Who is the fairest of them all?

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

As a professional photographer, I’ve had the privilege of photographing some of the most beautiful women in Philippine showbiz. Name a name, and I’ve probably already photographed her. Maybe, even more than once, as is sometimes the case. Because of this, I get to be asked many questions about them. But one question that I get asked all the time is this: Sino ang pinaka-maganda sa kanilang lahat? (Who is the fairest of them all?)

And that, for me, is the toughest question ever to answer.

Everyone who asks me this question invariably wants me to, well, name names. They are typically half-expecting and half-hoping that I’d come up with a name or two that would satisfy their curiosity.

For sure, I am always tempted to name-drop, but I would stop myself before I blurt out a list of names, because, really, the last thing I’d like to tell them, when confronted, is to actually say out names. First of all, I am not comfortable with the idea of answering such a question. I hesitate to answer with a list of names simply because, other than the fact that what may be beautiful to me may not be beautiful to them, I don’t want to unwittingly offend anyone by missing out on their favorite star or stars. Or, worse, by naming the wrong names, I don’t want to be perceived and tagged as having no taste at all in beautiful women!

And so, mostly, I keep quiet. Or, I turn the question around. I ask them who they think are the most beautiful Filipina celebrities. That usually get them thinking really hard, and they eventually tell me who they like, whether or not they are beautiful. What’s usually more important is that they are naming who they like. And for me, there’s nothing wrong with that. Each one of us has our own idea of who we think are truly beautiful and who we like. And in this case, there’s really no wrong or right answer.

But if the one asking me this question is a talent manager of a star? Or an industry insider? Am I ready to tell the truth? I can easily deal with those who are outside the periphery of showbiz, but not those whom I work with. That kind of question takes on a different meaning. It no longer becomes a matter of talk, but often, a yardstick for the longevity and the selling factor of the celebrities mentioned, or for that matter, not mentioned. It’s one thing when you talk about such matters idly, but it’s totally another matter when it becomes a factor in showbiz decision-making.

In reality, of course, just like you, I have a list of personal favorites. These are the stars whom I have seen upclose and personal, and whom, with authority, I can say are truly beautiful. And so, to answer the question who among them is the fairest, I decided to come up with a photo exhibit.

I called the photo exhibit: “Beauty.” Believe me, I couldn’t come up with a better title. It was my 50th show, the last before I left Manila over a year ago. It featured 50 of my favorite contemporary black-and-white portraits of those whom I consider to be the most beautiful women in showbiz.

This exhibit was held from May 2 to June 18, 2006 at the main ground floor lobby of the George B Vargas Museum of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman. Incidentally, another B&W portrait exhibit of Filipina women by another photographer was being held simultaneously at the Vargas Museum. This other exhibit featured Filipina women considered to be the most influential and most successful in various fields of endeavor such as politics, the arts, social sciences, the academe, and most notably, not showbiz.

So, who made my list of 50 most beautiful women?

In no particular order, these women are: Charlene Gonzales, Iya Villana, Kristine Hermosa, Janice de Belen, Jean Garcia, Alessandra Da Rossi, Angel Aquino, Nadine Samonte, Jennylyn Mercado, Karylle, Jolina Magdangal, Chynna Ortaleza, Kuh Ledesma, Regine Velasquez, Anne Curtis, Regine Tolentino, Judy Anne Santos, Leizel Martinez, Angelica Panganiban, Angelika Dela Cruz, Aubrey Miles, Camille Prats, Maxine Magalona, Agot Isidro, Angel Locsin, Marian Rivera, Eula Valez, Maricar De Mesa, Bianca Gomez, Vina Morales, Jackie Lou Blanco, Chin-Chin Guttierez, Bea Alonzo, Yasmien Kurdi, Sunshine Dizon, Ruffa Gutierrez, Rica Peralejo, Maricel Soriano, Kyla, Gellie De Belen, Dina Bonnevie, Karel Marquez, Melanie Marquez, Carmina Villaroel, Cheska Garcia, Issa Calzado, Maritoni Fernandez, Lorna Tolentino, Mylene Dizon, and, Risa Samson.

While this list appears to be definitive, that’s not to say that there are only 50 beautiful women in showbiz. It would be a gross understatement. I am very sure that there must be more than 50 beautiful women in Philippine show business then and now. But to those who wants to know who I consider to be the most beautiful, that’s my answer right there. In the form of a photo exhibit.

How did I choose these names? Initially, I picked out the names from the list of those whom I’ve already photographed. I included only those whom I’ve already worked with. It would be unfair to include names of women whom I’ve never photographed before because I wouldn’t be a really good judge of thier beauty if I haven’t seen them through the lens, the way I did these women.

My initial list came out to about more than a hundred names. The hard part is how to trim it down. I decided, since I was commemorating my 50th photo exhibit, to show only 50 names as well. I would think and re-think my choices over and over again. And up to the last minute, I even made a couple of changes. The list of celebrities, therefore, that I chose, are very well-considered.

Often times, in considering a name to be included in the exhibit, I have to dig deep and come up with reasons why I wanted the person included. These factors often go beyond the obvious criteria of physical beauty.

As a photographer, I draw upon my experience when photographing them. Are they easy to work with? Were they cooperative and do they work well with others? Did they respond to my photographic directions and motivations? Did they project the kind of look I wanted?

I ended up recalling many, many photo sessions at my studio just to be able to justify my selection.

I expect that not everyone will agree with my list. And that’s alright. What is beautiful to me may not be beautiful to you. Or, simply, for one reason or the other, you may not like the celebrities I’ve chosen.

But you have to admit that, in a lot of ways, this is a good list of names. Other than the fact that it seems to be a who’s who in Philippine showbiz, each of them have established their individual mark. They each come from different backgrounds, each from a different set of circumstances. Still, they all represent some of the most successful, most enduring, and most intriguing characteristic of a woman. They may be different from each other, but three things define them, albeit, clearly: fame, fortune, and yes, beauty.

[Note: This piece originally appeared in the new “Fabulous!” column by Dominique James in Filipino Times & Asian Review (East Coast Edition) published by EA Media Enterprises, LLC. Dominique James is a professional photographer, writer and graphic designer now based in New York. He is also a contributing Lifestyle Editor for Global Philippines Magazine. For more information, visit his website at http://www.dominiquejames.com or for inquiries, send email to: dominiquejames@mac.com.]

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