First Philippines Victoria Secret Model Under Fire For Her 'Whitewashed' Looks

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The 22-year-old Philippines Victoria Secret model, Kelsey Merritt, joined the ranks of Gigi Hadid. But her achievement was marred by controversy.

Over the weekend, 22-year-old Filipino, Kelsey Merritt made history. An AB Communications graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, Merritt became the first Philippines Victoria Secret model who will be watched by millions of viewers when the show airs on December 2, in more than 190 countries. 

"It feels like a dream," she told Teen Vogue.

A country that is obsessed with beauty pageants couldn't agree more! The show is one of the most coveted platforms for models and is watched by millions. Plus, its aspirational for young millennials who wish to own pieces from this luxe lingerie brand. 

Philippines Victoria Secret Model Makes History 

So when Meritt, who was born in Pampanga and grew up in Manila announced her selection in September through an Instagram post, she not only made history for her country, but also joined the ranks of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.

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A post shared by Kelsey Merritt (@kelseymerritt) on

"Getting the show is the dream come true but being the first Filipino woman to walk in the show means I’m making history. The show is broadcast on more than 190 countries with models from 20 countries and I got chosen to represent my region. Blessed!" she told Teen Vogue.

Back in the Philippines, Meritt started her career by modelling for Inquirer's ToBeYou section through the Bench brand, Kashieca. She only shifted to the US last year and only recently got the golden opportunity as a Victoria's Secret model. 

While this is a time for most Filipinos to celebrate the inclusion of their own into this prestigious modelling stint, Merritt achievement has all been marred by controversy over her roots.

Philippines Victoria Secret Model Accused Of Whitewashing Herself To Get The Job 

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Born to her Filipino mum and American father, Merritt has been under fire for whitewashing (read presenting) herself more as an American to grab the job. Some people even shared that even though she is not 'pure Filipina,' she was playing the Asia card to her advantage. 

Why Filipino Critics Think Merritt Played The American Card To Get The VS Stint

"My only issue with Kelsey Merritt, is that you can almost see that she’s pure American," a user shared on Twitter.

"It would not be that difficult for her to get cast as VS as she fits the ff standards: tall, skinny, and white."

And, another said: "tbh what’s the point of celebrating Kelsey Merritt as the first Filipino to be in VS when she a) is white passing so it’s not exactly representation and b) VS is trash anyways?"

Merritt Says She Is Pure Filipino, Despite Accusations 

Merritt, however, shot back stating, "I would love to tell them that I am just me."

The gorgeous model even defended her identity on Twitter, writing: "Pinanganak ako sa Pilipinas at lumaki ako sa Pampanga. Tinapos ko ang pag-aaral 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 was born in the Philippines and grew up in Pampanga. I finished my studies in Manila before I moved to the US last year. My blood is more Filipino than those of 'pure' ones who've never stepped on Philippine soil). I love my country and I'm proud of where I came from."

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The 22-year-old also had a few supporters who shared that she is doing Philippines proud and should be celebrated as one.  

One Twitter use shared what it really means to be "pure Filipino."

"I think people are being really unfair to Kelsey Merritt," he said. "She lived in the Philippines, studied there...and doesn't shy away from her cultural identity. Yet some of you wanna shame her because she shares a few features of Westerners."

While Merritt is getting both love and backlash, she is thankful for all the support she's got so far. "People will always have their opinion of you despite of who you are," she told Teen Vogue.

Philippines Obsessed With Whitewashing? 

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The fact is that women the Philippines are obsessed with whitewashing, as are many other Asian nations. Girls are often subjected to bullying--many times in their own homes--for their brown skin tone

Unfortunately, shaming doesn't just stop there. Women are also fast shamed all the time.

As plus-size Filipino model Anastasia Gutierezz told HerStyleAsia, "In our entertainment, we always use fat jokes to get thoughtless laughs, and even in normal conversations, you can easily hear women obsess about their bodies and talk about their fears of getting fat." 

While this idea of shaming women will take a long time to stop, we're glad that Merritt's work is now paving the way for more Asians to join international ranks. 

News Source: Asia One

Also read: Nobody Wants To Know Victoria's Secret Anymore!

(All images courtesy: Instagram)

Written by

Deepshikha Punj