Meet Shaira Ventura, Vogue Philippines’ April Cover Model of Muslim and Tausug Roots

A proud display of local weaves and artisanal accoutréments: a stack of Yakan textiles from STUDIO SÜG, a twice coiled VALDES DESIGNS necklace and geometric ring, and a FILIP + INNA Tausug Siyabit vest. Photographed by Mark Nicdao for the April 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Vogue Philippines’ April 2024 issue is fronted by Sulu-based rising model and nursing graduate Shaira Ventura, who effortlessly balances both her passions: modeling and conservatism.

The Vogue team didn’t expect to find their April cover model on their last day in Zamboanga, on their way out to the airport. After wrapping up days of research—going out to meet with tribal leaders, indigenous people, and artisans—they decided on a spur-of-the-moment casting call. It wasn’t a major production by any means; only three models ended up attending that day, one of whom was Shaira Ventura, a 23-year-old aspiring model and nursing graduate. The opportunity came to her at a time when she had a lot to feel grateful for; she happened to be on break, having just passed her nursing board exam. 

In a later interview with Vogue Philippines, however, she admits that she thought it wouldn’t add to her lucky streak. “I use Halal (conservative) clothing, and I was not expecting that they would pick me for that reason,” Shaira expresses, noting that being a Muslim model inhibits her from “wearing all kinds of clothing.” She smiles as she looks back in retrospect, “But if it’s really for you, it’s really for you.” 

The Hibiscus dress and skirt from AZ FACTORY’s Spring 2024 collection are designed by Peter Morvin and British-born Filipino designer Norman René Devera, and paired with a HOUSE OF LAUREL pleated dress. Photographed by Mark Nicdao for the April 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

In her editorial “Modesty: Mindanao’s Myriad of Design Languages in Fashion,” shot by photographer Mark Nicdao, she wears clothing she “felt at home in,” not only because she was styled in the conservative layers she was used to, but because it explored the traditional Yakan textiles and tales she was raised around. “As a Mindanaoan [who] uses Halal clothing, being able to showcase the beauty of Mindanao design through fashion is a privilege for me,” she says. “I’m not only wearing it, but I also feel like the clothes are wearing me in a way that represents my culture as a Tausug woman.” 

On set, she carried herself with a kind of assured sense of self, a quality that might have come from her years of training in the art of pageantry. “I started joining pageants when I was 12 years old, and my first time joining, I actually won the crown,” she smiles. Prior to this, however, she admits that it wasn’t the type of thing she imagined herself doing. “It was really unplanned because, as a Muslim girl, it’s not really talked about in the family,” she says. “But one day when I asked my mom [if I should start competing], she actually dreamt about me joining pageants, and she said yes.” Her mother’s word was a good omen, it seems, because out of the nine crowns she’s competed for, she’s won five. 

A full-beaded fringe AZ FACTORY dress, also from the Spring 2024 collection, finds its perfect complement in a headpiece fashioned out of STUDIO SÜG’s Yakan textiles. Photographed by Mark Nicdao for the April 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.
A graphic INNO SOTTO dress is overlayed with a custom chest plate by STUDIO HARING, crafted with vintage Philippine coins. The chest plate is inspired by the adornments suspended on the Maranao’s payong a diyakatan (umbrellas used for traditional royal ceremonies or enthronements). A saruk-nituan completes the look—it is a woven hat from Sulu, made of nito or fern vines. Photographed by Mark Nicdao for the April 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Pageants would only lead her to modeling. In every pageant she joined, she was dressed by Federico Navarro, an established bespoke designer in Zamboanga. Later down the line, she would become his salon muse. “When I was a little bit older, when I joined a pageant for my university, that was the time he actually decided to choose me as his model, as a new face of Federico Navarro Clothes Shop,” she recounts. “[This made me] happy because he understood that I’m conservative, so he would only pick me as a model if the clothes were conservative—Filipiniana, Mascota (Zamboangueño traditional dress). I’m comfortable with Sir Federico and his team.” 

From here, modeling quickly became one of Shaira’s passions. “It’s my dream to be a model,” she says. “If a designer asks me to be his model, I feel like I’m needed, like I’m wanted, and that they believe in me [to] represent their design.” It’s a good feeling, one that keeps her passionate about the craft, balancing it with nursing. 

As with her creative pursuits, Shaira’s journey toward nursing began with her mother. “Since my mother is a nurse, it inspired me to pursue nursing,” she says. “And, you know, [my parents] didn’t pressure me to do any of these things, but I really want to make them proud and exceed their expectations [of me].” But, like modeling, she would fall in love with nursing organically. “When I actually practiced it—you know, caring for people, having compassion, seeing people have hope, and [feeling] like they really need you to take care of them—it really warmed my heart.” 

Photographed by Mark Nicdao for the April 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Despite modeling and nursing being worlds away, Shaira says doesn’t foresee herself struggling to find the time to balance both. “I love doing them both,” she says, with a soft, singsong quality to her tone and a glint in her eye. “That’s really one thing that I like about myself, that if I’m doing the things I love, I don’t really find any difficulties, so there really isn’t something to balance.” She laughs, “I can do them both very well!” 

She doesn’t let the negative connotations of pageantry and modeling negate her success, either; now that she’s passed the nursing board exam, she feels sure of herself. “Now that I already have my license, it gave me more confidence to actually be maarte (girlish),” she laughs. “Like, how can I stop being maarte? I already achieved something big. Now, in modeling, I achieved something bigger, which is modeling for Vogue.” She adds that, more than anything, “I think [people] will see my dedication.” 

She finds a thread of care woven through both of her passions. As she gives hope to strangers through her nursing practice, she would also like to extend hope to Muslim girls in Sulu who dream of being a model, or who simply long to be represented in the media. “I am happy that, nowadays, models like me [are] already beginning to shine and have the spotlight. It is an honor for me to set an example for them, that having a conservative background is not a challenge in modeling, but rather a good representation of how we respect our practices,” Shaira says. “You can be who you want to be without breaking rules.” 

Vogue Philippines: April 2024 Issue


By GINO GONZALES. Photographs by MARK NICDAO.  Fashion Director PAM QUIÑONES. Makeup: Bea Mocorro. Hair: Mong Amado. Model: Shaira Ventura. Producer: Anz Hizon. Lighting Director: Villie James Bautista. Nails: Extraordinail. Production Assistant: Patricia Co. File Manager: John Phillip Nicdao. Photographer’s Assistants: Arsan Sulser Hofileña, Crisaldo Soco. Stylist’s Assistants: Neil De Guzman, Jia Torrato, Jill Santos, Kyla Uy.

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