Cece Asuncion repays bashing with Asia-wide modeling tilt
MANILA, Philippines—Cece Asuncion has been recognized for his groundbreaking Los Angeles-based modeling agency, Slay Model Management, representing male and female transgender models. But when he returned to his motherland, the Philippines, a barrage of bashing greeted him online.
But it was not his support for the transgender community that triggered the ridicule, it was his fashion choice when he joined the judging panel of the 2022 Binibining Pilipinas pageant. A released photo of the jurors showed him wearing shorts to the coronation event, and this earned vile comments from netizens.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, to have a homecoming. I didn’t think it would be like this. I got back here after 22 years in August, and all of you talk shit about the shorts,” Asuncion said at the launch of “Slay Model Search Asia” at the Revel at The Palace in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City on April 22. The competition gathered model aspirants not only from the Philippines but also from neighboring countries.
“You know what, every time the mic is given to me, I see that as an opportunity to talk about the trans community. Whether I’m wearing shorts or pants, it doesn’t matter as long as you hear what I’m saying,” he told the Inquirer at the sidelines of the launch event. The modeling tilt is a spinoff of his successful competition in the United States that has already run for three seasons.
Asuncion said the backlash his shorts had received from Filipinos shocked him. “Culturally, I’m not very used to that. I really think us Filipinos should support and uplift one another,” he shared. He said pageant fans have always been behind him, and he loves them, “but they can also be the worst fans.”
He, however, recognized “a certain level of loyalty” from the fans, who listen to what he does. “Sana this time maintindihan nila iyong ginagawa ko (I hope this time they understand what I’m doing),” he continued. “It’s not about me anymore. It’s about a community that I love and who has given me so much meaning. Just sit back and watch what I’m about to do,” Asuncion declared.
He said like in his US-based contest, the winner of the Slay Model Search Asia will receive a contract with Slay Model Management. “You get to restart your life in LA and New York. And we have agency partners in Paris, in Sweden and Scandinavia,” he added.
Asuncion said he felt it was time to bring his modeling competition to Asia, especially with the recent Oscar win of Malaysian superstar Michelle Yeoh as the first Asian recipient of the Best Actress trophy. “We’re having a moment. However, how dare we think that being Asian is a ‘moment?’ We have been around as much as all these people. You see trans people have always been around. This is not a trend, everyone. Trans people have been around for all of these years. So don’t erase them, don’t disrespect them and really give them the platform. They deserve as much as the rest of us,” he explained.
The first edition of Slay Model Search Asia has attracted 24 contestants from Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The final competition will be streamed live on iWantTFC and the ABS-CBN Entertainment YouTube channel on April 27, at 8 p.m. Bigo Live will stream all the backstage excitement in real time. /ra