make a living as an Instagrammer or a TikToker; those are just platforms for me to share my work. I work to go beyond that.


"My goal is to become part of the next generation of emerging supermodels in the digital age. I want to have an authentic relationship with my audience while bringing a level of professionalism, driving creativity and innovation regardless of what industry I am in—commercial, runway, or editorial." 

What's it like being mentored by the likes of Coco Rocha and Cameron Dallas? What did it feel like being the only Asian model in your category?

"Being mentored by Coco Rocha was incredible; she treated me like a sister and everything she taught during the Coco Rocha Model Bootcamp was insightful that I filled an entire notebook with notes [laughs]. I was also starstruck the first time I worked with Cameron Dallas. He was really down-to-earth and open-minded when it came to imparting knowledge about the industry.


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"Being the only Asian model in my division made me nervous at first, but I quickly realized that it was an incredible opportunity, particularly after representing the Philippines in the Elite Model Look after for so many years and being the first Filipina to win the competition as well."

For those unfamiliar, can you share how you started modeling? How old were you?

"I had never considered being a model before, and I had no idea how it worked. To be honest, I never thought of myself as attractive or 'model-worthy' until I was discovered by [the Professional Models Association of the Philippines] when I was 15 years old. However, since I was still studying, I just went to VTRs and casting calls whenever I had free time.

"I became serious in modeling between the ages of 16 and 17; that's when I started booking a lot of commercials. During high school, I fell in love with this profession, and I made it a point to attend castings and go-sees. I believe that my dedication helped me to branch out into other types of modeling, such as runway and editorial.


"It’s funny because I remember in my first two years in college; I would avoid partying after class, and I didn’t even have time to hang out with my blockmates. In college, I was a bit of a lone wolf because I was more focused on my work. After school, I will usually dash to my car and drive straight to a casting or shoot. If I don't have any plans for the day, I'll just stay at home and rest."


Was your family supportive of your modeling journey from the beginning?

"My mother has always been a strong supporter of my modeling career. She used to be a magazine writer, and when I was a kid, she would always make me the model. She will also encourage me to attend workshops and go-sees as a kid. But she eventually stopped me so that I could concentrate on my studies. She didn't hesitate to say no when she learned that I wanted to try this as a career.


"Every time my parents see my work, I know they are extremely proud of me. I would sometimes buy magazines and send them over to my grandmother, who would then show them to my relatives."

So you do runway, editorial, and commercial work. How do you manage to do all three? Because not all models are actually that versatile!

"Personally, I'm a very aggressive learner. Many people have told me that I can only be 'this or that,' but I believe that in order to grow and evolve, I must constantly challenge myself. That's how I go about pursuing various goals. It's all about learning new things and putting yourself in new situations to expand your worldview and perspectives in life. You then become very versatile, multi-creative!"


Who are your fashion heroes or models that you look up to and inspired you to get into the industry?

"I have a lot of fashion heroes I look up to: Margaret Zhang, Leslie Zhang, John Yuyi. I always get inspired by their beauty and art in orientalism. The models who inspired me to get into modeling are Devon Aoki, Estelle Chen, Feifei Sun, Mika Schneider, He Cong, Liu Wen. I look up to these models because I love their Asian features."

The modeling world is undeniably exciting, but it can be toxic too for young girls. Were there any physical and emotional challenges you had to overcome as a young model?

"I believe that young girls who choose modeling as a profession are often subjected to physical and emotional pressure. When I first started out, I had a lot of external struggles juggling academics and avoiding being scammed by bogus agents, jobs, and so on. Internally, I struggled with my features. I didn't use to love my chinky eyes because I used to get teased for them being tiny. But as I grew older, I realized they're one of my modeling assets."


What do you think are the most common misconceptions about modeling? What does it really take to get the job done and how does one last in the industry?

"I believe the most common misconception about modeling is that it is an easy profession. And everybody in the industry agrees it's one of the toughest. Yes, there is glitz and glam and all that. What you don't see, though, is what goes on behind the scenes: We also use too much makeup. We get far more rejections than job offers. We [get judged] on a daily basis and sometimes even be discriminated against. (Because not everyone is accepting of diversity yet.)


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"I believe [models] are some of the world's most insecure people at times. Even the most stunning models I've met are self-conscious over everything. Our mental, physical, and emotional journeys are put to the test, and we actually have to accept that because, unfortunately, everyone can be replaced in a matter of seconds. If you wish to work in this industry for a long time, you must have fortitude.

"I, too, have struggled to enter this industry; I am an introvert at heart, but an extremely well-trained extrovert. I like to be alone and in my comfort zone, so it was difficult for me to open up to anyone at first. However, as I grew older, I pushed myself to grow and learn. Modeling has its drawbacks, but it also inspires you to be better than you were before. It is not just a profession, but a journey of self-discovery and personal growth."


During the cover shoot, you moved so well! What are your tips and tricks when posing?

"THE MUSIC! Great music is the key to posing. Coco Rocha actually taught us to have music every time we shoot. Not those songs from Spotify's Top 10 Hits or the songs from TikTok. Get songs from the classics—we're talking about Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Queen, ABBA, etc. You need music to make you feel something. As a result, when people see the output, they will stop and stare. When you can capture people's attention, you know you've made a stunning shot."


What's your message for girls who also aspire to be a model like yourself?

"I believe everyone can be successful as a model—in this new digital age, a model is more than just being tall and slim, looking beautiful on camera, or walking on the runway. [It's also about] the ability to inspire change and to be a voice for others. We must strive to be role models, rather than simply models."


Photographed by Koji Arboleda

Produced and Written by Maura Rodriguez

Art Direction by Bacs Arcebal

Fashion Direction and Styling by Steph Sison

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Hair and Makeup by Cats del Rosario

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