A Victoria’s Secret model is facing backlash after becoming the first Filipina woman to appear in the lingerie brand’s annual televised fashion show.
Earlier this year, Kelsey Merrit took to Instagram to celebrate her milestone casting with her more than 914,000 followers.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, the 21-year-old said, “It feels like a dream. 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!”
WE DID IT PHILIPPINES!!!!!! 🇵🇭🇵🇭🇵🇭 What an honor it is to be the first Filipino to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018!!! Ahhhhhh I can’t believe this!! Thank you soooo much @johndavidpfeiffer, @monica.mitro, @10magazine, and @ed_razek for making my dream come true!! ❤️❤️❤️ And to my agents at @suprememgmt @nomadmgmt @romanyoung @david_kimm @marissasurmenkow thank you for believing in me and being there for me throughout this journey!! 💕🙏🏼 But most of all thank you to all my followers you guys are my rock!!! I couldn’t have done this without you guys. Thank you for your never ending support I LOVE Y’ALL para sainyo to!!!💕🇵🇭🙏🏼 #VSFashionShow
A post shared by Kelsey Merritt (@kelseymerritt) on Sep 7, 2018 at 8:37am PDT
However not everyone is happy for the Philippines-born model, with many people from the Filipino community discrediting Merrit’s hire for her “Western” appearance and ability to “pass” as white.
“My only issue with Kelsey Merritt, is that you can almost see that she’s pure American,” one Twitter user wrote. “It would not be that difficult for her to get cast as VS [Victoria’s Secret] as she fits the ff standards: tall, skinny and white.”
My only issue with Kelsey Merritt, is that you can almost see that she’s pure American. It would not be that difficult for her to get cast as VS as she fits the ff standards: tall, skinny, and white. Why not hire Justine Biticon? Why didn’t Janine walk the VS show?
— Kristina Monarc ♡ (@prymchia) September 8, 2018
Another user suggested there was nothing to celebrate in Merritt’s casting since her appearance represents the infiltration of western beauty standards in Filipino media.
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?
— Zee (@zeemrls) September 12, 2018
The criticism prompted Merritt to take to Twitter and defend her achievement.
“I was born in the Philippines and I grew up in Pampanga. I finished my school in Manila before I moved to the US last year. My blood is more Filipino than the ‘pure’ who have never set foot in the Philippines,” she wrote.
A post shared by Kelsey Merritt (@kelseymerritt) on Sep 19, 2018 at 4:56am PDT
Merritt told Teen Vogue she hopes that her casting is the first of many Southeast Asian models to be hired by the infamous brand.
“If you ever visit the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other countries, the women are so beautiful and charismatic. With ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ being such a big hit, I am hoping the industry picks up more and more on the richness and culture of my people,” Merritt said.
Hours before making her Victoria’s Secret debut, Merritt brushed off her critics saying, “People will always have their opinion of you despite of who you are…I would love to tell them that I am just me.”