Seven Filipina models, including singer Kiana Valenciano and former Miss Earth titleholder Jamie Herrell, as well as international Filipino designers, walked out of Los Angeles Fashion Week after allegedly experiencing discrimination.
The seven ladies were invited to participate at the opening show of Lebanese/fashion designer Elie Madi.
They were joined by Filipino designers Resty Lagare and Rocky Gathercole at The MacArthur on Monday night, March 12 (March 13, Manila time).
But in a news report by GMA-7's Unang Hirit, the Filipino models/professionals were asked to leave the backstage by the staff of Art Hearts Fashion, the organizer of the event.
The sources of the report were makeup artist Cherry Ordoñez and Jamie's uncle Alan del Rosario.
According to them, Art Hearts Fashion's president Erik Rosete did not want the Filipina models in the fashion show.
Another source alleged that the directive was: "No Filipinos on the runway."
In protest, Jacob Meir, owner of For The Stars Fashion House, which distributes the creations of Madi, Gathercole and Lagare in the U.S., withdrew his participation.
For their part, the two Filipino designers also skipped the event.
Gathercole told Unang Hirit, "We actually don't tolerate this kind of thing na i-discriminate 'yong mga Filipina.
"Nag-back out talaga kami. It's not fair sa mga tao, like sa mga kapwa ko Pilipino."
For her part, Kiana shared a message of support to fellow models who were shunted from the show.
She said, "To the models who were rejected, the opinion of one guy does not define who you are.
"I've never met you, I've never seen you but I can already tell that you're stronger than people think you are.
"Because you got through tonight."
Through publicist Chuck Gomez, PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) received an official statement from Kiana's mother and Manila Genesis lady boss Angeli Pangilinan.
Angeli was with Kiana in the U.S. when the incident happened, and expressed her dismay over the reported discrimination.
Her full statement below:
"I am so sad that Kiana was not able to participate in the opening day of the prestigious LA Fashion Week as she was invited for a very special cause—the AIDS Foundation.
"7 Filipinas including former Miss Earth Jamie Herrell and Kiana were not allowed to walk the ramp for the opening fashion show at the MacArthur, at 9pm, of Elie Madi, and, ironically, two top Filipino designers, Resty Lagare and Rocky Gathercole.
"All flew to Los Angeles for the fundraiser from the Middle East and the Philippines.
"Due to this situation, Jacob Meir, the owner of For the Stars Fashion House, the 'home' of the three designers on Melrose Avenue, refused to allow the designers to continue with the fashion show because he would not allow the show to go on without the Filipino models, Jamie and Kiana.
"He is planning another event instead.
"I believe however that everything happens for a reason and that God has better plans for Kiana.
"On behalf of Manila Genesis and Kiana, Gary and I would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to all of those who continue to believe in and support her.
"The local Fil-Am media flocked to the store of Mr. Meir and interviewed the designers, Mr. Meir and Kiana after hearing of the event cancellation."
Meanwhile, Rosete is yet to release a statement regarding the issue.