It was the last night of fashion week and Jodilly Pendre stepped out in a beautiful blue gown made by Francis Libiran. The audience was quiet in amazement, waiting for her next step. She walked the runway like she owned it. When she gracefully turned, people started clapping.
“I really want to show the world how incredible Filipinos are,” said the young model before the show began.
That night, she wowed everyone.
For this Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM) runner-up, going global is not an option. It is a goal. She has been in Canada for a few days now. She has been flown to Toronto for Canada Philippine Fashion Week, but is extending her stay to look for and walk into modeling agencies and to also visit her lola (grandmother) and other relatives in Mississauga, whom she has not seen for many years.
The days before she came to Canada were stressful according to her. It was only a few days before her flight when she got her visa and five hours before her departure when she obtained her plane ticket. She has also been feeling a bit under the weather because of her jet lag and fever, but Jodilly said there is nothing to complain about. No matter how she feels, the moment she steps out on the runway, she turns her “supermodel mode” on. “Fashion is my transportation to greater places and greater things. The way for me to give back to them [sponsors, supporters and fans] is to give them great performance,” said the young top model.
Jodilly’s turning point
The 5’10 Filipina model had really gone a long way after winning first runner-up in the second cycle of Asia’s Next Top Model. She was called the “levitating princess” during the show (because of one photo in which she looked like she was floating in midair), but Jody showed the world there were more she could do than to levitate. With multiple fashion shows and campaigns lined up for her, she is soaring high. However, Jodilly said she didn’t originally plan to be a model. “I wasn’t really into modeling. When I was in high school, I was a volleyball player. I was part of the Philippine Volleyball Team.” That was her life back then; she went to school from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then to her volleyball training from 5 till 10 p.m.
Until one day, a sad event altered her future forever.
“Before graduating high school, my father died. Walang mag-papaaral sa’kin kasi my mom is unemployed.” (Before graduating high school, my father died. My mom is unemployed, so she couldn’t support my studies.) She didn’t get any support from her siblings either. Despite the circumstances in her life, Jodilly worked hard to be a top student. “Naging salutatorian ako because of my dad. Noong high school ako, sabi niya, gusto ko pagdating mo ng high school malaki ‘yong medal mo, so nagtanong-tanong ako kung paano makakakuha ng malaking medal. Sabi nila valedictorian at salutatorian lang daw.” (I graduated as salutatorian because of my dad. He told me that he wanted me to get a big medal in high school, so I asked others how I could get one. They said the only way was to graduate as valedictorian or salutatorian.) If her dad had not died before graduation, Jodilly said she would have gotten the gold and graduated first in her class. She was happy and grateful, though, that she graduated as salutatorian because it gave her the opportunity to apply for an academic scholarship, which took care of half of her tuition fee for college.
Since she still needed money to pay the rest of her tuition fee, Jodilly had no choice but to find work. “Dapat magpa-part time call center agent ako, but then God gave me the right people.” (Supposedly, I was to apply as a part-time call center agent, but then God gave me the right people.) One of the people she was referring to was her high school best friend Yvette Corral, who joined the modeling world before her. Yvette then introduced her to Julius Uy, a modeling agent. At first, Jodilly was hesitant if she could really model. For her, models are always glamorous and well made-up. She knew she wasn’t that kind of person, but again, she had no other choice at the time.
Jodilly’s early beginnings as a model
Jodilly was 16 years old when she started in the business. “I started my portfolio with Manila Bulletin, Fashion Institute of the Philippines, and [renowned Filipino designer] Ino Sotto,” she said. And then she also met Robbie Carmona, another famous Filipino designer, who became one of her mentors and opened more doors for her. Robbie picked her to walk for the opening of a gala even though she didn’t know a lot about ramp modeling yet. “He just said to me, ‘I believe in you.’” From then on, Robbie promised her that she would be in all of his shows, so that Jodilly could earn money for her school allowance.
Philippine Fashion Week (PhFW) producers Joey and Audie Espino had also helped the young model by always giving her projects during PhFW. “Hindi pwedeng ‘di ako makaka-ten na shows every season kasi that’s for my tuition [fees].” (Every season, I made sure to, at least, do 10 shows because that’s where I get the money to pay my tuition fees.) Mega and Preview magazines also chose her for many fashion editorials, which gave her more exposure.
Jodilly got her big break when Vince introduced her to Rajo Laurel, one of the biggest names in the Philippine fashion industry. “When I did Rajo for Parisian, I became Rajo’s muse. Nagkaroon ako ng billboard sa EDSA. All over the Philippines, iyong mukha ko andoon sa SM.” (I had billboards all over EDSA. All over the Philippines, you could see my face in SM malls.)
The worst time in her life
With her success in modeling, one would think that Jodilly was having the time of her life—but she wasn’t. Aside from modeling, she was also in school full time because she was determined to graduate on time. She also rendered service at school to keep her scholarship on top of everything, because with the kind of work schedule she had, she was worried she would not be able to maintain the required grades for an academic scholarship.
“That’s my worst. Worst talaga,” Jodilly said about her college life. There were times when she didn’t even have money to buy food or to go to school that she had to ask her friends and even strangers to lend her money. While her classmates partied after class or traveled during summer breaks, Jodilly worked to make ends meet. “Kung iba yun namatay na sila sa frustration at depression,” she said. (If it happened to someone else, maybe that person would have died of frustration and depression.)
Jodilly rising above the challenges
As always, Jodilly never complained. She just believed that God would always provide solutions to all of her problems and kept working hard. Her perseverance and grit paid off when she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems from University of Santo Tomas in 2013. By that time, she was also already a veteran model.
The 20-year-old Jodilly met two significant people, who became her mentors and closest friends, before she joined Asia’s Next Top Model. They were designers Roland Alzate and Noel Crisostomo. The things she learned and pieces of advice she got from both friends helped her get to where she is today despite not getting the AsNTM title. They taught her the importance of letting go of negativity as soon as it entered her thoughts. So when the unexpected occurred, when she lost to Malaysian Sheena Lim during the final challenge of the competition, she didn’t think of herself as the loser. “During that moment, I knew Sheena would win. I know she’s good because they’ve been telling me… She’s good, but I am great. That moment I was only thinking that I would show the world that I was the winner. I am not only a winner, but I am a victor,” Jodilly said.
Her inspiration to succeed
The AsNTM runner-up is, up to this day, still very thankful to the thousands of fans who supported her, the people who believed that she was the real winner. “I didn’t know na ‘yong suporta ng Pilipino at ibang bansa sa’kin sobra pala. Lalu nila akong ginawang famous. Nag-trending ‘yong ‘Justice for Jodilly’ [on social media]. Dun ko pinost ‘yong statement ko na, ‘I feel more than a winner.’” (I didn’t know that the support of Filipinos and people from other countries for me is tremendous. They made me even more famous when “Justice for Jodilly” trended [on social media]. That’s why I posted a statement saying, “I felt more than a winner.”)
Besides her mother, Roland, and her tito Noel, her supporters became her inspiration to keep pushing herself beyond her limits as a model. “Lagi ko chine-check ‘yong Instagram ko. Lalu ako na-i-inspire ‘pag nababasa ko ‘Jodi sana makita ka namin.’” (I always check my Instagram. I get more inspired whenever I read comments like “Jodi, we hope we see you in person.”)
Because of the support she received from her fans and loved ones, she didn’t allow any disappointment to stop her. Big opportunities came to Jodilly after AsNTM. Aside from getting lots of campaigns and projects, she got picked as one of the outstanding Filipinos honored during Mega’s Pinoy Pride Ball in June and also became one of Meg magazine’s “30 under 30” achievers. Despite the fame and the success, Jodilly said that although a lot has changed in the way she thinks and dresses up, not a lot has changed in her personality. Even though she admits that she likes wearing designer clothes now, because she wants to always project the image of a supermodel, she makes sure not to act like a diva. She stays professional and kind to people. If there’s one thing she learned through her years in the business, it is that kindness pays.
When asked if her popularity with men also heightened after the top model search, she smiled and said that when it comes to that aspect, she’s not as in demand as her Filipina co-finalist and friend Katarina Rodriguez. “Happy ako kasi less stress. Plus, I have a boyfriend. Mag-tu-two years na kami. He’s very, very supportive. (I’m happy because there’s less stress. Plus, I have a boyfriend. We’ve been together for almost two years. He’s very, very supportive.)
Jodilly the unbeatable and the unstoppable
After her short visit in Canada, Jodilly will be back in the Philippines for more work. She is planning to fly to London in July for her friend Roland Alzate’s show. Fashion capitals New York and Italy are also on her list of destinations this year. To be an international supermodel, Jodilly is ready to go wherever she needs to be. “I am using my AsNTM title as much as possible to get an advantage kasi let’s just be practical, if you’re just Jodilly Pendre sinong maniniwala sayo? Of course, ‘yong mga Pilipino pero outside hindi ka naman nila kilala… I’m just maximizing my popularity.” (I am using my AsNTM title as much as possible to get an advantage because let’s just be practical, if you’re just Jodilly Pendre, who will believe in you? Of course, Filipinos know who I am, but outside the Philippines, they don’t… I’m just maximizing my popularity.)
This young woman has lots of plans for herself and for her family. Of course, her most important endeavor right now is to become an international supermodel. In the future, she also wants to start her own business. Just like everyone else, Jodilly does not know for sure where the path may lead her. She knows many rejections may come her way, but she is ready for it. She keeps her focus by always thinking that, whatever happens, she is unbeatable and unstoppable. “It’s always about the state of mind. You need to attract what you want. I will go global and will be greater than the greatest.”
Jodilly Pendre, with the good and the bad chapters in her life, is ready to embrace greatness.