From Regina to Rogue

Sept. 17 — The Leader-Post

At first, Olivia Medina didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Some days, she still doesn’t. But with a career that has taken the 21-year-old Regina-bred model from photo shoots in Shanghai to runway shows in Tokyo, there’s no time for second-guessing.

Since taking her modeling career international in 2010, Medina has found herself constantly shifting between airports, make-up chairs and designer bodysuits. But in the last year, Medina has grown to find comfort in the craziness, along with skyrocketing success. By looking at her extensive portfolio of high-fashion photos, you might never know, but the gorgeous professionalism that is Olivia Medina all started on a runway in Victoria Square Mall.

“My agent Lisa Marie (Schwartz) asked if I was interested in doing a fashion show in the mall … and since it involved me missing a day of Kindergarten, I just couldn’t say no!” said Medina in an interview squeezed between flights from the Philippians to Toronto. “After I did the show, it was the best moment of my life — even at age 6. I had so much fun even though it made me so nervous.”

Growing up — and subsequently growing into her long legs and slender frame — she continued to model in local fashion shows with Edge Agency. With a signature self-taught runway walk and a face that is flattering at any angle, Medina quickly built up a poised portfolio of work. By her teens, she was modeling for local magazines and became a poster-girl for NWL Contemporary Dresses. But Medina has never been the type to stay in one place for too long. With her sights set on traveling, Medina’s agent, Lisa Marie Schwartz, turned to agencies in Tokyo with her portfolio. The feedback was positive — and resulted in 18-year-old Medina hugging her parents goodbye and boarding a one-way flight to Asia.

“I promised my parents I’d finish high school before leaving Regina. So once I graduated, I was off to Tokyo,” she said. “It was a huge step in my life. Leaving not just Regina for the first time, but leaving the country itself was scary — especially since I was doing everything on my own with no one to rely on or hold my hand through it all.”

For the next year, Medina flew back and forth from Tokyo to Shanghai, working jobs in both markets, and living in hotel rooms in between. She spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and her 19th birthday alone. Struggling with the fact that she never had a permanent place to call home, Medina quickly learned that in order to succeed in the industry, she was going to have to make sacrifices.

“At first it was really hard for me to adjust to living in hotels and traveling on planes and trains long hours. You meet someone, but either you’re leaving the country in the next month or they are leaving, which leaves you no time to have a normal relationship. The modeling lifestyle isn’t for everyone. As much as it looks like a glamorous career, there is always a price you pay. It’s a price every model has to pay sometime in their life.”

Paying that price at a young age has helped Medina to reach new heights in her career as an international model. In a matter of months, her consistent commitment in front of the camera has taken her from a fresh-faced prairie import to a recognized, professional model. It has secured her spots walking in runway shows for popular brands like La Senza, Penshoppe and BENCH, as well as acting roles in commercials for Downy, and contracts with widely recognized clothing designers like Boom Sassoon.

It has also landed her, quite literally, modeling in a country that is deeply rooted in her bronzed skin and unique features. Medina flew to the Philippines in August of 2011, and has since been making waves in front of the lens and on runways around the country.

“I’ve always wanted to leave Regina and explore, expand my options in life and learn more about my roots back in the Philippines. My father is Filipino — he was born and raised there and then immigrated to Canada. I wasn’t exactly sure how or when I would leave, but it was always set in my heart that it was something I had to do one day when I was old enough,” she said.

And in the past year, not only has she reconnected with her roots, Medina has appeared in nine TV commercials, 23 fashion shows and done 88 photo shoots. This September, she graced the cover of Rogue, one of the largest fashion magazines in the country — a dream for any model, but especially for Medina.

“Since I had arrived in the Philippines, every month, I would pick up a Rogue magazine and wish one day it was me [on the cover]. Well, that wish finally came true,” said Medina, gushing with pride. “The day of the shoot I was still in awe. Then, as soon as the book stores and Rogue tweeted me saying that the magazine was in stores, I rushed out to buy a copy. I stood in front of the magazine stand with a huge smile on my face. I really couldn’t believe it was me.”

Confident that it’s only the first of many covers to come, Medina is still humble, knowing her success didn’t come without sacrifice, and won’t continue without a few more lonely nights in a hotel in a foreign country.

“I look at every job as an opportunity, regardless if it’s a big job or small job. It means a lot to me that every day I wake up having the opportunity and ability to do what I enjoy and love most,” she said. “No matter how discouraging some situations can be, I have to rise above it stay positive and work hard to reach the success point that I want to be at in my career.”

She doesn’t even have to say it for people to believe it.

“It’s so obvious that for Olivia, modeling really is who she is. She lives and breathes the fashion industry,” said Schwartz. “She always wants to do better for herself and proves that time and time again with the clients that she works with and the designers that keep hiring her. She is one of those unique models that wants to perfect everything that she does in the industry, and I think that keeps her ahead of the other girls.”

“She wants to, and has, made it a career, but she also wants longevity in this industry. This is not just a part-time thing for her.”

With plans to continue her modeling career in Asia, or expand it into Europe or New York, it’s clear that Medina’s passion is not fading anytime soon. And with experience and exposure like hers, neither are the opportunities.

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