Fashion’s new “It” girl Kelsey Merritt—up close and personal

It’s easy to see why Filipino-American model and rising star Kelsey Alaine Merritt has captured the interest of both local and international fashion brands alike, why designers can’t wait to garb her up in their latest collections, and why glossies continue to get her to grace numerous editorials. Apart from sheer talent and stunning looks, Kelsey’s infectious smile instantly lights up a room. Like wildfire, her positive aura is something you just can’t miss.

Wearing a white oversized polo shirt, denim shorts, and a pair of sneakers, the 19-year-old casually breezes in the studio, greets everyone, and immediately gets down to business. As one of the most sought-after models in the industry today, Kelsey gets to portray different characters whose personalities aren’t as nearly close to her own, but when a shoot wraps up and the studio lights are shut off, Kelsey switches back to her own self. “I’m a happy and optimistic person. And I love smiling! That’s what people miss most about me when I’m not around. I’m friendly and I think nothing’s going to change that,” she says.

Lucky break

Hailing from Pampanga, Kelsey stumbled upon the modeling world when she and her childhood friends went to castings for Philippine Fashion Week in her hometown. After going to several castings, the then 14-year-old Kelsey decided it was time to try her luck in Manila. “I auditioned for Forever 21’s fashion show opening in SM North Edsa, and I booked it! It was such a confidence booster because, at that time, 500 other models were applying for only 10 spots. I guess it was a lucky break,” Kelsey recalls.

Kelsey’s career blossomed after that. She started booking editorials and covers for local and foreign magazines and campaigns for huge brands such as Uniqlo, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle Outfitters, and recently, Vera Wang. Her portfolio also includes commercials for BDO Mastercard, Palmolive, Smart, and Nescafe to name a few.

“Before, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I booked this campaign!”, but now I just think of it as work. It’s just another job. I have that mentality now. Also, that’s what keeps me grounded,” Kelsey tells. “If you’re booking campaigns for Givenchy or walking for Chanel, then that’s the time you’ve made it. Right now, I feel like what I’m doing is still not enough.”

Wilhelmina girl

But Kelsey’s current path isn’t that far off from the likes of Chanel and Givenchy. Just last year, Wilhelmina Models scouted her. “They found me through BJ Pascual’s Instagram account. We did a test shot that was long overdue. BJ uploaded the photos two days after, the same day that the director of Wilhelmina followed him on Instagram,” Kelsey shares.

Kelsey attributes the opportunity to good timing and lots of luck. “The first thing the director saw in BJ’s feed were my photos! It was amazing,” she says. Wilhelmina e-mailed Kelsey right after and asked if they could represent her. Kelsey didn’t go until April this year though because of school. “My friends kept on saying that school is just there and I can go whenever I want, but I might as well get it over with and do everything after. I want to graduate at 20,” Kelsey relates.


Setting priorities

It’s a surprise to find out that Kelsey is also a full-time student at the Ateneo de Manila University who’s taking up AB Communications. “My track is advertising, so it’s very similar to what I’m doing right now,” she says. So how does she manage to do it all? Time management is key, Kelsey emphasizes. “I go to castings and shoots in between classes. If my class starts late, I work in the morning and if it starts early, I work right after. My schedule’s crazy, but I love modeling and actually have fun doing it.Modeling has grown on me and I’m passionate about it,” she confesses.

New perspective

So much has changed in Kelsey’s life since she had booked that Forever 21 fashion show back when she was 14. To date, she divides her time among Manila, New York, and London—booking job after job. And she couldn’t be happier and more blessed, as the opportunities being handed to her have given her a whole new perspective.

“When I flew to New York last year, my goals shifted. Before I just wanted to be like those confident models I see when I was starting out. Now, I want to book major campaigns and work better. I want to prove myself and give pride to Filipinos,” she says.

With all the good things happening for her at this very moment, we can say that Kelsey’s absolutely on the right track.

Fast Facts about Kelsey

Life peg

Audrey Hepburn! She’s the epitome of beauty inside and out!

Places you’d love to get lost in

Paris, Milan, and Berlin

Brands you’d want to work with

Victoria’s Secret! Working for them is my ultimate goal.

Fashion inspiration

I look up to Kendall Jenner. Her outfits are always on point, chic, and classy!

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