MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino-Canadian supermodel Paolo Roldan, who made headlines in 2010 when he posed nude in Vogue Paris, considers it a dream-come-true to return to the Philippines and be a model for a homegrown brand.
Last Sunday, Roldan appeared at the fashion show of the local clothing brand Bench at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. The event was part of Philippine Fashion Week Holiday 2013, which featured creations by some of the country’s top designers.
Before the Pinoy supermodel's runway debut as a Bench endorser, which was a highlight of Sunday's fashion show, several large billboards of Roldan for the brand were erected along major roads.
"I've seen them," Roldan told ABS-CBN News' Gretchen Fullido in a one-on-one interview, referring to his billboards.
"It's funny, because we had just come back from going out and we drove past it, and my friends were in the car with me, and they were like, 'Paolo, it's you!' They're massive billboards. It was nice, it was really cool," he said.
Roldan, however, is no stranger to seeing glamorized images of him in public.
Aside from being a runway favorite as a Boss Models talent, he has joined the New York Fall Fashion Week and was one of the faces of Givenchy. Givenchy is the same French luxury lifestyle brand that featured his nude appearance in the French edition of Vogue.
Now dubbed a "supermodel," Roldan said his success in the fashion industry was a "blessing" he never thought would easily fall into his lap.
But it wasn't all breezy for the Pinoy model.
In his on-on-one interview with Fullido, Roldan talks about dealing with rejection as part of the modeling industry, his Filipino roots, and his biggest dream as a kid (it wasn't modeling).
Q: Tell us about your stay in the Philippines so far.
A: I arrived May 10. It's been amazing. We've met so many people. I say "we" because my friends came with me, just to hang out. We've met so many good people taking us around the city. Just about a week and a half ago, we went to Boracacy for some chill time (his second time). We're now planning a trip to Palawan, because I just found out my lola has a place there, in El Nido.
Q: You were born in the Philippines, but you're based in Canada. Would you say you're still a Filipino at heart?
A: Most definitely. I was raised as a Filipino, and I will never lose that. This is my hometown, and I'm always happy to be back. I wish I could come back and just stay for a while, but unfortunately I have to work and leave.
Q: How was your experience modeling nude for Givenchy?
A: I treated it as a job first and foremost, and it also helped that the guys who were shooting it and the designer -- because it was an exclusive for Givenchy -- they made me feel comfortable about it. It wasn't difficult at all. Maybe I was a little bit shy at first, but when the camera started shooting, you just got to be in that mode.
Q: What advice can you give to Filipino models who want to become successful internationally?
A: I would say to them, just be yourself. That's it. And on the business aspect, you should travel, because that's very important. You can't stay in one place. You have to travel and be seen. On top of that, it would become an amazing experience for them, and that builds the character. It just makes you more well-rounded.
Q: Do you know how to speak Tagalog?
A: Marunong ako mag-Tagalog.
Q: What is your favorite Filipino food?
A: Kare-kare is my favorite. Sinigang as well. I love those dishes. Actually, since I've been back here, I found out that I love all of them. There is no particular favorite.
Even my friends they've been just digging the food like crazy. I'm surprised by how much they like taking in the culture, because I was worried they were going to have some trouble adjusting to it, but they've been just loving. They don't even want to leave.
Q: How do you keep fit?
A: Obviously I can't eat that way all the time, I do it on my cheat days, which is one day out of a week. But for the most part, I cook my own food, and I eat a lot of vegetables, I eat a lot of just like straight-up protein -- chicken breasts, stake.
There's hardly any oil. I have to make it taste nice as well, so I do sometimes use like coconut oil. But it's pretty lean for the most part. I love cooking, so I find ways to make it tasty for me and be healthy at the same time. It's definitely [better to make my own food than buy it], because I know what goes in there.
Q: Now, you're endorsing Bench, one of the biggest brands in the Philippines. What does it mean to you that you're going back home?
A: I'm very happy with it. Thank you, Bench. It's nice to be able to come back to the Philippines and actually work, because I've been waiting for that chance to do that since I started modeling. And it's finally happening, it has finally materialized, and I'm very thankful for it, and just happy to be back, and have this experience with the people in the Philippines, with my family and my friends.
Q: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
A: Oh, maybe back here. I don't know, we'll see what happens.
Q: Give us a picture of how it is to be internationally modeling.
A: If you keep yourself healthy, relaxed, for the most part... It's difficult in the sense that it's a lot of work, it's quite tiring. But if you pace yourself, you'll be alright, but there are times when you're super jet-lagged. Like, you just came from another country and you have to work the next day, or go to go-sees the next day. So you just have to find ways of how to deal with it.
Q: How do you deal with rejection?
A: You can't take it personally, is what I would say. And that's what I do. I just don't take it personally, because it is a job and people have a certain aesthetic that they want to present, and it does not necessarily mean that it's going to be you every time. You have to just take it for what it is, and move on.
Q: How do you feel about girls swooning over photos of you? Are you okay with that?
A: Most definitely, yeah. I'm just happy that people like what we've done for Bench. Thank you for the support, basically.
Q: Has this always been your dream, to be a model?
A: No, I never thought about doing this. My first love was basketball. I never thought that this would happen for me, but thank you to (pauses) whoever's been at my back. It's just nice, it's super nice. Sometimes I get... It's just really nice to be here. I'm sorry, I don't want to... (points at eyes)
Q: Did you ever want to be in the PBA?
A: Of course, yes. That was my dream, but it didn't happen. But it's all good. I'm thankful for it, what's happened. That's part of what happened to me, and it builds your character, so I'm thankful for having that experience -- at least getting the chance to somewhat do it a little bit.
Q: Are you single, taken, or is it complicated?
A: Pass (laughs).
Q: In a few words, who is Paolo Roldan?
A: I'm a softie, a mama's boy and a lover. That's me, but my persona is more like a bad boy.
Q: Your message to Filipinos?
A: Salamat to the Philippines. It's been really nice, and I hope I'll be back here again sometime soon. Thank you for all the support. Mabuhay!