Monday, April 13, 2009

Wild Is The Wind

The editors of VOGUE China asked me to write a color fantasy story for their April Issue. I asked a good friend Alvaro to illustrate the story I wrote.

by Anna Bayle

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran

Once upon a time, there was a village girl from a far mountain province in China. She lived in a hut with her brothers and sisters on the top of the forlorn and weather beaten mountain across the great river. Her father was the local goat herder and her mother made straw baskets to carry the local produce. She was the third of seven children and she shared the chores of their household with her siblings, while their father and mother scraped a living.

Annami, whose name her father gave her to mean “my star”, was her father’s favorite. Annami grew up seeing how hard her father worked to put food in their table. In the harsh and blistery winter months, he woke up early to lead the goats to where the animals can find sustenance. In the warm spring and summer months, it was not so bad but he had to traverse precarious paths with the goats to find a place for them to pasture. Her mother spent her waking hours weaving straw with her blistered fingers. Annami longed for a better life for her family. For even though she has never been to the city, she heard that there are machines called bicycles that could make traveling easier. She heard that with hard work, money can be made in the big cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. She longed for the day that her father would be able to spend more time with them and not wake up so early or come home at dusk, beaten and broken.

No matter how hard life was for Annami’s family, the children have a very happy childhood. They would roam the mountain in search of yang mei (red bayberries) and chase wild animals in the spring and summer months. They went to a small hidden lake and jumped from huge boulders into its refreshing waters. On glorious days, Annami felt blessed to have this special place of rejuvenation and peace.

Sometimes, Annami would go to the lake alone to dance and play among the stepping stones of the lake. It was at these moments that she was able to dream. She pictured herself as the princess of the lake, dressed in finery and jewels just like what she has seen in newspapers used to wrap rice and barley from the market in the valley. She was in her private world of dreams and fantasies. Some afternoons, the sun would be in its perfect place and she would see jewels sparkling on the reflecting waters. The wind would blow through the leaves of the trees and she could feel it envelop her with it cheerful carefreeness. She knew she was alone but at the same time she felt the spirits of nature watching her; dancing and spinning with her. At these times, she felt one with the earth. She felt exhilarated and complete; it was pure joy to bask in the beauty of her surroundings. She felt like one of the many wild flowers that bow and look up, giving their beauty to the majestic sun. It was this way that she spent most of her afternoons after finishing her chores. When she went back to their hut, she is at peace and the penury of their hovel did not bother her at all.

One day, a city woman came to town and the villagers were very wary of her. This woman was just passing by on the way to the next big province. Quigong, who was dressed with exquisite and durable fabrics, was very critical of the small village and the young girls that she espied. She is actually a scout for a huge modeling agency that just opened in Beijing. Her job was the scour the villages of China to find beautiful maidens for the agency. She had two tall, fair and skinny young Chinese girls traveling with her. Quijong has given up on finding anyone in this village until one afternoon she sees Annami coming back from her afternoon trek to the hidden lake. Quijong sees a girl with thick black shiny hair and glistening skin bronzed from the sun. The girl she saw looked very happy in a very naïve way. The villagers informed her who she was and Quijiong proceeded to find the hut of Annami’s family. It was almost evening before Annami’s father arrived.

Everything was decided then, despite the misgivings of Annami’s father. Annami was to leave in the morning with Quijong and her entourage. Annami left with only her clothes on her back. She was whisked off to the big city where she was trained in the arts of being a lady – standing tall and proud, putting make-up, fixing her hair, talking elegantly. She was taught to walk and spin and show garments to clients.

Annami was entered into the biggest modeling contest in China and because she was unlike everyone else in the competition, she won. Her winning the contest was like a whirlwind of frenetic activities of photo shoots, press conferences, speeches, awarding ceremonies, flying to Paris and being brought to the biggest fashion house in Paris. There was no time to think for Annami; a flurry of events propelled her to the pinnacle of fashion where she is an exotic and mysterious beauty. Through all of this, all Annami had was the fortitude of her heart and her dreams.

Alone in Paris, though surrounded by myriads of people who adored her, she is not fazed by her solitude for she grew up with the stark solemnity of nature. Many times in the mountains she was alone traversing the steep paths amidst a glorious sunset. No matter where her fame took her, in her she mind she was still back in her village and treated everyone she encountered as she had treated the people in her village - with nobility and honor. Yes, her outward appearance has changed and she has become sleek, coiffed and chic but inside she is still the village girl, at one with nature and guided by its laws. When she worked, all she had to do was picture the splendor of nature: the blooming of a flower, the delicacy of a violet, the exotism of an orchid, the incredible force of thunder and lightning, the freshness of rain. All these she felt and expressed when she worked.

One day, she was brought to the hottest fashion designer in Paris, Karl Lagerfeld, who was going to design the clothes for a very big house, Chanel. She was to be the bride for this press show that was to be watched by the world press. There was a lot of excitement in the air and the whole fashion world was buzzing. The house of Chanel was to be revived with the insertion of the genius designer.

Annami was nervous for the first time; she knows the implication of being the bride for the Chanel show. She will now be thrust in the zenith of fashion. She would have to walk alone to close the show. She would have to have the magic to carry this, for all expectant eyes will be upon her. She went through the length of the fashion show modeling her garments but her mind was on the finale. She would have to invoke all the energy she had to top every model that went before her for she was the bride; she wore the closing dress- the last image that everyone will leave with and take with them after the fashion show.

It was a siren dress that was cut to show the curves of her body and she will walk into the stage with her shiny straight black hair, down to her waist - the virgin bride. Just before walking out on stage, she took a long deep breath and remembered the craggy hills she used to climb to get to her secret lake. She walked out in the dark, hesitant and unsure. She walked on when the spotlight came on, in her mind headed for the sparkling waters, as she focused on the bright spotlight trained at her. There was a hush in the room that was palpable as Annami glided to the end of the runway. It seemed like an eternity for Annami to reach the end, as she sensed sharp and gaping stares directed towards her. But she blocked all thoughts and remembered herself headed to her secret lake.

When she got to the top of the runway, she felt the gentle wild wind blow through her hair and suddenly, it all came back to her - the sun, the rainbow, the glistening diamonds in the waters, the quivering leaves on the trees, the small wild flowers scattered in the banks of the lake. She smelled the dew in the grass, the rejuvenating whiff of the gentle wind and fresh air transported her. She was back in her secret lake, ready to dance and surrender herself to the beauty of nature. She spun around, arms wide, embracing nature and giving herself to it. She felt herself becoming a flower, resplendent in nature, arching her back to adore the glorious sun. Her straight long black hair swished out and caught the ends of the rainbow, until all she could see and all everyone could see was…….....all the colors of the rainbow.

As published in VOGUE China, April 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Sensuality of Dance

- by Anna Bayle
As published in Madame Figaro, China
(original version)

"Dance like no one is watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like no one is listening, and live like it's heaven on earth." William Purkey

There is something in this quotation that hit a spot in me when I first read it. Dance is such an expression of one’s personality. This quote urges and gives permission to anyone inclined, to just ‘express yourself’. I know that at moments when I want to feed my soul, I find myself dancing. I wish I could sing like an operatic diva or paint like a master to release the emotions that I am feeling inside. But since I was not born blessed with those skills, I content myself with releasing those emotions in some form of dance.

When I retired from modeling, I embarked on activities that could replace the physical exercise and creativity outlet that are essentials of modeling. Modeling is physical exercise in itself, as you have to bend a lot to put your skirts or pants and shoes on, stretch out your arms to get your blouses on, wiggle to get inside the gowns – all this in double time and running back to the lineup just before walking out on the runway. Modeling was also a way for me to express myself, as creativity was encouraged when asked to portray different types of women. So when I personally decided to end my modeling life, I had find other activities that would keep me in shape. I am not very fond of exercising in a gym where the machines you touch are cold and inanimate and I thought that it would be a great idea to take dance lessons. I also knew that I have stirring passions in me that needed to be addressed, so I had to find an outlet for them. What is great about New York is that there are schools for anything under the sun – be it cooking, singing, languages, drawing, etc. Here, there are dancing schools with live music and also the very best teachers in any particular dance. And the choices run the gamut – there is ballet, tango, hip-hop, African, flamenco, swing, salsa, foxtrot, quickstep, square dancing, belly dancing, etc.

It has been said that you can tell if a person is a very good lover by the how they dance. Could it possibly be true? Or is it that people who dance are just freer in spirit or less inhibited that the spontaneity and liberation from bodily constraints makes them good lovers. Is it because people who can dance are able to express their emotions through their bodies? Could it be that the rhythm and harmony in the movement of dance gets translated into the bedroom? Anyway, I was ready to explore my sensuality further, convinced that learning to dance something well would make me a better lover.

Mugler Press Fashion Show

I signed up first for an African class, which always attracted me because it seemed that African people danced in a very primal way. They have no inhibitions and can effortlessly contort their bodies. I always wanted to do African dancing. I thought, ”Let me try it - if only to release the animal in me”. I was very excited because you dance to live music with 4 or 5 drummers playing on different-sized drums while chanting. On my very first day, it really felt pagan to me. For a start, they wanted you to jump around with your legs apart and with knees bent, thrusting your pelvis forward at the same time. These movements felt entirely foreign to me because it is ingrained in Asian women to be ladylike, demure and to certainly, always keep your legs together. You really have to dance from your “hara” or your center (which is located just below your stomach) and feel those primal urges. In this dance, you have to let go of your upbringing and feel like you are one with the earth. I could do the motions, but something in me was fighting and was hesitant to completely let go. I observed another person in class who can make her flesh quiver and vibrate from her neck to her feet while her head and face remained still, just like how Beyonce Knowles does with her behind. I asked the girl how she does it, and she could not explain it to me. When she told me that it was very easy, I was completely ‘psyched out’ of that class. I continued on, despite feeling not up to par. I also started to think that trying this African class was very ambitious of me. After all the non-stop jumping for a whole hour, I was exhausted. I am resigned to the fact that I do not have the stamina for this and coupled with the fact that I felt too feminine to keep my legs open all the time, I changed to another class. If this is a sign of my prowess in bed, then so be it. I will leave that to the athletic and energetic ones.

My next attempt was an Afro-Cuban beginners’ class which also had a drum group but with singing. I liked the music much better because it is less frenetic, and maybe because I have Latin blood in me. After all, I grew up listening to Spanish melodies because my country, the Philippines, was a colony of Spain for 500 years. In Afro-Cuban dancing, there is a lot of hip and pelvic movement but the action is also goes from side to side, as opposed to thrusting forward all the time. There was a lot of gyrating, but this time the instructor would teach you how to do it properly. She would isolate the movements and make us do them in very slow motion then once you get it, she then makes you speed it up. For instance, on the count of two, we would to a thrust with our pelvis, then do the same thrust twice in the same amount of time, then same thrust 4 times..and so on and so forth until we are doing it and ‘shaking our booties like Beyonce’. Oh, there was a lot of jumping too, but not all the time. The drum beat rhythm ranges from fast to slow. The class actually taught us different folk dances dedicated to their gods and goddesses: Chango (god of lightning), Oshun (goddess of love), Yemaya (goddess of the sea), and Ogun (god of war and iron). The motions for the hands were simpler too – like planting rice, undulating our shoulders and hands to look like waves, offering the earth to the gods. This was a lot easier for me to follow because one can really get into the captivating and ritualistic beat of the drums. In fact, after every class, everyone forms a circle and anyone who wants to go to the center to dance solo, does so. I have witnessed some incredible dancing from people who don’t even look like good dancers. The power of the steady drumbeat evokes an ecstatic seizure in them, as if they were bewitched and it is quite an amazing sight. I loved this class and always felt spent afterwards, but always exhilarated.

After I had gone to several beginner classes, I moved to a popular intermediate class. Apparently, the instructor was very good. Now that I knew the basics, I was ready for the next challenge. This class has a line dance format. The drummers were on one end of the long room and we start at the opposite end. We formed three long lines. And we danced forward, in rows of 3, following the instructor down towards the drummers, then peeling off, forming the line in the back and starting again with a different step. The trick is to be behind the instructor and if that not possible, behind a dancer who is very good. To be behind someone who is not sure and who does not commit to the movements makes you very doubtful of yourself, as well. When I see someone who is good, it makes me feel like I am in rhythm with them. The lesson here is,
"If you are going to copy someone, copy the very best."
This was a great class that gave me such release from the tensions of being in a high powered city like New York. I became a regular and the drummers became very familiar with me. I can hold my own in the dances but once I peel off from the line, I am doubled up in pain and out of breath, walking slowly to the back of the line. Waiting in line for my row’s turn to dance gives me the chance to get my breath back and I am ready to brave the distance towards the drummers again. The drummers would look at me questioningly once I peel off from the line, obviously struggling for air and staggering to get back to form the line again and I would just signal that I drank too much alcohol, which gets them all laughing.

The good thing about dance is that you really are exercising every part of your body and at the same time enjoying the music. You sweat a lot, stretch every muscle in your body, align every bone but more than that, you are able to release a lot of pent up energy that is toxic for your well being. It does really feel like having sex because for a whole hour you are moving your body to non-stop rhythm. This was more to my liking. Even though I am sometimes out of breath, I am exercising my sensuality with the many suggestive movements. I have tried hip hop dances too, but just like the African dance which needs cardio-vascular resistance, I miserably failed.

John Gaddi teaching me the mambo

Life went on and I got married and also got busy with the launch my own lipstick line in the States and Canada. Then I got divorced and spent a miserable 2 years of not going out. One day, I was checking out a socialization class for my then 3-year-old son and I happened to see a flyer for ballroom dancing. I was curious, but I also knew I had to do something to get out of the house. I enrolled in ballroom dancing classes and became addicted to it. It was a great place to socialize and have contact with other people without getting involved because in each class, you partner up and switch partners after a minute or two. I have to say that once you get to learn partner dancing, you may never want to dance solo again like in a disco. I learned all of the dances – waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, jive, salsa, meringue, tango. However, my passion was for the Latin dances. I got hooked on salsa and went from beginner to advanced in no time. This is great dance after Afro-Cuban dancing, because all the basic movements taught in the Afro-Cuban class are used in salsa dancing.

Salsa, which literally means, “sauce”, is supposed to be the dance showcasing the woman. It is a dance of sexuality and sensuality, both for the male and female. I loved this dance because of the music and because the movements are smooth and sensual. They first teach you basic steps and then they teach you some complicated ones that you can incorporate when you dance socially. There are a lot of socials held in huge ballrooms for you to practice dancing in and to meet people. I started going to the Copacabana in New York and it is very funny, but it is like walking into a den of wolves. Latin men are predatory; the moment you walk in with your tight flouncy dancing dress, everyone checks you out. Every male in the room will ask you to the dance floor to see if you can dance. But most of the men are so advanced that even if they are generous and will take the time to lead and guide you for a while, they are intent on finding a dance partner who can show how good they are or who will make them feel good dancing. Because in dancing, you are only as good as your partner is. I suppose in bed, it is the same thing, it could only feel as good as how much you make your partner feel good.

Every male in the room asked to dance with me and I graciously accepted because I wanted to learn. But because I was such a ‘newbie’ and was not very receptive to their charms, they never asked me again. Still, I kept going to the Copacabana every Tuesday night and slowly learned the dance. I have to say, I learned to dance salsa with the older Cuban gentlemen who had the patience with my bumbling efforts. They taught me that salsa dancing is nothing but ‘ feeling the beat’. These older men, from 60 to 80 years old and still full of life were more ‘feeling’ than showmanship. Yes, they wanted a pretty girl in their arms and but also sincerely wanted to teach. The younger Puerto Rican men were more speed, precision and fancy moves and only wanted to show their prowess dancing.
Salsa is a dance that can be danced 2 ways. “On 1” or “on 2”. Dancing on 1 is a bit easier as you follow the down beat of the conga, while in 2 you start on the 2nd count but it makes the dance a lot faster and smoother. The older Cubans taught me how to dance in 1 but the Puertoricanos made me dance in 2. Now, this dance is definitely like sex. You don’t even have to have sex, because after a good 5 minutes of intense spinning around, body rolling, swaying your hips nonstop – it feels like you already had sex. There is a lot of body rolling, shimmying your shoulders, gyrating close to your partner, jerking your head back and forth with your hair swishing out and a lot of flirting and making everyone look at you. First of all, you perspire like crazy, you have your eyes on your partner all the time because the dance is so fast that if you don’t, you will not know which way to turn and after being spun and thrown every which way, your hair is all messed up like someone has shaken you silly.

Valentino flouncy skirt

It felt like sex and I got obsessed with it. There is a salsa circuit in New York and every night there is a different place to dance with live music. And with blaring of all the horns, saxophones, trumpets, string instruments, congas and drums plus the fast singing in a salsa band, it is impossible to be depressed. Their music sings of the celebration of life that you can’t help but feel good. Sometimes, I don’t even have to dance. Watching very good salsa dancers, does it for me too. In fact, I see the whole troupe of the American Ballet Theater at a club called S.O.B. (Sounds of Brazil) all the time. Salsa is a great dance for ballet dancers because there is a lot of spinning involved. But it is when I watch Latin women, no matter what age, dance the salsa, that I am mesmerized. I am amazed at what they can do with their bodies. They are so confident about how ‘hot’ they look that they are practically sizzling. I wanted to be like them so bad. My sister finally asked me what I was doing, going out every night. I answered jokingly, “I want to be ‘ the salsa queen of New York’.” She exclaimed,” How sick is that? You are not even Puerto Rican!” I didn’t care, I love to dance it so much that you can see me dancing in the streets with strangers. As long as I hear the music, I am compelled to sensually roll my shoulders and sway my hips, flirt with the men I am dancing with and like the Latin women, revel in my being a woman.

Dancing salsa with John Toribio

As I got older, I gravitated towards another Latin dance that I adored, which is tango. Tango is definitely a man-woman dance and it revolves around passion and desire. Tango is so inviting to me because of the control that one has to have and the feeling that one has to convey to be able to dance it. Argentinian tango is sometimes danced cheek-to-cheek, almost as if you are an extension of the man. You are at the mercy of the man leading you, for you cannot move any which way you want. In salsa, it is the same, the man has to lead you but you can always break away from their hold and do what they call “shines” and dance by yourself. This is not at all possible in tango. Here, you are the man’s woman and you will follow his lead.

I remember a Tango instructor say to our class one day,
“ In tango, as in life – it is always the man’s fault. Either you lead the woman the wrong way or you overestimate the woman’s capabilities.”
I had to laugh hysterically at this parallelism because when I think of intimate relationships, I thought it to be very true. It is always’s the man’s fault. Men promise us everything but do not deliver, so in fact, they mislead us. Men also elevate us to such high pedestals that when we fail to come up to their expectations, they feel deceived, but in fact, I prefer to think it is their fault because they did overestimate a woman’s capability to love. I have not yet excelled in tango so I might get back to it someday. After all, at this time in my life, I feel that I am ready for men to lead me.

Now that I am really much more mature and have not been out dancing every night, I took another form of exercise which I believe to be very good for the body. I started Tai-chi classes. The movements are very controlled and fluid. It looks like it is easy but not really, because it takes a lot more energy to do small, precise movements than to do big ones. It feels like a dance to me when I see people practicing TaiChi in the park. And though there is no music, I feel the life and energy flow through me when I do my movements, like when I am dancing.

Like the girl in Igor Stravinsky’s ballet ’Rites of Spring”, who danced herself to death, I think I will continue dancing until I die. I urge everyone to find the music that moves you and dance. For like the bored accountant who secretly took ballroom dancing classes in the hit Japanese movie to, “Shall We Dansu?”, we all have that stirring passion in us. Sometimes, you can just lock the door, pull down the shades, put music that moves you on the CD player and dance. Go on. ….Nobody is watching!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ANNA BAYLE: Walk With Me

As published in Madame Figaro China

The amazing journey of the world's first Asian supermodel
by Paula Nocon

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.” Goethe
They called it the 'Anna Bayle Walk.'

It was not just a walk – it was part sashay, part glide, part pose. It was a dance.

On fashion runways, the Walk was done in stilettos, in flats, barefoot, tiptoe. It was done for fashion's kings, masters, critics, merchants, slaves.

The Walk was praised, copied, admired. It became the walk of a decade. It became a song. It became a trademark.

And it was named after the world's first Asian supermodel, the Filipina Anna Bayle, who triumphed in the 1980s and 1990s as a catwalk goddess on the most acclaimed runways in the world. Anna Bayle walked for every single fashion designer who mattered, from Hong Kong to Paris to New York.

Yet, the Anna Bayle Walk was not just a fashion trend. It was not just a breeze that blew through. It was the lifelong march of a determined woman who achieved absolute success.

Yes, women – all women – must learn how to walk. Perhaps they must crawl at first, and true, they will stumble, they will fall, they may even be pushed aside. But a woman who has learned how to truly walk, her own way, head up high, her soul shooting up her spine, is a woman who has learned how to live, how to love, how to give, how to choose. She has learned how to balance herself.

A woman who can call a walk her own is a woman who has come to know herself, and love herself.

And even after the runways and red carpets and flashing bulbs have gone away, even when the applause has faded, even when no one is watching, the Walk goes on, through life, on the streets and alleys, on the pavement, through beaches and parks, through triumph and tragedy, through joy and sorrow; to this day, still, always, Anna Bayle just keeps on walking.

Madame Figaro celebrates art de vivre, joie de vivre, and the privilege of being a woman, so this is the focus of the article.
What has modeling taught you about being a woman? about life?
As a woman, modeling has taught me how to ‘know my worth’. What I mean is that women go through their lives and loves letting situations happen to them. As women, perhaps at some time or another, they were rejected or they were passed off and other people were chosen instead of them. What I learned in modeling is that sometimes rejection does not really reflect on you but on the person who rejected you.

For instance, if you are Asian and you go to a casting and everyone (editor, photographer, director, etc) loves you for the part but the client is specifically looking for a blond Caucasian and you do not get the commercial. This does not mean that you are not good enough for the part. It only means that for their commercial purposes, they needed something else which you could never fulfill.

The same goes in affairs of the heart. Just because a man has chosen someone else before you, reflects on his choices and not necessarily on you or your worth. Over the years, I have learned that people make individual choices and the most important thing, as a woman and as a model is that I know that I am worth it. If they don’t see it …it is really their loss.

As for what modeling has taught me about life, I have now come to a conclusion that in life, one must really dream it and want it, to be able to acquire it.
It was only when I went for it, and consciously thought that I could be a very successful model,…. did I, indeed, become a successful model.
In life, I believe it is important to have dreams. It is important sometimes to take a moment and think about all the things we want to be. And when you have determined what it is that you really want to be, then your subconscious helps you make the right decisions towards this goal.

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You are intelligent, articulate and you have amazing depth - which goes against the usual model stereotype! How have you cultivated this throughout your life?
The supermodels I encountered during my time were really intelligent. I do not think one could get to the top without that. It takes a lot of commandeering one’s career to reach the top. For instance, Cindy Crawford was a valedictorian.

I have always been a scholar. In kindergarten, I was the valedictorian. Coming from a family of 7 brothers and sisters, I thought that I had to compete for love and attention. I strove hard to get more gold medals and honors than my over-achieving sisters throughout grade school. Then, without my parents knowing, I took an entrance exam for Philippine Science High School, which was a government program of accelerated education aimed at training the young brainiacs to be scientists. Out of thousands from all over the country who took the exam, only 150 were chosen. At 13, I had a stipend and was being paid to study. When I started college, I was offered 2 more scholarships to the University of the Philippines, also after taking exams that were given to thousands.

When I became a model around my 3rd year of college, my mother lamented that I was throwing away my life; she begged that I go back to school fulltime. At that time in my life, I had already understood the importance of being independent, of being self-supporting. Modeling was paying for a lot of things – the most important of which was, freedom. And I did not want to give that up. Finally, when all her friends would send clippings of me from all over the globe, she relented and just nagged me about my weight.

When one has a background of excellence in academics, it does not just go away because one is now jet-setting. I was not even the best student at the Science school and the university; I believed I was in the bottom of the barrel beside my uber-intelligent classmates. However, the thought processes stay with you all throughout your life.
They say that a human being acquires 95% of his or her intelligence by age 7. As a mother, I surrounded my son with a lot of love. I invested a lot of time and effort to be beside him while he is growing up and I tried to expose him to anything that will develop his intelligence and give him all the skills to prepare him for living his own life.

As for cultivating being articulate and having depth, I read a lot. My father told me once that, if I ever was depressed or sad…he said just read books. I might not experience everything in life but just reading about other people’s experiences, gives me an insight into everyday situations and emotions that I would never get the chance to. Perhaps by informing myself, I will have the tools to tackle anything thrown at me.

The lowest points of your modeling career. The highest.
The highest points of my modeling career were whenever I walk down the runway and hundreds of people applaud simultaneously and call my name out loud and some are shouting “Bravo, Anna”. It is a very intense feeling when one is in front a live audience and one feels so adored.

Sometimes, after the couture shows, I would walk in an exclusive restaurant with another model in Rome, and the clientele would applaud when we walk in. It feels very redeeming that your artistry is noticed by people who are 'in the know'.

The lowest points were of course when I first started modeling. I call them the ‘lean years’; when I decided to leave the comfort of being in Asia to try my luck in the international fashion capitals of the world.
I remember eating only a spring roll each day for a week when I first arrived in Paris because it was the only thing I could afford (5 francs and 40 centimes) and the only familiar food I can point at behind glass counters because I did not speak a word of French then.
I remember falling asleep in parks in London and Paris waiting for the appointed times of my go-sees; that is, instead of going home in the metro just to go back to the same area again.
I remember feeling really down and depressed in New York when I was finally replaced at my job as house model at Maximilian Furs (of ‘What Becomes A Legend Most’ fame) because I kept going to Europe to do the collections. Now, I did not have a salary and I was afraid I could not pay my rent for my one bedroom apartment in New York. I probably had $10 in my pocket and I was eyeing flowers in a Korean store when a gay friend stopped me from buying the one thing that would make me happy at that moment of misery– flowers. This is what he said, “Anna, do not buy the flowers now because you do not have the money now. When you have the money, you can buy all the flowers you want.”
It really hurt me inside not to be able to get what I wanted at that particularly ‘down’ moment but when I came back to New York and I had already made it, I made it a point to have fresh huge bouquets of flowers in every room in my Park Avenue apartment changed every week.

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You have rightly deserved the title World's First Asian supermodel. Tell us what it was like to make it at a time when standards of beauty were predominantly blonde, buxom and white.
When I first moved to New York, the covers of the magazines then were Cheryl Tiegs, Christy Brinkley, Renne Russo and Andy McDowell. It was very difficult to enter the New York fashion scene. I was hired immediately by a top modeling agency but was not getting any editorials or designer jobs that would propel me to the top. And when I lost my job at Maximilian Furs, I had no choice but to head for Europe. The same friend who stopped me from buying the flowers (Luigi Javier) also said to me, “Just go to Paris and do not come back to New York until you are a star.” It was the point of no return in my career. It was ‘make or break’ time.

It seemed that New York was a closed door to me. New York was a fashion capital that only wanted proven professionals. I did go to Europe –first stop Milan, where my agent told me that there was no work for me. And I took my last money that I saved and took a train ride to Paris. I even checked into a hotel where I only had the money for one night but told them I would stay for the week.

The French fashion people are very different; they want to discover beauties. Their idea of beauty is also quite different. When Thierry Mugler hired me for my first and only press show, I was immediately plucked from obscurity and put beside the big stars – Jerry Hall, Pat Cleveland, Marie Helvin. Sometimes, people want to see the stars and sometimes, people are also intrigued by unknowns and would like to see more of them.
Fashion will always revolve around the new. But the esteemed fashion journalist, Bernardine Morris, of the New York Times once told me,
“Not everything that is new is beautiful…but everything that is beautiful is new.”
I was able to break that “blond and buxomly’ mold because I was really “non-specific”. One could not tell by my looks where I was from – I could have been American Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Latino, Black, Japanese. I was more of a chameleon and was able to fit in with whatever look the fashion designer required.

Before I knew it, the fashion cognoscenti were calling me “The look of the 80's” because I was in all the big fashion press shows in Milan and Paris. The 80’s was the era of the popular television show ‘Dynasty’ - of big shoulder pads and powerful women. It was a time when women were making their mark in the corporate world; striving and succeeding in a purely masculine environment. I think that my success was more of an attitude rather than a look. Fashion is always a sign of the times and I was in the right place and the right time to be noticed.

After 4 years of living in Paris, I returned to New York. I was now a proven professional and a star and this time, all doors were open. Sometimes, the best path is not the direct path. Sometimes, one has to make detours along the road to reach one’s destination.

Tell us again about how you came up with the Anna Bayle walk.
As a model, it is important to be unique. To copy how every other model walks is simply to be a robot or a clothes hanger. I wanted people to notice me. Over time I developed my own style – which is walking on tip-toes. Even with flat shoes or barefoot, I would stand on my toes and sashay down the runway.

One cannot be anything but oneself and if you try to pretend, people watching are not convinced. Instead of forgetting my roots, I tried to embrace them and bring them out from within me. Sometimes when you portray something that is intrinsically yours; something that nobody else can give – then you are able to distance yourself from the crowd and stand out.

I always remembered the washer women from my country, the Philippines. They would wash their clothes in the river and when they were done, they would balance their wash load on their heads. They had to cross the river, stepping on wet stones, barefoot. They were light on their feet and always had pointed toes in order not to get wet or fall from the slippery surfaces. This was a picture I always had in my head. It is a beautiful paradoxical picture of elegance and simplicity. This image in my head is was what I incorporated in my walk.

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Fashion has changed from what it was during your time. Tell us honestly what you think of fashion and modeling today.
Please reference “March of the Innocents”, an article I wrote for (The first internet fashion trade paper)

Looking back, what do you really think of
"success" and "fulfillment"?

I think success is a process. I honestly believe that if a person gives something or someone, good energy – then that person will get it back.
So whatever we put our minds to, and we apply ourselves or we give it all we have –I would consider that a success. If every day is a good day, no matter what you choose to do, then cumulatively…you will find, you are a success.

As for fulfillment, I do not think I understood that word until I became a mother. The height of my fulfillment as a woman is in having a child to love and care for. For they say,
“It is not really important that someone loves you but what is more important is that you have someone to love.”

I urge all women who can have children to have at least one. If you can’t, then adopt one. I know this to be a secret among mothers. Now, I know what mothers all around the world were referring to when they have that knowing look in their eyes and they say “You’ll see. It’s different.” When women know that they would do anything, sacrifice all, and give up everything for another human being - it is love at its purest and it is very fulfilling.

Most important thing you learned from living in Hong Kong. In Paris. In New York.
In HongKong, I learned how to be the master of my fate; how the choices I make everyday will determine my destiny. (This is my first time I traveled out of my country and lived apart from my family and relatives.)

In Paris, I learned to be a woman. I learned how to value my womanhood and also the subtle power that came with it. (After all, Paris is called ‘The City of Love’.)

In New York, I learned how to be a true professional and how to be a successful entrepreneur. (It is in New York that I started my first successful business.)

About MEN. Just share with us anything you want to impart about love and relationships! When I was much younger, I have had my share of long standing relationships and it was good to be with someone you can grow with. However, as a model meeting men for the first time, it was hard to determine whether they were with you because of your looks or because of you.
And yes, Paula, it is a privilege to be a woman.

I love men and always will! But now that I have a son, I seem to look at them with more compassion than I had before. It might be a simplistic way to think, but I see men as being kids once - vulnerable and wanting of love and attention. I believe that men’s capacity to love is taught to them by their mothers. So, we, women must teach our children how to love.

As for marriage, I want to say, “Marriage is great…if it works.” Sometimes it doesn’t.

I am happy to say, there is only one man in my life. And it is Coca-Cola…THE REAL THING. He is my son, Callum.

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What are you looking forward to at this stage in your life?
At this stage of my life, I am looking forward to guiding and equipping my son with all the good values in life that will help him to succeed in his life.

I look forward to falling in love again. I look forward to meeting my soul mate. I would like to meet a man who will love me; I would like him to be someone I will love. My son is on his way to independence and at this time, it would be great to have a companion for life, as single motherhood is very isolating.

Kelly Klein who was married to Calvin Klein once told me,
“They say that a woman should do 3 things in life”:
1) Plant a tree.
2) Have a child.
3) Write a book.

I already have a child and my gardening days are not here yet. So, I look forward to writing a book.

Monday, February 16, 2009


As published on (The First Internet Trade Paper on Fashion) on Dec. 14, 2008

Anna Bayle giving homage to fashion’s legendary icon, Yves St. Laurent (Photo:


Beijing, December 6, 2008

Vogue China invited an international coterie of guests to celebrate their third year of its existence. The iconic magazine flew in celebrities from all around the world to give salute to an iconic city - Beijing and an iconic year for China – 2008, in light of the recent success of the Beijing Olympics. Vogue Icons was also a celebration of Vogue magazine’s 116-year old legacy. The glamorous night of icons and icon makers was held at the Park Hyatt Ballroom. The impressive guest list was a cross-section of East and West, fashion and film, society and celebrity.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Vivienne Tam walk the red carpet with Chinese model Du Juan / Kate Moss (Photo:

The red carpet featured the president of CondeNast Asia - James Woolhouse, Chinese actress Maggie Cheung, Japanese soccer player Hidetoshi Nakata, Nina Ricci’s artistic director Olivier Theyskens, movie director Oliver Stone, supermodels headed by Kate Moss, Du Juan, Jessica Stam, Sasha Pivovarova. Even global icons Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse donned the glamour in Chinese-inspired outfits designed by Vivienne Tam.

Black and silver with red and pink bouquets was the setting for Vogue Icons gala dinner

The multi-media program for the evening was an exercise in celebrating the past with the present. The first part defined the iconic status of Vogue magazine with its 116 years of existence. French film actress Lou Doillon, daughter of Jane Birkins of the ‘Birkins bag’ fame took to the stage to talk about what makes an icon. Then Candy Pratts Price, editor-in-chief of presented an award to Kate Moss for her 20 years in fashion. After which, Angelica Cheung, editorial director of Vogue China, applauded the work of Mario Sorrenti, the fashion photographer as an icon maker and China’s very own supermodel, Du Juan. Anna Bayle, the first Asian supermodel, paid homage to one of the greatest fashion icons, legendary Yves St. Laurent. The audience remembered the fashion master’s artistry in reverent silence while they watched curtained screens spanning the length of the ballroom drop from the ceiling, playing images of Monsieur St. Laurent at work in his atelier.

Maggie Cheung, Clemens Lee (GM of Audi) and Angelica Cheung (Vogue Editorial Editor)

Roland Mouret, London based designer, introduced Jennifer Woo of Lane Crawford. The Lane Crawford brand is known to bring international fashion to China. Philip Lim, a new generation Chinese designer, talked about his first Vogue moment. Olivier Theyskens, artistic director of Nina Ricci, introduced China’s beloved icon, film actress Maggie Chung, known for her role in "In The Mood For Love". The dinner came to a satisfying halt after model-actress, Milla Jovovich showed another one of her talents by regaling the glamorous crowd with two songs. After which all the guests were transported to a celebration after-party at the Legation Quarters which was the site of the old American Embassy beside the Tiananmen Square.

Elaborate Chocolate Dessert for Vogue Icon Dinner

The lavish fashion event, organized by Melvin Chua of the Ink Pak Communication Group, was a feat that can rival any gala fete in the Western world. In collaboration with Vogue personnel, Chua orchestrated a 4-day affair of festivities for the international guests. There were limousined tours to the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall and various museums and silk markets in the heart of Beijing. There were dinners at the exclusive China Club and Aman Resort at the Summer Palace.

If the elaborate and elegant Vogue Icons fete is any indication of what China can offer to the international fashion scene after the spectacular and unmatched Beijing Olympics, then we better brace ourselves for what is yet to come. China is on route in the Silk Road of fashion.

-Anna Bayle
(Anna is's contributing beauty editor)