'I was born in the Philippines!' First Filipino model ever to walk in the

‘I was born in the Philippines!’ First Filipino model ever to walk in the Victoria’s Secret show fires back at critics who accuse her of ‘passing’ as white and looking ‘Eurocentric’

  • Kelsey Merritt, 22, made Victoria’s Secret history when she became the first Filipino model to be cast in the brand’s annual show 
  • The model celebrated her casting on Instagram in September, but some members of the Filipino community discredited her achievement
  • Critics claim she was only cast in the show because she is ‘white passing’ and has ‘Eurocentric features’
  • Kelsey, who is half-Filipina, was born in the Philippines and grew up in Pampanga
  • ‘My blood is more Filipino than the ‘pure’ who have never set foot in the Philippines,’ she tweeted in September amid the backlash 

Kelsey Merritt made Victoria’s Secret history when she became the first Filipino model to be cast in the brand’s annual show, but before hitting the runway, she hit back at critics who accused her of ‘passing’ as white.

The 22-year-old model celebrated her casting on Instagram in September, writing: ‘WE DID IT PHILIPPINES!!!!!! What an honor it is to be the first Filipino to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018!!! Ahhhhhh I can’t believe this!’

While plenty of people congratulated Kelsey, some members of the Filipino community discredited her achievement, claiming she is ‘white passing’ and has ‘Eurocentric features.’  

Breaking boundaries: Kelsey Merritt made Victoria's Secret history when she became the first Filipino model to walk in the brand's annual show on Thursday 

Breaking boundaries: Kelsey Merritt made Victoria’s Secret history when she became the first Filipino model to walk in the brand’s annual show on Thursday 

Outrage: The 22-year-old model, who is half-Filipina, faced backlash from critics who claimed she was only cast in the show because she is 'white passing' and has 'Eurocentric features'

Outrage: The 22-year-old model, who is half-Filipina, faced backlash from critics who claimed she was only cast in the show because she is 'white passing' and has 'Eurocentric features'

Outrage: The 22-year-old model, who is half-Filipina, faced backlash from critics who claimed she was only cast in the show because she is ‘white passing’ and has ‘Eurocentric features’

‘My only issue with Kelsey Merritt, is that you can almost see that she’s pure American,’ one woman tweeted. ‘It would not be that difficult for her to get cast as VS as she fits the ff standards: tall, skinny, and white. 

‘Why not hire Justine Biticon?’ she added, referencing the half-Filipina and half-Mexican model.  

‘As much as I’m happy for Kelsey Merritt that she got into VS, I just wish she looked more like the average Filipina,’ someone else added. ‘She’s beautiful, yeah, but when y’all say “first Filipia VS model”, I kinda wish she wasn’t so… white looking?’

Kelsey, who is half-Filipina, was born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and a white America father.

As Filipina writer Isis Briones pointed out in her article for Teen Vogue, ‘a number of the Philippines’ well-known actors, singers, and models are often multi-racial with lighter skin as it fits the country’s ideal standards of beauty.’

Emotional moment: Kelsey celebrated her casting on Instagram in September, writing: 'What an honor it is to be the first Filipino to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018!'

Emotional moment: Kelsey celebrated her casting on Instagram in September, writing: ‘What an honor it is to be the first Filipino to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018!’

Criticisms: One woman claimed it wasn't 'that difficult' for Kelsey to get cast in the show because she is 'tall, skinny, and white'

Criticisms: One woman claimed it wasn’t ‘that difficult’ for Kelsey to get cast in the show because she is ‘tall, skinny, and white’

Argument: Another person said her casting wasn't an example of representation because she is 'white passing' 

Argument: Another person said her casting wasn’t an example of representation because she is ‘white passing’ 

Opinion: This Twitter user said she was happy for the model but wished she wasn't 'so... white looking'

Opinion: This Twitter user said she was happy for the model but wished she wasn’t ‘so… white looking’

Explanation: One woman explained that the Filipino community wants equal representation

Explanation: One woman explained that the Filipino community wants equal representation

While that leaves little opportunity for anyone else in the entertainment industry, she noted that attacking Kelsey is ‘counter-productive.’

There were also plenty of Twitter users who came to Kelsey’s defense, with one person noting that she ‘doesn’t look white period.’ 

‘You can talk about the unfair beauty standard of Pinoy community without discrediting that she’s Filipina and she [identifies] as one,’ the Twitter user explained.  

Kelsey took to Twitter a few days after she announced her casting to address the backlash.

‘Pinanganak ako sa Pilipinas at lumaki ako sa Pampanga. Tinapos ko ang pagaaral ko sa Manila bago ako lumipat sa US last year. Mas pinoy pa dugo ko kesa sa mga ‘pure’ na hindi pa nakatapak sa [Pilipinas]. I love my country and I’m proud of where I came from, she wrote.

Translation: 'I was born in the Philippines and I grew up in Pampanga. I finished my school in Manila before I moved to the US last year. My blood is more Filipino than the 'pure' who have never set foot in the Philippines,' Kelsey tweeted in response to the backlash 

Translation: ‘I was born in the Philippines and I grew up in Pampanga. I finished my school in Manila before I moved to the US last year. My blood is more Filipino than the ‘pure’ who have never set foot in the Philippines,’ Kelsey tweeted in response to the backlash 

Hitting back: Plenty of Twitter users came to Kelsey's defense. One person argued that you can discuss unfair beauty standards without discrediting that the model is Filipina

Hitting back: Plenty of Twitter users came to Kelsey’s defense. One person argued that you can discuss unfair beauty standards without discrediting that the model is Filipina

Background: Kelsey was born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and a white America father

Background: Kelsey was born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and a white America father

The Filipino portion of her tweet translates to, ‘I was born in the Philippines and I grew up in Pampanga. I finished my school in Manila before I moved to the US last year. 

‘My blood is more Filipino than the ‘pure’ who have never set foot in the Philippines.’ 

Just hours before the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show started on Thursday, she revealed that wasn’t going to let the criticism get to her. 

‘People will always have their opinion of you despite of who you are…I would love to tell them that I am just me,’ she said.

Kelsey told Teen Vogue that she wants to see more Southeast Asian models in the fashion industry. 

Big moment: The model was all smiles while getting primped and pampered backstage ahead of Thursday night's show, which airs on December 2 

Big moment: The model was all smiles while getting primped and pampered backstage ahead of Thursday night’s show, which airs on December 2 

Already looking back: The morning after strutting her stuff on the runway, Kelsey celebrated her appearance in the show on Twitter 

Already looking back: The morning after strutting her stuff on the runway, Kelsey celebrated her appearance in the show on Twitter 

‘If you ever visit the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other countries, the women are so beautiful and charismatic,’ she said. 

‘With Crazy Rich Asians being such a big hit, I am hoping the industry picks up more and more on the richness and culture of my people.’ 

The morning after strutting her stuff on the runway, Kelsey celebrated her appearance in the show, which is scheduled to air on December 2 on ABC.

‘Soooo this just happened!!!!! Ahhhhh yesterday was a dream and it so much more than I have ever imagined!!!’ she tweeted along with a photo of herself on the runway. 

‘I can’t thank @victoriassecret enough for giving me the opportunity to walk in this year’s fashion show!!’