Beauty pageants celebrate the beauty and the wit of women, especially in the Philippines—even to the point of obsession. In the country, it has launched many names such as Pia Wurtzbach and Megan Young to superstardom. But one important name most of the time gets left behind in the conversation. And her name is Anna Bayle—the original Filipino supermodel.
A muse to designers and a mentor to supermodels. Let’s look back at some of the Filipino legend’s most iconic moments during her prime!
Born in Manila on December 6, 1956, Anna Bayle lived a quiet life during her teenage years. Her fashion story would start when she studied at the University of the Philippines as a pre-medical student. In 1976, she competed in the Miss World beauty pageant after being encouraged by her university friends. With her beauty and grace, she won 1st runner-up in the competition. Even though Bayle did not get the winning title, she was still noticed by a Filipino fashion designer named Auggie Cordero who would soon be her mentor.
After working a few years in the Philippine fashion retail scene with Cordero, Bayle soon moved to Hong Kong. During her time in the country, she got an offer to replace 70’s supermodel Billie Blair in a fashion show because of an accident. This helped her gain more attention from the fashion industry, prompting her to leave Hong Kong and go to the city of love and Haute Couture—Paris.
Arrival to Paris
The decade of the 80s was an important time in fashion, especially for models of color. This was when the impact of 1973’s iconic ‘Battle of Versailles’ was still strongly felt. Black models such as Pat Cleveland and Alva Chinn were dominating the fashion scene in every fashion capital, especially Paris. From Yves Saint Laurent to Marc Bohan for Dior, these designers celebrated them. So with the arrival of new faces, Bayle being one of them, they were quick to use them on their runway shows.
The first major designer that she walked for was nonother than the late, great Thierry Mugler. With the Parisian designer’s outlandish shows and Bayle’s other-worldly beauty, they were a perfect fashion duo. The supermodel was featured in numerous of his collections. The most notable ones were his ‘Les Atlantes’ show and the label’s 10th-anniversary collection where she took on the role of a Mugler angel.
Bayle soon walked for more of Paris’ biggest fashion houses and became a muse for its designers. Lanvin also once made her the bride for his Fall 1984 show—the highest honor a runway model can receive from a designer.
She also became a fashion consultant for designers and couturiers—proving how immersed and collaborative she was with the people she worked with.
Parisian Glamour to New York City Style
Having created a highly-acclaimed name for herself in Paris, Bayle expanded her horizons to another fashion capital—New York City. Here she would meet and work with the stars of the American fashion design scene such as Isaac Mizrahi, Michael Kors, and the legendary Oscar de la Renta.
Because of her international success, Bayle would constantly be on flights going to Paris, New York City, and Milan during fashion weeks. This led her to work with more of fashion’s greatest designers like Gianni Versace and Valentino.
Besides the runway, she also was an in-demand model for print. She would be photographed by the finest in the industry like Serge Lutens, Helmut Newton, and again, Thierry Mugler.
Keeping Up In The 90’s
When the 1990’s came around, many of Bayle’s peers and friends, like the great Iman, retired from the modeling industry. The era also ushered in a new wave of supermodels. Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista—known as the Trinity—were dominating the scene, both in print and on the catwalk. But still, Bayle, at 5’10”, still stood strong with these fresh faces. With her experience and expertise in the industry, models, including the Trinity, would take mental notes of her techniques.
She was a goddess on the catwalk, even having her own walk titled from her own name. The supers of the 90’s were inspired by it, whether they publicly credited Bayle or not. From Naomi Campbell’s legendary strut to Yasmeen Ghauri’s “Walk of Life” (coined by fellow 90’s supermodel Tyra Banks), they were all influenced by her. Years gone by since her debut, the Filipino legend still kept up with the new girls.
A Finale Fit for a Queen
During her over-a-decade-run in the industry, Bayle meticulously planned her retirement and how it will go. Having started her fashion journey on the runway of a major name that was Mugler, she ought to end it with another famous one.
Throughout her career, she had built many rich working relationships and friendships with both her peers and her designer clients. But there was one that was so close to her ever since the beginning—Christian Lacroix.
Bayle and the famed French couturier collaborated in numerous shows, both for Prêt-à-Porter and Haute Couture. So with it, along with their long-standing friendship, Lacroix helped her plan her finale until it was the right time. The year of ’94 came and Bayle felt that she wasn’t having fun with the industry like before. So she finally called her iconic friend and he booked her, for the very last time, in his Spring 1994 Haute Couture show in Paris. An iconic finale fit for a fashion queen.
Where is the Filipino Supermodel Now?
After her career as a supermodel (one of the highest paid at the time FYI), she still continued to be in the industry. She first became an editorial assistant for the renowned journalist and TV anchor Elsa Klensch of CNN Style at the time. She then created a successful lipstick line, and after focused on being a single mother in New York City after a divorce. Also during this time, she began shifting away from fashion and into the real-estate business in Manhattan.
Years later, Bayle came back to fashion as a beauty editor and a runway coach.
Today, it looks like the Filipino supermodel is living a quiet and peaceful life away from the fashion scene. But with the re-emergence of other fashion enigmas lately, most notably the once extremely-private Yasmeen Ghauri, maybe there’s a chance that the industry will see the return of what most would say as Asia’s First Supermodel.
A third-year fine arts college student in the University of Santo Tomas, majoring in advertising. Nathan usually does extensive research on fashion and runway history, film, music and pop culture, with a strong eagerness to learn more.