Asia’s Next Top Model Season 2 (2014) finalist Katarina Rodriguez proves that she’s a lot more than just a pretty face
Words by Edwin P. Sallan
Photos by Jorge Wieneke and Manolo Lacanlalay
Even though she did not win the title of “Asia’s Next Top Model”, Katarina Rodriguez was clearly a standout in the second season of the reality modeling competition series.
En route to her still impressive second runner-up finish, the 21-year old Katarina, or Katja as she is fondly referred to by her family and close friends was not only among the least experienced among the 16 finalists, she was also arguably the prettiest in the batch.
As a matter of fact, it’s the “worst” criticism she has ever received from the show’s judges.
“Everyone has always been telling me how pretty I am and then when I got into this show the judges were telling me ‘You’re too pretty in a negative way! I would smile and say thank you and then they’ll tell me it’s not supposed to be a compliment,” she recalled.
During the show’s finale, one judge even compared her to no less than Hollywood screen legend, Elizabeth Taylor.
“I was really, really flattered to be compared to Elizabeth Taylor who was not only very beautiful but also a legendary international icon at that,” she exclaimed.
Despite her classic mestizo features that made her such a striking personality in the modeling competition, Katja said she had to work extra hard in order to continue advancing after hurdling one challenge after another.
“It doesn’t matter how tall you are or how beautiful you are. If you don’t know how to deliver what they are asking from you, you won’t succeed. You will not accomplish what another girl who’s shorter or who has average features can if you don’t know the skills you need to succeed in modeling,” she noted.
Still, she was very surprised that she did as well as she had.
“I didn’t expect to do well since I had limited modeling experience. Most of the girls have been in the industry for years and they knew what they were doing. I often wake up in the morning thinking ‘Why am I here?’ I had this plan of getting my degree, that I had the brains and I underestimated what it takes to be a model. You do need a brain to be a model, You can’t have an empty head.”
And Katarina is certainly a lot more than just a pretty face. Being a Dean’s Lister at De La Salle University where she is a LiaCom major, she is certainly anything but an airhead.
Now in her fourth year, Katja has always considered herself a Green Archer since she belongs to several generations of distinguished La Sallistas including grandfather Jack Rodriguez, a well-known businessman, and uncle Archie Rodriguez, a celebrated restaurateur.
Katarina said she had to adjust to her campus environment in La Salle, which she says is a lot different from her experience in the States.
“When I first got to La Salle, it was like I was still in high school because of all the rules, things like tardiness and dress codes. In the US, in universities, they don’t really look at that because you are paying. If you don’t attend classes, that’s your money going down the drain. But I think I have adjusted and are now really enjoying school here in the Philippines,” she declared.
Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, Katja fondly recalls what’s it like growing up in a place that has close proximity to the magic kingdom itself, Walt Disney World.
“That place is actually what I miss the most about Orlando. I used to skip school just to go to Disney World. One of my neighbors worked there for 25 years. She gave me free tickets and as long as they’re not blocked out dates, I go there every two weeks. Being a kid at heart, I still miss it a lot,” she confessed.
She first showed signs of creativity when she got involved in school plays where she was part of those in charge of arts and props.
“I used to hang out with kids who are in school plays but I never really participated in plays. All I did was join workshops.”
Her competitive spirit, however, was honed when she became involved in sports, particularly cross country track and field. She has been running ever since and as a member of DLSU’s track and field team has done well in quite a few “runathons”.
Asked if she ever joined beauty pageants given her striking features, Katja said she never considered herself a “pageant girl”.
“No offense to those who do participate in pageants but I’m just not built for that and I have no interest,” she declared. .
She added that while people see similarities between beauty pageant contestants and those who join supermodel competitions, there’s actually a big difference between the two.
“Being a supermodel takes creativity and you need to improvise while being in a pageant, you need to be organized, everything is utilitarian, you have to be logical. Being a supermodel is an art, you have to see the vision of the photographer and of the client. You have to collaborate everything that they want into one, final product. What does a pageant girl do? They have a fixed smile, say cheesy things,” she noted.
Katja is surprised, even amused that people see her now for her physical beauty when she was in fact a “wallflower for a while” back in high school.
“I didn’t have any boyfriend but I did become homecoming queen,” she admitted. “In the States, the stereotypes are not like the ones you see in the movies like the football team or the popular kid. Their stereotype was more like the wallflower or the geeky type, the ones who are more involved in school.”
She also finds it annoying when people say she doesn’t look like a Filipina.
“It’s kind of funny when I’m in the States and I say I’m a Filipina, everyone believes me. I come to the Philippines and no one believes me. My grandfather’s from Zamboanga, my grandmother’s from Davao, my mom’s family is from Manila. These are all places in the Philippines, so tell me then where am I from?,” she wondered.
Not that any of that still matters now that “Asia’s Next Top Model” had the whole nation rooting for her and fellow Filipina finalist Jodilly Pendre. Although they eventually fell a tad short of winning the title that went to eventual winner Sheena Liam of Malaysia, both Katja and Jodilly can look forward to a very bright career in modeling.
“I’ll be going to London with Jodi to fulfill a plan that we had during the show. I have a lot of other plans on my own which I plan to do after the show too. One of them is a reality show in YouTube and it’s going to be titled “Keeping up with Katarina” after the hit reality TV show “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. It’s like a video blog and it keeps track of the events in my life.”
Oh, and she also has no intention of giving up her slot in the DLSU track and field team anytime soon. The highly competitive Katarina Rodriguez still has plenty of miles on her wheels along with perhaps a few more gold medals to win.