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Carving a unique version of success with their chosen paths, Patricia Santos, Laura Lehmann, and Amanda Fernandez are manifesting empowerment in different ways that together show the effortless strength of the feminine spirit.

On Laura: Silver Asymmetrical Fully Embellished Dress, Atelier Debbie Co | On Amanda: Pleated Silk Organdy Gown with Oversized Sleeves, Atelier Debbie Co; Ondine Wave Choker Necklace, ATELIER818 Jewelry | On Patricia: Ombré Serpentine Gown, PS OFFICIEL | Makeup from LAURA MERCIER

Despite it being a peak season in the hospitality realm of things, it was a quiet morning at the Manila Hotel, with just the usual scurrying of people in and out of the lobby doors. Presumably, there wasn’t anything unusual, except this time, there were three ladies preparing for their cover shoot, their chairs turned to face the mundane hotel scene. 

In front of them, tables topped with the usual things you’d see in these shoots: lipsticks, blushes, hairdryers, brushes…the works. From behind, you would catch fleeting glimpses of the magic of getting made up. You see the intense white beams of the ring lights, a hint of glimmer from the rose gold packaging of the Laura Mercier highlighters, the make-up artists and their brushes with arm movements like a painter working on a canvas. It seems other-worldly to watch for a person unfamiliar with the process. As for me, I was preparing questions for each of them: “How did you get to where you are now? What were your struggles? What empowered you to keep pushing forward?” It’s an exacting process, as is everything, whether it be preparing for a photo shoot or listing questions for an interview. 

Once more, my glance focuses on these three different women walking three different paths of life. Finding success in different fields and yet coming together for a shoot all about empowerment. I’m sure their stories are vastly different from one another, but there must be a common thread that runs through all of them.

Living Life with No Limits

After shooting their group photos, I first sat down with Laura Lehmann–young and jolly, with a wide cheery grin. Fresh from her part of the shoots, her face was still flawless and warm from the sweep of ginger blush by Laura Mercier. Naturally, we talk about beauty pageants, especially since Miss Universe 2019 had just recently concluded. “She was just so strong, so powerful, and so fearless,” she shares on the remarkable win by Miss South Africa. “There are so many stereotypes against women, expectations on what we should and should not be, and she broke all of that.” But going beyond just looks, Laura shares her personal view on Zozibini Tunzi’s win, “I actually think what made her unique was not so much the way she looked, but because she had such strong conviction in what she said. So powerful.” Being a pageant girl herself, representing the Philippines in Miss World back in 2017, she shares on the lessons she learned from her pageantry experience. “It taught me a lot, I came into it not knowing anything about it,” she admits while sharing how she had to be resourceful when competing in the international pageant. “It teaches you how to do your own makeup. We compete abroad, and when we go overseas there’s no makeup artist there or hairstylist to fix you. So I’m very used to doing stuff on my own,” being well-versed in doing her own face she even shares some tips like how she mixes her blush colors. “I have big cheeks so I like to mix up the colors, ” sharing that she usually mixes the ginger and peach shades of Laura Mercier’s blushes. 

On Laura: Lavender Cocktail Dress with Swarovski Straps and French Lace Robe with Ostrich Feather Cuffs, Julianne Syjuco; Celestia Dangling Earrings, ATELIER818 Jewelry | Makeup from LAURA MERCIER

As we talked, she imparted on her career journey from pageantry, to movies, to hosting, and how one can never be afraid to try something new, “If I had closed the door on beauty pageants and not joined, then my life would have been so different,” she says. “I think you really can never limit yourself. Even though you’re so scared you just have to do it.” A multi-hyphenated woman that just enjoys what she does, Laura exudes an air of jeux ne se quoi that gives her appeal beyond explanation and it shows in her work whether it’s by crown or by camera. When asked what inspires her through all of this, she answers with no hesitation, “My mom.” A common sense answer for her as she continues, “She raised me alone and we always have each other. I work hard for her.”

While she has long passed her crown, she still remains to be a queen of the world, one that we still bow down to time and time again. 

The Freedom of Opening Up

I had my chat with Patricia Santos on the couch right next to the dress rack with the dresses she provided for the shoot. Studying the details of each creation, I wondered, what qualities a designer should have to be successful? “Perseverance,” she swiftly answers. “If this wasn’t what I really wanted and I wasn’t 110% into it, I would have quit a long time ago. It’s a challenge to be in a service-oriented job because you deal with a lot of people, not all of them you get a long with,” sharing that there’s so much to build business-wise for designers–from materials, equipment, and even employees. “I just focused on my goal and what I wanted to be and no matter what challenges that came my way I never gave up. I really put all my heart into it and I promised myself that I’m not going to stop until I get there,” she shares hammering on the key importance of persevering in the fashion industry. As tiring as the job can be, when asked on how she stays fresh on the job that entails meeting a lot of clients, she immediately holds up the Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Rose Oil, swearing: “I use this everyday, whenever I’m really exhausted after work I use it and I wake up with fresh glowing skin.”

On Patricia: Ronda Necklace, ATELIER818 Jewelry; The Calliope Dress, COCOMELODY | Makeup from LAURA MERCIER

After some small talk and some hesitance, I asked if it was alright with her to talk about her past experience with cancer. She said it was fine and carried on to share that when it all began she kept the information to herself. “I am really dependent on my work and a lot of people are dependent on my work, so I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t tell anybody that I was sick. I had to keep it all to myself,” she shares on how she initially dealt with the news. But after surviving the ordeal, Patricia realized after her story came out that it was seen as a badge of courage. “I realized how important it is for us to share and be open about our experiences because other people are experiencing the same thing. If you share your story, a little part of it would help them.” Greatly appreciative of what she has now, I asked her on what advice she can give to aspiring designers. “Work Hard. Hard work beats everything else. Even if you say you’re passionate, but you’re not hard working, it’s not going to happen. You have to be responsible, knowing that no matter where you are, you are responsible for your work.” 

The designer-to-the-stars has truly come a long way, representing a committed and refined form of artistry that resonates in her craft.

The Discipline of Staying Humble

History runs deep with Amanda Fernandez as she has been on our print cover before, and to make the ties even odder, I’ve been going to her gym for the past two years and this is the first time we ever hd a conversation. Uncanny as the state of things are, we ended up laughing about this serendipitous set up before she ultimately carried on to talk about the gym that she has built from the ground up. On why she chose to open a calisthenics gym which, at the time they opened, was unheard of, she answers with a question, “How do you enjoy a sport without feeling too much pain? Calisthenics is the answer to that. So, when I learned about this, I thought: ‘Let me bring this to the sports facility that I have. I have space for this. I think everybody should try this out. Because number one, it’s simple. And number two, you don’t need a lot of equipment.” The excitement in her work was clear in her voice, a passion that only comes from a visionary mindset. 

On Amanda: Lace Corset, JOBERT CRISTOBAL; Yellow Silk Dress, Puey Quiñones; Celestia Stud Earrings, ATELIER818 Jewelry | Makeup from LAURA MERCIER

SPARTA not only was a pioneer for calisthenics in the country, but as well as soccer. Amanda opened one of the first indoor soccer fields in the country, which she shares isn’t always a good position to be in, “The first mover advantage made me the first loser. If anyone were to open a sports facility now and they asked me what not to do, I’d have a list, so they learn from my mistakes. So, in a sense it’s good, but those mistakes I’ve had to learn along the way. No one would have ever told me before since I was one of the firsts.” But she continues on about her optimism for the future, “We’re planning to rebrand for 2020 in the sense that we want to give better customer service upgrade the facilities, both the soccer field and the calisthenics gym.” This she shares with a giddy look as to be expected from someone who believes there’s always something to improve on whether it be one’s own body or business.

Amanda puts great focus on humility as an important factor for any athlete, and even for people starting on their fitness journey. “Everybody has the potential to harness their talents so you have to be humble about it” she shares. “It’s really important to keep that sense of being grounded because if you don’t, you lose sight of why you started in the first place.” She’s stern with her values, but isn’t afraid to have a laugh. Even during makeup she saw the Laura Mercier Highlight Trio and screamed on the chair with rollers in her hair, “This is one of my favorites, I’ve been trying to get my hands on this, I couldn’t find it!” As we shared some laughs and some anecdotes from her gym, I round things up by asking what advice she can give to those wanting to take their first steps into a healthier lifestyle. “Don’t give up. Accept that fitness is a journey. It really doesn’t happen overnight. So take your time, love the journey and accept that it’s going to take months, even years depending on where you are, but one foot at a time, one day at a time. Enjoy conquering your limitations,” she answers with a wide grin.

Success: A Process

As the shoot came to a close and the orange hues of the setting sun filtered through the windows coloring the room in its warmth, the scene now looked starkly different. The tables are bare, the mirrors and make-up packed up, and the women have all left to tend to the rest of their day–Laura with another photo shoot, Patricia for a meeting, and Amanda returning to her gym. Though physically they’ve left, I was imparted with a lingering sentiment from each of them. I’ve learned so much about these women in such a short amount of time, and here I am to link what it is these three uniquely beautiful women share in success. Then again, none of them ever really pointed at one moment of success, one thing that kept them going was exactly that, they keep going. From whatever it is, in making the soccer field of your dreams, or opening an atelier, or winning a pageant title, success isn’t an end–it’s a process you persist at, holding on to it in the enduring cycle of life.

On Patricia: Tube Cape Gown, Puey Quiñones; Haiza Tassel Earrings, FARAH ABU; Barrel Lariat Necklace, ATELIER818 Jewelry | On Laura: Women Of Nigeria Gown, Jobert Cristobal; Brio Danglers, ATELIER818 Jewelry | On Amanda: Tia Earrings, FARAH ABU; Bright Fluorescent Pink Robe, PS Officiel The Label; Ankara Floral Accent Skirt, Jobert Cristobal; Silk Brocade Full Button Tube Dress, PS Officiel The Label | Makeup from LAURA MERCIER

Photos: CYRUS PANGANIBAN assisted by ARIEL OCASLA
Art Direction: PAULINE DE MESA
Hair: SHASHA TAGUD for Laura Lehmann & RIKKA VILLAREY for Patricia Santos and Amanda Fernandez
Makeup: Products and artists provided by LAURA MERCIER, MAUI MANALO for Laura Lehmann using LAURA MERCIER
Styling: GEE JOCSON
Shoot Coordination: ALY TIMOG
Special Thanks: ANNIE ALEJO, VANIA PADILLA EDRALIN, and ANDREI AYCARDO
Shot on location at THE MANILA HOTEL

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