From her work at 88Prestige Brands to her fitness pursuits at Plana Forma, Isabella Jalandoni Fernandez continues to spread her encouraging message of body positivity.
The pursuit of different passions is not a new reality, especially among the youth. Traversing from one field to another is a way to discover one’s threshold of greatness. Finding out talent, capabilities, and working on these allow one to discern and fulfill a greater purpose while inspiring others as well. Isabella Fernandez is well-acquainted with this life, navigating many endeavors at the same time. It is tough, but she goes through each one with the enthusiasm she draws upon her active lifestyle, keeping herself spirited and mindful of the present.
Such a lifestyle enables her to power through every day as she admits fitness started quite recent for her. “I started feeling like…I’m so weak. I can’t keep up,” she says–and this pushed her to take gym classes over the recent years. While starting is a great step, it is necessary to keep momentum. However, the pandemic took the form of a constant challenge, hindering everyone from their routines. “There [was] a place for everything,” Isabella starts. “There’s a place to work, that’s the office. There’s a place to eat, that’s the restaurant. There’s a place to rest, that’s at home. There’s a place to work out and that’s the gym or the studio. Now, they’re all the same place. So, it’s difficult to compartmentalize.” Thus, she believes in establishing a new routine, and following through it is key. This way of caring for one’s body involves keeping sane, especially in these times. “I also believe that physical health is very tied to mental health,” she explains. When she workouts, the endorphins she gets give her a sense of accomplishment, a positive feeling that enables her to conquer each day.
Changing the Scene
To consistently perform with excellence is not a new expectation in this engaged age. Fresh college graduates, especially, know how daunting it feels to acquire an impressive job right away. For Isabella, it was natural to initially envision herself working in a role related to her degree in Management Economics. However, as she worked on her first job, personal struggles and doubts started overtaking her. So, she took a much-needed break and focused on Alba, the swim line she co-founded with her best friend. Working on Alba helped her discern. “I want to bring something new. I want to bring something important to the business scene,” she claims “I don’t think I’m made for something that already exists.”
The realization further cemented Isabella’s passion to excel in the fields she is in. Alba, for instance, is also a way to flesh out her advocacy. The swim line is most known for its mission to promote body positivity. People with diverse skin colors and body types grace the pages of their catalog rather than standard models. Promoting this positive attitude towards all types of bodies is a tough and complicated mission. Thankfully, recent social movements encourage more beauty and fashion brands to change their perspective and ways to promote their products. We may be seeing improvements, but Isabella contemplates what it would truly take for people to accept their appearances. “I’ve always believed it’s the responsibility of private companies,” she begins, taking it from a business perspective first, “to diversify, to really show the different kinds of people, different kinds of bodies, different kinds of faces, [and] different skin tones.” In Alba, they employ this perspective as they believe their swimsuits are not made for how a person looks. “It’s about what you love to do and the lifestyle that you’d like to do,” she affirms.
Taking it from the view of fitness, she shares people who start focusing on their bodies would sometimes have the initial goal of losing weight or achieving a certain shape. However, Isabella says she loves witnessing how these targets evolve through time. “I’ve seen clients change their goals,” she shares, “[They would say] I love that this workout makes me stronger. I love how this workout makes me feel at the end.” In the fitness community, it is all about “how you feel because in the end, it’s about health and not appearance,” Isabella concludes. Although she now works as an E-Commerce Manager for 88 Prestige Brands, she still believes in the mission of Alba and continues to uphold it no matter where she goes.
Building an Empowered Community
Isabella’s humble beginnings in the world of fitness led her to be part of the community. She joined the fitness center Plana Forma as she likes how people’s stories empower one another. “I want to share my journey, I want to share why I love this,” she says. Working out with others brings a sense of solidarity and this is what Isabella loves the most. “The power of community really helps us and in motivation,” she affirms. Now, she is among the center’s instructors, teaching virtual classes.
The huge shift from physical to online classes greatly affected this community. Isabella talks about how difficult it is to communicate with their students who are coming from different places. “Aside from [how] we’re showing the shape, we’re showing the movement,” she explains, “We also rely a lot on calling out your name, being able to encourage you personally, and being able to rally the community.” These struggles are quite common for instructors. “As teachers, our energy is pushed, even more, our patience is pushed even more because we don’t get that same response,” she muses. Nevertheless, her firm belief in the value of staying fit and the influence of the fitness community give her the much-needed strength to keep going.
The Power of Time
“There’s a time for everything,” Isabella says about balancing her multiple passions. Taking care of herself and her family will always be her priority and so she makes sure to allot specific time schedules for her fitness class, hobbies, and work. “My perspective is that my work isn’t my ‘be all end all,’” she clarifies. It is about creating space for all her activities and following through her timetable. Of course, this involves taking a time off especially when work gets stressful or she needs a fresh perspective. During her break time, she works on her paintings from time to time. Apart from the arts, she admits she likes cooking. “I find so much joy in making food for my loved ones,” she explains, “Even if it isn’t like the prettiest, most beautiful dish ever served…it’s something that comes from me that I worked hard on and that my family enjoys.” A similar sentiment goes when she feels disappointed at herself for not being productive enough. Cooking for her loved ones give her happiness as she is reminded, “I will always have people who would like what I do.”
Her Life’s Canvas
If life were a canvas, Isabella’s would be filled with vivid colors, much like her artworks. A visit to her Instagram art account reveals her works, each brimming with life. So, it comes out a surprise when she admits she has a color vision deficiency, “I can’t tell certain shades of red from each other. So, when I paint, I tend to go a little monochromatic.” The confidence to explore more hues only came when she started painting her room. “My inspiration is when I see different colors around me, and I get to experiment with how to use them.” Each of her works evokes her many different feelings. When she feels a little blue, “I [draw] really happy paintings. Happiness for me is reds, oranges, gold, [and] peach,” she illustrates. She translates all these not only to her individual works but to her room as well. She painted a beautiful Pecan perched on a branch with bright green leaves. This lovely art gives life to the otherwise pristine white walls of the room.
Like her journey to exploring and using more colors, Isabella claims pursuing passions is no easy feat. When asked if she has encouraging words to impart to fellow go-getters, “It’s well worth it to pursue different things at the same time because I don’t think we’re meant for just one thing,” she says. At this, she underscores the importance of seeing to it that when one shares their passion to the world, one has to remain honest and aligned with their priorities in life.
While exploring different endeavors gives a sense of fulfillment, it is not only what makes up a truly productive and meaningful life. For Isabella, it is about “having really great people around you and knowing how to take care of them. It’s about love.”
Photos KIERAN PUNAY of STUDIO 100
Art Direction MARC PAGDILAO and ROCHELLE PADILLA
Hair and Makeup PAMM MERRERA, assisted by WENJEL GARY and JONABELL DURAN
Stylist YZZA HABLADO
Shoot coordination FAITH LOUISSE LIÑAN
Shoot location CIRCUIT MAKATI
Special thanks to PIPO GONZALES and MESA