Janine Tugonon is once again making headlines years after she became the first runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant in 2012.
The beauty queen turned model, who is running after her dream to become a Victoria’s Secret model, recounted to Elle.com how her plans of following in her parents’ footsteps changed when she represented the country in the most prestigious pageant in the world.
“Growing up, I knew about models; I knew about beauty queens. I've seen bits and pieces, billboards and TV shows of former Filipino beauty queens, but I didn't know there was a career in that. I was ready to be a pharmacist and in your head that is your plan: You graduate, you work, get a family. Maybe go abroad and earn more money. But I felt like I was meant to take a different route,” she said in her interview.
“When I won Miss Universe Philippines then joined Miss Universe in Las Vegas, that was really my first time in the U.S. After getting first runner-up, I wondered, what now? Was I supposed to go back to pharmacy? It's not in my heart what I really wanted. I did on-the-job training in the Philippines and decided that I loved studying about pharmacy, I learned a lot, but I didn't want to do it forever. I got endorsements in the Philippines but I kept wondering, what's the next step? I love new challenges and I wanted to really, really try it in the U.S. I love my country, obviously, but some people are just meant to fly away, you know what I mean? I feel like I'm one of those people who are really meant to go out and try something else,” she added.
Janine shared she always wanted to live in the US because she has been watching American TV shows. When her mom got a flier during the Miss Universe pageant about an acting program at the New York Film Academy, Janine felt it was a sign so she eventually ventured out to the US in Los Angeles, got an agent and a job as a model.
“So after a few weeks, I flew to the U.S., got signed to my agency, MSA, got my green card, and that was it. I really risked it.”
After learning Victoria’s Secret models were booked in New York, Janine took another gamble and settled in the Big Apple.
“If I'm going to pursue modeling, I want to be the best in it. I want to really get there; I wouldn't just settle for mediocre jobs. I know you have to love the small beginnings. But in the end, you want to get there!” she said.
Entering the modeling world was also tough for her, she was used to being picked always but this time, she had a difficulty getting in.
“That's so hard to take sometimes. I do four or five castings a day, then I don't get the jobs. You wonder: What did I do wrong? Am I too fat, or what? Should I even be here? Those things come into your head and get the best of you and you feel discouraged. When is the break going to happen?”
Janine was the first Filipina to model for Victoria’s Secret where she got a part in their Pink ad.
“I didn't expect the crazy reaction I got from the Philippines [as the "first full-blooded Filipino VS model"]. There's this Facebook page called "NowThis" and that's an American publication; they did a video on me in the commercial—it got 10 million views! I'm like Wait, what? I wasn't even the lead—a lot of people were asking if I'm a VS Angel now.”
The former beauty queen also admitted she feels pressure now that her countrymen are rooting for her but added she just tries to focus and do her best.
“I do still feel a lot of pressure from my country because that would be huge for them, but at some point you've just got to let that all go. Just do your best. I'm starting to get back on track again. Let's work hard and forget about the past. Just do this now,” Janine stated.