Fil-Am filmmaker establishes agency for transgender models

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Photo courtesy: Cece Asuncion/Instagram

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 11) – Filipino American filmmaker Cece Asuncion may have been familiar to local pageant fans recently after he went viral for wearing barong and shorts during his stint as judge of the 2022 Binibining Pilipinas competition.

But Asuncion has been a trailblazer for the LGBT community in the United States after he established Slay Model Management, a modeling agency for transgenders.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Thursday, Asuncion shared it was his cousin who introduced him to the world of production, which will be eventually his career path--paving the way to building the modeling agency.

"Right after high school, I didn't know what to do," said Asuncion, who spent his grade school and high school years in the country before relocating to the US.

Asuncion then worked as an assistant production designer for television commercials and did production work for music video shoots. He also co-produced a reality show starring legendary Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg.

Backed by all of the things he learned in production work, Asuncion made a bold move in 2015 to form a modeling agency for transgenders who seek to carve a name in the fashion industry.

Asuncion added that his 2014 documentary "What's The T?"--which chronicled the success and challenges of five transgender women in America--helped him better understand the trans community before forming the agency.

"The trans people back then lived stealth lives. When you open an agency, you have to honor that. You teach a certain responsibility to the models that I represent," Asuncion said of his philosophy in founding the modeling agency.

The Slay Model Management agency eventually grew as its models were featured in famous television channels and fashion magazines in America. The Los Angeles-based agency has also partnered with counterparts in Paris, Scandinavia, and Mexico City.

Taking pride as the world's first and only trans-exclusive model agency, Asuncion emphasized the firm gave opportunities for transgender people to shine in the fashion world and let them freely express their true identity.

To future transgender models, Asuncion gave his advice: "You have to be very understanding on how the world works. You have to believe on your own beauty before other people believe you're beautiful."