How much does an FHM Philippines model earn for a photoshoot? Nothing, if I am to believe the stories of my friends. Surprising to know, at first glance; after all, this is the most popular magazine in the country. But think about it some more, you'll see that the claim isn't too far fetched, after all.
So what could conceivably convince a nubile young lass to bare her body for all the world to see? And for free? Answer: media exposure. For many, appearing in the pages of FHM is the key to a successful career, modeling and otherwise.
This is the influence that the magazine wields. It's propelled many women to stardom, their names now etched in collective household memory: Angel, Angelica, Asia, Diana, Katrina, Joyce. And for every one, there are a hundred more waiting in the wings, waiting to be discovered.
In a country with a moribund film industry, FHM has replaced the "bomba" and "ST" films of yesteryear as the vehicle for up-and-coming starlets. More than that, it's given them an air of respectability not accorded to their predecessors. After all, they're now sharing navel space with bored socialites, balikbayan models, and post-op middle-aged actresses.
So where do these women come from? I chanced upon a friend whom I knew was an editor of the magazine. I congratulated him on his good fortune. "Oh, I've quit," he said. I asked him why. Apparently, all the late night business meeting in the seedy KTVs were taking their toll on his married life. "Business meetings?" I clarified. He merely smiled.
But to FHM, these young unknown hopefuls are just perquisite extras. FHM's stock-in-trade are many a former child star wanting to be taken as "serious actress ready for mature roles." And here, the magic number is "18." FHM writers and editors make no bones about it.
Goes the feature on their latest cover model: "With her sister A--, we've had to wait five years for her to say yes. With C---, it had been three years, and we had to begin the wait when she was 15--we are absolutely sure there is a law against that yet we unashamedly pursued. Eight years total of waiting!" Do the math: they've been eyeing the girl since she was 10 or 11.
So begins the transformation from nursery to nymphette: a whole day photo shoot under klieg lights bolstered by makeup and choreography. And where neither God's gifts nor cosmeticists' touch suffices comes the magic of Adobe Photoshop. A highlight here, a shadow there, wipe away the blemish with a digital brush, and voila! "She titillates our fantasies once more!"
And in the back room, bored interns bang out the latest stories of indulgence, infidelity, and incest, all ready for next months' installment of "Ladies' Confessions."