Written & Produced by: Gia Marcos
Photos taken by: Alex Gamir
Layout by: Brian Villanueva
Models are a big part of the fashion culture which means they are also a big part of our society in general. Because of them, even unwearable clothes seem to be easy on the eyes when they start rocking them on the runway and on similar kind of advertising. All of a sudden, it’s not just the clothes they model that we want but also their personal style or better yet, also their lifestyle. Of course, we all know there are fragments of these models’ lives that seem fabricated for the sake of a superficially set standard of being, and so some of them submit to that. 19-year old Zarah Lim makes sure she doesn’t fall under such circumstance as a model even after having walked for several big designers in the local industry, posing for multiple fashion campaigns, and finishing her biggest project yet – Project Runway Philippines.
It was during the 1st day of Panasonic Manila Fashion Festival Season 8 when Zarah and I decided to meet after seven long years of not seeing each other. We were still in grade school back when we last got together—our campus was her only runway and I still wore unacceptably purple funny outfits. When she walked in the restaurant where we had arranged to meet for an interview, she stunned me with an unbelievably glowing bare face and a figure that stood tall at five foot eight. All of a sudden, I couldn’t eat my mac n’ cheese anymore as she sat across me with an incredibly slim figure. “Do you want to eat? Or do you even eat at all?” I jokingly asked her. “I already had lunch. Of course I eat!” It’s true though, this young lady has always been known for being that one person who could eat all the carb in this world and still look like she just eats salad. Well, she even asked if she could eat my food!
From just that little fact about her, you could already tell how raw of a model she is. When we proceeded with the interview, I was shocked by how unfiltered and candid she is about her work and personal life unlike how many people would expect her to be. Leave it to Zarah to give the shortest of answers and still show how intensely dedicated and hardworking she really is in her modeling career, studies, and as a mother to a beautiful baby girl who turns two this year. Read on and be inspired by the story of the real-life wonder woman who is making the most of her life at a young age—doing whatever makes her happy.
When did you start modeling and how did it really begin?
It started back in 2014. I started looking for castings, go-sees. Pumayag naman ‘yung parents ko although my dad is very strict. Pero go pa rin ako kasi gusto ko eh.
So how did your dad handle that?
My mom, she’s a Padilla [referring to a prominent and well-known family] so she’s very supportive, lagi nya ‘kong dinidefend sa dad ko tapos sinasamahan nya ‘ko nung bata ako sa mga VTRs ko for commercials nung 12 pa ‘ko. Kasi when I was already 15 or 16 ako na lang talaga.
What were the challenges you faced getting where you already are as a model and how did you handle them?
Nahirapan ako maghanap ng shows kasi wala pa akong agency ‘nun, tapos sasabihin nila diba, “I’ll call you back” tapos wala. Wala, ‘di ka nila babalikan. Nasasayangan ako nun sa effort kasi ang layo ko sa casting.
So how is your career now though, given that you’ve already moved past that phase?
Okay na ‘sya kasi may agency na ‘ko. Kasi diba I have school, so at least nakakapili na ‘ko ng projects na match sa schedule ko. Then in terms of working with big names in the industry, ayun may exposure tapos some designers give you free clothes.
Speaking of designers, how does it feel that you’re Cheetah Rivera’s favorite model?
Syempre sobrang flattered ako. Parang dream come true, tapos syempre may kilig.
Since your job is truly a dream come true and is a big part of our culture because people look up to models, do you feel the need to set an example to these people?
Hindi, I just do me. Sobrang chill ko as a person. I don’t care about what people think about me.
It’s amazing how you juggle school and modeling. How do you do that?
It doesn’t bother to ask them [agency] if they can book me shows that fit my school schedule. Tapos syempre, time management lang talaga. I miss opportunities din minsan kasi kunyari, final exams sa school, I can’t skip that so sayang lang talaga but school first.
What advice can you give people about the same age who are also juggling school and other activities they’re passionate about?
Kung sa’kin talaga, put school first para after, they can focus full-time na lang on what they really want to do.
But you also have a baby among all your other priorities! Do you still get sleep?
This week, I feel like I didn’t sleep much. Kapag may work or school ako , may helper naman or my mom is there pero pag-uwi ko, ako lang talaga—hands-on ako. Pero mahirap kasi I have to wait bago sya matulog bago ako magawa like ng homework ko, and natutulog sya, 12am na! Basically lagi akong puyat.
Still, it shows that you’re very happy despite those difficulties.
Kasi, happy pill—totoo yun—halimbawa galing kang school tapos stressed ka, pag-uwi mo mawawala agad pagod mo.Totoo talaga ‘yun.
You’re also very open about that part of your life despite it being unusual for your age, how did you come to terms with that? Do people bash you?
No sense na if itago ko kasi eventually malalaman ng lahat ‘yun. ‘Yun din, hindi naman, they actually admire me kasi nga daw paano ko ba nagagawa lahat nung priorities ko nang sabay-sabay.
It’s amazing because even after only 3 weeks of giving birth, you were already walking on the runway again!
Sayang kasi ‘yung time. Ayoko talaga nang may sinasayang na oras I did not want to stop school din even with the baby talaga as in go lang.
So being this model that does so well not only in her field but in all other aspects of her life, what can you tell those girls who aspire to be a great model like you?
Some aspiring models, habol nila is pera. Ako, okay lang ako sa exposure, and it’s good to start there because the more exposure you get, the more likely it is for people to get to know you. Accept more projects, ‘wag kang mapili, ‘wag kang maarte kasi bawal talaga maarte sa industry na ‘to kasi masisigawan ka talaga.
Is there any motto you live by?
Stand with your own. Make your own image, ‘wag kang gumaya sa iba.
At this point of your career, is there still anything you want to accomplish?
Gusto ko talagang mag-travel kaya rin gusto ko talaga mag-model. Gusto ko mag-walk sa mga fashion capitals, syempre.
So what do you want people to know about you the most?
That I really work hard to be in this level. Kasi I don’t want to depend on anyone kasi I want to experience the struggle unlike what they say na since I have relatives na nasa show business, I should use it na lang daw. I really want to set my own name.
Zarah knows better than to stop at one thing, for she continues to strive to reach her goals even when it means she has to equally deal with all of her life duties and face a lot of hardships. It’s common for people to be easily discouraged when facing adversity in their field may it be just in their school/work, passions, or clash between these things, but let’s learn from Zarah’s story that as cliché as it may sound, time is really gold and that we should make use of it productively. Besides, this life is all about perfect timing and perfect timing is what you make on your own hands just like what she chose to do, so why waste it and stop pursuing those dreams you have? It doesn’t take martyrdom to be a wonder woman like Zarah or any other superhero. All you need is that inner drive or your power to achieve your goals.