At first glance, you’ll immediately notice an unspoken confidence from MAUREEN WROBLEWITZ that shines whether she’s in front of the camera or off-duty, which makes it hard to believe that this Filipina-German beauty once considered herself as an extremely shy person. “If you knew me when I was growing up, you wouldn’t think that I’m the same person,” she tells us while getting ready for her photoshoot. Even though she comes off as a bit soft-spoken, her heart speaks loudly as she opens up about her journey in the modeling business.
Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Maureen and her family moved to Germany when she was just twelve years old, where she grew up to live like any normal teenager—from going to school to working various part-time jobs (one of which was waiting tables). Even at a young age, she already had dreams of becoming a fashion model. The stars started aligning with Maureen getting discovered on Instagram and subsequently being invited to start her career in the Philippines. When destiny rings, you have no reason to ignore the call. Taking her aspirations with her, Maureen decided to pack her bags and try out her luck in Manila.
Soon after her move across the globe, another opportunity opened for her to audition for Asia’s Next Top Model and luckily, she got in. Entering the competition, she knew that she’d be pushed out of her comfort zone. Serving looks at 5’6, she was completely aware that competing with her height was a tall order, but she never anticipated that she’d encounter bullying. This experience opened her eyes to real-life situations that teens go through, which is why she speaks passionately about being true to yourself in spite of receiving criticism from other people. As fate would have it, Maureen nabbed the title as the first Filipina to win AsNTM. Some might chalk it up to beginner’s luck, but behind Maureen’s quiet demeanor is a determined lady who knows how to work hard to get things done.
Now that Maureen has become a celebrity in her own right—from becoming an AsNTM winner to bagging endorsements for brands such as Palmolive, Asus, Forme, and Aquafina, she still considers this as her jump off point. Recently, Maureen has also joined long-running noontime TV show Eat Bulaga, launched her YouTube channel, dabbled in a bit of vlogging, and has her sights set on acting in the future.
How did you get started in modelling?
At first, I wanted to do acting, then that turned into modelling. Even when I was in Germany, I was really excited to go to the Philippines. After 10th grade, I already told my dad that I wanted to go to Manila to model, but my dad said “After 12th grade, you can go to the Philippines and start modelling, but if it doesn’t work out you go back to Germany.” Then the Asia’s Next Top Model thing happened and my dad [finally gave his blessing], saying “You can stay there, you’re fine.”
How has your life changed since you moved here?
Nowadays whenever I go out, I get recognized --- and I’ve never felt that before. I have supporters and fans, and it’s also nice because they’re like a family. Whenever I feel bad, they’re always worried. They want to cheer me up and make me feel better, so it’s really, really nice of them. When it comes to me personally, I’ve become a lot more confident than before. If you knew me when I was just growing up, you wouldn’t think I’m the same person.
How did you feel joining a reality TV competition?
Of course, it was scary because I was still shy before that. I’m still shy sometimes, especially when you first get to know me. Knowing that I’ll be on-cam, I’ll be filmed on TV, I need to do interviews and all that-- I was especially afraid of the interviews. But it was different than expected because the crew was just very supportive. It’s like a big family and I got really close to the crew, but you don’t get to see that because they were behind the cameras. It’s just really nice because they’re just there for you the whole time. After the show ended, I missed the crew being together.
You unfortunately experienced bullying during the show. How did you manage to keep yourself going during those times?
It was weird for me, because I was never bullied in school. There was a time when I didn’t have any friends, or any good friends, but I was never bullied. Knowing that there are people who didn’t like me, that was scary for me. It started in the second episode when people were already talking about me. For the competition, I decided to really be myself because that was the time when I was really learning to be myself, where I was accepting who I am, so knowing that those people thought they knew who I was and they were judging me already made me really upset.
There was a part that wasn’t shown where I was actually crying by that time. Later on when I was confronted, I was about to cry, but I told myself ,“No, I’m gonna stay strong.” I was really upset and I was thinking of leaving because I didn’t know if I could still do it. I was more pressured to stay because I was the only Filipina in the Top 6. When the Top 8 started, there was another Filipina and it was during the Top 6 when I was confronted. So I thought, “I can’t leave, I need to fight.” I just took it as a motivation to go on and move forward.
One of your prizes as was a contract with Storm Model Management in London. How was the experience like?
I remember being really nervous because I’m petite. When I got there, it was snowing and I had to go to a lot of castings. All these girls would be a lot taller than me and I didn’t know if I was gonna get booked for a job. That was really stressful for me because I had to walk a lot, and because London was always rainy, I didn’t really enjoy the weather that much. But I’m never going to forget about the whole experience. The people in the agency were really nice, the bookers were very friendly and they’re very welcoming.
You said that one of your biggest dreams is to be on the cover of Vogue. Aside from this, what are your other dream projects?
Since there’s Vogue in different countries, my dream is to be on the cover of Vogue US. I would also love to be on LOVE Magazine. Then one of my other dreams would be acting. I really want to be in a TV show.
Here or abroad?
Abroad. That’s one of my dreams, I don’t know if I can make it. (Laughs)
Speaking of TV, what are the shows you like watching right now?
For TV shows, I’m not really into the typical teen shows like Riverdale. I started Pretty Little Liars but I stopped that because I wasn’t a fan of the story. I really loved Vampire Diaries but that’s really for my heart, I thought it was just so cute.
These days I really like Peaky Blinders because the acting’s really good. I'm a big fan of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. I also like Narcos and Mindhunters. There’s this German show that got big, it’s called Dark so I’m also waiting for that. I'm a fan of movies and TV shows that highlight acting so if I’m going to be a part of something it would be more like those kinds of shows.
On a lighter note, do you consider yourself a beauty junkie?
I used to save lunch money and spend a lot on makeup, but it’s not like that anymore. Because once you’re modeling, you always have makeup on and are glammed up, so I don’t go out with makeup anymore. When I lived in Germany, I’d always wear makeup wherever I go. Sometimes, I still wear makeup whenever I go out or when I want to take photos, but most of the time, I’m bare-faced.
What’s your biggest beauty splurge?
Foundation definitely, because that’s the base, so foundation’s definitely the one.
Do you have any favorite beauty trends right now?
I think dewy makeup. For me, it’s still a trend.
What’s the one beauty rule that you swear by?
Moisturize. I think you really have to take to care of your skin before anything else. Also, sunscreen. It’s the one thing that I always forget when I go to the beach. It’s dangerous, don’t do it [laughs].
Who’s your beauty crush right now?
I like Taylor Hill. I love her face, her eyes, and I think she’s really pretty.
Going back to modeling, what’s your favorite and least favorite thing about it?
My favorite thing is that you get to know so many new people, like all the makeup artists and photographers that you get to work with. If the team is fun, it’s a good experience.
On the flipside, the thing about this industry is that it can be hard if you’re not used to getting criticized, because people are always saying either you’re gaining weight or you’re too skinny. So if you can’t handle that, then modeling isn’t for you, because there’s gonna be a lot of [criticism]. Not just people on Instagram, a lot of people will criticize you and maybe say, “Oh your hips are too big” or something. There’s always that comment, and if you’re very conscious about your body, it will be hard.
What do you usually do in your spare time when you’re not working or travelling?
I usually rest and just watch TV shows and movies. I also started doing YouTube videos whenever I’m free and I edit them sometimes.
If you could switch places with anyone right now, who would it be?
I’ve always liked Cara Delevingne and she’s moved on to acting now. So I’m like, “Oh yeah, you know I can do that too.”
Photography by Miguel Alomajan
Hair and Makeup by Theresa Padin
Styled by Angela de Dios