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Vogue Philippines features oldest model, a 106 year-old tattoo artist

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Vogue Philippines April issue, photographed by Artu Nepomuceno, via Vogue.ph

It is not often seniors grace the cover of fashion magazines, let alone centenarians. Enter Vogue Philippines, where Apo Whang-Od, a 106 year-old tattoo artist from Buscalan, a village some twelve hours from Manila, is featured on the publication’s April issue.

The first female tattoo artist in her region at the time, Ms Whang-Od began her career at the age of 16 “to imprint the sacred symbols of their ancestors on individuals who have crossed or about to cross a threshold in their lives,” said Vogue.

Ms Whang-Od, who herself has tattoos decorating her entire body, said her skin is inscribed with her life story, from accomplishments to ailments and names of long-gone lovers.

Vogue’s cover story is a stark reminder that prevailing cultural bias towards youth and beauty, particularly in the entertainment and fashion industries, is veered toward featuring younger models, most of whom are teenage girls. This can create a belief that older women are less relevant or marketable, and therefore less likely to be featured on the cover of a fashion magazine.

There have been some positive changes in recent years, with some fashion magazines and brands featuring older models. Maye Musk, Carmen Dell'Orefice and Isabella Rossellini all had thriving careers in their sixties and beyond, regularly featured in magazines and ad campaigns. This shift towards greater diversity and inclusivity in fashion reflects changing attitudes and a growing recognition that beauty and style are not limited by age.

Previously the oldest person to be featured on the cover of Vogue is British actress and model Joan Collins. She appeared on the cover of Vogue's British edition in April 2019 at the age of 85. Dame Joan Collins is known for her roles in TV shows such as "Dynasty" and "The Royals", and has been a fashion icon for decades.