By Henrylito D. Tacio
Photos courtesy of Joanna F. Ladaran
Start them while they are still young, and so goes some advice. Parents need not wait for their children to be grown up before they can encourage them to find a place under the sun. Even at a young age, parents can help their children to find their talents and skills and enhance them to the fullest.
There are children who excel in acting. Such were the case of Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Dakota Fanning, Anna Paquin, Emma Watson, Drew Barrymore, Nino Muhlach, Vilma Santos, Janice de Belen, and Judy Ann Santos.
There are also those who started creating names because of their singing prowess. Take the case of Lea Salonga, who made her professional debut in 1978 at the age of seven in the musical The King and I. She was 18 when she originated the lead role of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon in the West End.
Some are very good at writing. Alexander Pope, for instance, was only 12 years old when he wrote his first major piece. S.E. Hinton was 15 when she penned The Outsiders, which became a Hollywood movie. Daisy Ashford was 4 when she wrote her first story.
And there are children who are natural when it comes to modeling. Kristina Pimenova was only nine when she had already modeled for Vogue and Armani. At the age of 10, Anna Pavaga has already managed to shoot for more than 30 fashion magazines. Laneya Grace was only 3 when she started her modeling career.
Davao City is known for people who are very talented. In fact, some of them even become known outside of the country. One of those who is making a name for herself in the modeling world is Sophia F. Ladaran, who was also 3 when she started modeling.
Sophia is the daughter of Joanna Ferrer and Ryan Ladaran. Both parents are nurses who now work in New Jersey.
Among the early brands, Sophia modeled for were Gap, Skiphop, Nike, Levi’s, Hurley, Care.com, Disney, Nickelodeon, 3Brand, High Sierra.
“Sophia works with a well-known agency in New York City,” says Joanna, who is from Davao City. “Brands contact the agency directly if they want to work with Sophia.”
Sophia always loved fashion, even as a toddler, according to her mother.
“One day, someone suggested that I submit her to a modeling agency,” Joanna recalled. “I just did it on a whim and was not expecting to hear back. I actually ended up forgetting that I even submitted.”
Surprisingly, she received an e-mail from the three agencies asking to meet Sophia. “We met with them individually, they offered to represent her and we picked one that was the best fit for her,” Joanna said. “We have been with the same one since and we love them!”
The Ladarans were very much happy that their daughter would become a model. Her first modeling stint was with Gap, which was like a dream job for most child models. “Our daughter got it as her first gig, which was exciting,” she said. (The Gap originally targeted the younger generation when it first opened, with its name referring to the “generation gap of the time.”)
She’s now seven and is modeling. Of course, modeling does not interfere with her studies. “Sophia knows that modeling is more of a hobby and she understands that school is very important,” Joanna said. “She maintains her grades and actually does very well in school despite having to miss some days for modelling.”
As a model, Joanna doesn’t handpick which brand or brands her daughter would model. “I actually don’t have any that I can think of,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure she has fun, make friends, and make the most out of the experience while she is in it.”
Luckily, Sophia enjoys modeling a lot, so it always translates to those photos taken of her. An ad for a brand could take anywhere from one hour to six hours to do.
More often than not, an adult accompanies Sophia when an ad is being taken. “There always has to be a trusted adult with Sophia at all times when she models,” Joanna said. “It is usually myself or my husband.”
Sophia is not only in modeling but in acting as well. “We have an exclusive contract with the agency for both modeling and acting,” Joanna said.
Parents are always proud of their children. And the Ladarans are not an exception. “It always feels very surreal to see your kid in an ad or a website,” Joanna said. “You think to yourself, wow that’s my kid! I am always in awe watching her model, as well. She knows exactly what to do and what movements to make. There’s a sense of confidence that she has while she does it, like she’s not only 7 but an older person knowing exactly what the photographer needs. We are all very proud of her.”
Dr. Rey Ferrer (the twin brother of Dr. Roy Ferrer) and his wife, along with their two children came to the United States in 2000. As fate would have it, Joanna met Ryan. “He worked in the same nursing home my mom worked at,” she remembered. “We met there when I volunteered for school, we became friends and stayed that way for a few years and the rest is history.”
The couple has three children, and Sophia is the eldest. The two others are boys: Camden and Roman. All of them were born in the United States.
Joanna was born in the Philippines, so she knew what life in the Philippines was like. “It’s hard to compare because I moved here when I was 12, so all of my adult life has been spent here,” she admitted. “I can see that the US has a lot of opportunities to be had, but I also know that the values we hold as Filipinos and how we are family oriented are second to none.”
Her experience growing up as a child wasn’t necessarily the easiest. “My parents always strived to make sure my brother and I were provided for,” she said. “We were neither rich nor struggling financially while we lived in the Philippines, but we know and see what hardship looks like.
“Because of that, my brother and I learned the value of family and the value of hard work,” she continued. “My parents immigrated here first and we stayed behind with my grandparents so it got lonely at times without them. When we came here, we had to get used to a new life, and a new culture. We started all the way to the bottom and worked our way to where we are now. In fact, when my parents and my brother and I started out here, we all lived in a one bedroom – all four of us. We literally know what it’s like to be different and what sacrifice looks like.”
All her three children were born in the United States, “so they will never have to experience anything we had to,” she said. “Although sometimes, I wish they would experience even half of what I experienced because I truly believed it helped build character.
“My kids are provided for; however, as parents, it is our responsibility to make sure that just because we have the means, the answer is not always a yes. They have to work hard to earn things and that is something I’ve taught my kids even at a young age. When we go to the mall and they see toys, they never throw a tantrum or a fit because of this. They know the value of saving, giving, and spending. It’s not quite like what I went through growing up but my husband and I try to make sure they understand the value of family and how important it is to work hard to get what you want.”
Joanna finished her RN in the US, and she has now Masters of Science in Nursing. She also holds an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner degree specializing in Acute Care and Adult-Gerontology.
“I really can’t compare because I never worked as a nurse in the Philippines,” she replied when asked about the difference of working as a nurse in both countries. “However, we have a lot of autonomy here in the US as nurses. Also, as a nurse practitioner here, I am able to practice here similarly to a physician. I can prescribe medications and diagnostic tests. I can interpret and develop a plan of care. This is because I went further in my studies, attended clinical rotations and took a board certification that licensed me to be a practitioner.”
So, how does she juggle herself as a mother, wife, and nurse. “I actually get asked this a lot,” she said. “I think it all comes down to perspective. I’ve always thought that I’ve been blessed with opportunities. I think it’s important to see them as such. I’m also very religious, so I see opportunities as something God puts in my path. Who am I to turn them away if it is His will?
“So, I’ve learned to pray about them and I embrace them. I have also learned to compartmentalize and dedicate time for school, work and home,” she continued. “Also, I am lucky to have a supportive husband who helps out a lot and a family who helps out with the kids. Here in America, there are no helpers and everything including house work and chores is ours so it can definitely get tough at times so we do what we can. It’s definitely a lot of work though!”
What are her future plans for Sophia and her other two kids?
“Whatever they would like to do,” she pointed out. “I want my kids to figure out what they like and what they don’t like and have the opportunity to excel in it or to fail. Failure is a part of life, and that is how they learn.
“One of the points I drive, though, is commitment. Once you sign up for something, you have to see it through to the end, and then you can give it up if you don’t like it but definitely try and give it your all before you just quit.
“For example, Sophia loves to model and she understands that sometimes she has to wake up super early for a job. She can’t just be like ‘no it’s too early I won’t go’ because she committed to modelling and that is part of the job. The same applies to both our boys, as well.”