Filipinos are everywhere, and that is true. It is always inspiring to hear about the accomplishments of our “kababayans” in Europe and around the world. RW Rebecca Urbančík Garcia had the pleasure of interviewing Anja-Vanessa Peter, a Filipina-German fashion model and former professional tennis player. (Funny, Anja and I were formally “e-introduced” by a mutual friend who is also in the modeling industry in the Philippines! Small world indeed!)
“Binibining Pilipinas” was a turning point in my life where I took a leap of faith and just followed my inner voice and went after my dreams.
Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Anja was born to Filipino-German parents. Her mother was born in Tacloban City, Leyte but grew up in Manila. Anja currently resides in Frankfurt, Germany but she has also lived in the Philippines. She has plans to move to New York later this year to pursue her modeling career which unfortunately had to be postponed from last year due to the pandemic.
Anja, thanks again for taking the time for this interview! Let’s get to it :) The theme of this month’s issue is “Sino Ako”. How do you see yourself, being more Filipino or more German? How do you define having dual nationality?
I have been highly influenced by both cultures and thus, I’d consider myself a hybrid. In some aspects of my personality, I’m definitely more Filipino (family-oriented, snacker, hospitable, positivity) and in some respects I’m more German (punctual, disciplined, love German bread). Although I must admit that when it comes to being on time, I can be both: either super punctual or very Filipino time hehe.
Personally speaking, dual nationality to me means loving and celebrating all kinds of cultures. I love the fact that I was exposed to different cultural norms. It gave me an inherent sense of tolerance and turned me into a more open-minded person.
One of the benefits of coming from a mixed racial background is that I have an understanding about two different cultures and familiarity and appreciation for both.
Do you speak Tagalog or any other dialects?
I speak Tagalog and unfortunately no dialects.
Apart from being a model, I understand that you were also a professional tennis player. Could you tell us about your tennis career?
I was Runner-Up at the German Championships 2001 (12 and under). I was a Second German Bundes League Player in 2004. I also participated at the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines, and in the same year I represented the Philippines as a Fed-Cup Player in India. From then on, I was a College Player for the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in 2008-2009. From 2017-2018, I was a tennis analyst for CNN Philippines and talked about Grand Slam tournaments like the Australian Open.
When did you decide to start modeling? Did you always want to become a model?
I started modeling back in 2009 but only part-time. When I moved to the Philippines in 2014, that is when I started modeling full-time. I have worked for brands like Adidas, Birkenstock, Cupra, McDonald’s, Olay, Porsche, YSL Beauty, etc. I always wanted to try out modeling full-time, but I never had the guts until I got encouraged by my friends in the Philippines to just get out of my comfort zone and chase my dreams.
I believe you made it to the Top 15 of “Binibining Pilipinas”. That’s amazing! Could you tell us about this particular experience?
One of the most fun and yet most challenging experiences in my life. “Binibining Pilipinas” was a turning point in my life where I took a leap of faith and just followed my inner voice and went after my dreams. I have not regretted that decision because I’d rather try things out than having those “what if” moments. Well, during the competition, I learned how to walk on heels and do my own make up and made friends for life. Most importantly, I learned to be patient and to believe in myself even though the odds were not in my favour.
Have you participated in German beauty pageants as well? If I’m not mistaken, you were also Miss Supranational - Germany a few years ago?
Yes, I became Miss Supranational Germany 2016 and joined the international competition in Poland and Slovakia :)
How was it? Were there any major differences from the pageants / contestants in the Philippines?
I could tell that Filipino beauty contestants were more polished than the Germans and pageant trainers were more experienced than the ones from Germany. One of the major differences was the duration of the competition. In Germany, we did not really have a national competition and I just got appointed. In the Philippines, the national competition lasted about 3 months.
As a Filipina-German model, are there any challenges with the local industry (in Germany)?
I have not really faced any challenges in the German industry to be honest. People appreciate the fact that I’m ethnically ambiguous:)
What was the most difficult photo shoot you have ever done, and how did you handle it? Alternatively, any fun or memorable photo shoots?
My most memorable shoot was in El Nido with Tao Philippines. Tao Philippines is a castaway experience for people who [would] love to [go on an adventure to] the remote islands of Palawan. After that shoot, Palawan became my favorite island in the world because of its beauty of nature.
I love Palawan! I’ll definitely look into this castaway experience next time I’m there… What do you miss the most about the Philippines?
I miss so many things: my family, friends, the beach and of course the food! My [absolute] favourite is tuyo with garlic rice! Hehe
I understand that you recently started your own online magazine, “Buhay Abroad” — Congratulations! Can you tell us about this project?
Buhay Abroad is a Filipino online magazine that features the life of Filipinos who live outside of the Philippines. Our Buhay Abroad team (consisting of Ryan Wolff, Nelson Enriquez, and myself) basically interviews people who are either full or part Filipino and talk about their life and stories they have to share. We want to build a community outside of the Philippines and just want to be an inspirational platform that aims to uplift people.
And to wrap it up, in a few words, how would you define yourself and answer the question — “Sino Ako”?
I’m a Filipina-German who tries to see the positive things in life and really believes in the mantra “You only live once. So just do
what makes you happy.”
I wish Anja all the best as she pursues her modeling career in the US and applaud her for her efforts in recognizing and uplifting Filipinos abroad. Vielen dank (many thanks), Anja!
Photos (left to right): Allure, Philippine Star; Photographer: Mau Aguasin; Hair & Make-Up: Baba Parma; Styling & Creative Direction: Luis Espiritu, assisted by: Diane Lasam; Accessories: Farah Abu; (center photo) People Asia Magazine; Photographer: Mau Aguasin; Make-Up: Baba Parma; Hair: Ronnie Tumamak; Styling & Creative Direction: Luis Espiritu; Dress: Tadashi; (right) Buhay Abroad team