“As I get older, I have a deeper appreciation and respect for the Filipino spirit and what a powerful grounding force it provides.”
Chloe Magno gets it from her mother. “My mother was a model in the Philippines in the ’80s and she has always been the most glamorous,” the Filipino-American model gushes to Vogue about her mom, Lilian, whose teenage forays into fashion influenced Magno’s own. But it wasn’t until she attended high school in Hawaii, where “Asian culture and people were glorified more than white American culture,” that Magno realized she could become a model herself. “That was really the first time I felt beautiful or seen,” the 30-year-old talent reveals. This swell in confidence calcified her resolve and her next move.
Growing up, Magno found that Asian representation was sorely lacking, so she looked to the strong, beautiful Filipino and Asian women in her community for inspiration—including Lilian. “To have her support in pursuing a modeling career instead of going to college gave me a lot of encouragement,” Magno says.
Her fateful decision took the five-foot-ten model to the Parisian runways of Miu Miu, the microminiature sets of Gucci, and down to her skivvies for Calvin Klein advertorials. It also led her to her current zip code: New York, where she found a home agency, The Lions NY, whose talent roster includes Candice Swanepoel, Coco Rocha, and Kate Upton. Like her towering contemporaries, Magno had also made rounds in the magazine circuit, appearing in several Vogue editions including the US, Japan, and Korea, among others. It’s a stacked résumé, to be sure, enough to impress any friend or relative. But it’s her most recent outing as the debut cover star of Vogue Philippines that will likely make her mom and the rest of her Davao-based family the most proud.
“Returning to the Philippines for this shoot was the most special experience of my life,” Magno reveals of coming home to shoot for Vogue. Though she regularly spent summers in Davao, especially growing up, the pandemic delayed her return. The time away, however, made her reunion with her family all the more meaningful. “I saw everything with such a renewed sense of appreciation,” she shares, adding that the week she spent with her family prior to the shoot calmed her nerves.
Calling the experience a “dream,” she says shooting in the country’s different regions was a “celebration of Filipino people and the Filipino way of life.” Expounding on what that means for her, she sums it up as, “To be joy and to bring a piece of that joy everywhere you go.”
Below, Chloe Magno reflects on her career, Filipino representation in the industry, and being Vogue Philippines’ Maiden Issue cover star.
Do you remember your very first shoot? What was that like?
I remember being so excited leading up to the shoot and feeling sheer panic the moment I stepped on set. I have felt that way so many times over the years and occasionally still feel that way. Really the best way to navigate it is just through practice and experience. At least now I take a breath and remember that I know what to do and even if I didn’t, life would go on.
What was the moment you felt like you made it as a model?
The idea of “making it as a model” is very subjective. Some of my biggest jobs I did not enjoy because I was in such a low mental and emotional state. This industry can be very isolating and hard on your mental and physical health regardless of your success. I feel the best about myself and the work I do when I prioritize having positive experiences with people on set and being kind to myself rather than overthinking my own career. This past year I have felt most like I’ve “made it” in that I am proud of my professional accomplishments and I am prouder of the person I have grown into through this journey.
You’ve spoken about the lack of Asian representation growing up. How do you feel about Asian and Filipino representation now?
I feel very happy and fortunate to see the growth in Filipino representation through the course of my own career and lifetime. There is so much room for improvement but we will continue to see growth as new waves of Filipino artists and creatives see that there is more than enough space for us and the world needs to hear what we have to say. We have the talent, we have the work ethic, and we have the voices.
Being a minority sometimes makes us want to play up being white-adjacent or play down the minority in us as a form of survival to some degree. When did you start owning your Filipino identity?
Yes, I think that’s a familiar feeling for any minority. When you’re growing up you don’t know how to identify or unpack how the racial infrastructure of whiteness is affecting your identity. I feel so much more pride and ownership of my Filipino identity now but I’m sure this will be something that continues to grow and evolve through my life. I try to always remember that none of us have to prove or do anything but old love and respect for ourselves in order to own and live in our identity.
You’ve graced a few Vogue covers before and now you’re Vogue Philippines’ principal cover star. Could you talk about your experience at the shoot?
The entire shoot was one continuous standout moment for me. The reason everything came together so beautifully was because of the energy and spirit we all had together as a group—I don’t even feel like this was a shoot, this was a full blown adventure we went on! We were trekking through the jungle, swimming to locations, climbing up rock formations… everywhere we went the local community was part of our project and [helped] us along the way. This was a week of hard work, laughter, exploration, and celebration of Filipino people and the Filipino way of life.
What did your family instill in you about being Filipino?
My family instilled in me the importance of hard work and good humor. I am very thankful for how accepting and open minded they have always been and encouraged others to be.
What does being Filipino mean to you, especially as someone from the diaspora?
To me being Filipino is to be joy and to bring a piece of that joy everywhere you go. Filipino people look at the world through a lens of optimism, community, and humor no matter the circumstance. As I get older, I have a deeper appreciation and respect for the Filipino spirit and what a powerful grounding force it provides.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.