Petite, feminine and pretty, Eddie Baddeo was the poster girl for gays in the 1980s who wanted to break into the fashion industry then ruled by stern-looking, straight-presenting designers.
Intentional or not, she lived her life and pursued her passion on her own terms, without compromising her integrity and individuality. For living her truth, when most of her kind lived in fear, Eddie served as an inspiration: that a gay person can succeed in her chosen profession as long as she is dedicated, determined and talented.
Baddeo died on 16 August, on the day she would have celebrated her 33 years as a fashion designer. The fashion icon, known as the enfant terrible, was 58.
Rem Divino is one of Eddie’s contemporaries and one of the openly few “pa-girl” designers in the ‘80s, when “transgender” wasn’t even in the pop lexicon yet.
“Eddie and I were not that close, but ‘pag nagkita kami, Oh my! Super chika coz sabay kaming mid- 80’s in our career as designers,” Divino said. “Eddie opened the doors for younger designers in the LGBT community. Her feminine ways are not a distraction but an inspiration in the fashion community, that being different is what makes the industry distinct and respectable.”
A younger transgender designer, Bea Bianca Mackey, remembered being in awe of Baddeo when she was still in high school in Cagayan de Oro City in the late 1990s. Mackey also acknowledges the fact that Baddeo blazed the trail for her and other trans designers to be fully embraced by the catty industry.
“Eddie is my idol. Her one-of-a-kind creations are beautiful,” Mackey said, adding that she is impressed with Baddeo’s success even if Baddeo always went solo and never joined any designer associations. “Bow ako sa kanya.”
Veejay Floresca, a stunning transwoman who has a flourishing fashion career in California, is also one of Baddeo’s admirers.
“I love her designs. I remember browsing magazines and newspapers and I’ll see all her designs. Very editorial and full of colors. We lost a true artist,” Floresca said.
“She was gorgeous and very confident. Especially before, it wasn’t that accepted yet. But still she became true to herself. And that’s one thing I admire about her the most,” Floresca shared. “Talent comes from within. It’s not about what you see on the outside but your ability to create things and the professionalism you have with your clients. Work ethics! May she rest in peace fabulously.”
Jontie Martinez is someone who knew Eddie during their gay-pageant days.
“Eddie joined gay pageants first. But there was one time at Manila Lion’s Club, that out of 100 contestants, we were both chosen as two of Manila’s Five Outstanding Gays in 1986,” Martinez recalled.
“She used the name Sasha Aragon. I remember watching her in a pageant at the Manila Hilton in 1982. She was very petite but her face was undoubtedly stunning! And her fashion sense was way ahead of its time,” Martinez said.
While the other candidates wore the heavily padded and sequined gowns in shocking colors that were the fad in the ‘80s, Baddeo donned a number with an uneven hemline in copper lamé that was a clear standout. It was a clear indication that Baddeo was on her way to transitioning into a fashion designer, which would eventually earn her the monicker, “Bad Boy of Philippine Fashion.”
“He’s an inspiration to us all designers. I hadn’t originally intended to enter fashion design (I was taking up BS Psychology with the hopes of entering med school), but when l saw Eddie Baddeo’s gowns, I was immediately awed by its intricacy and modern style,” enthused Martinez.
“l knew back then she was a famous contesera (how could she not be, with a gorgeous face like that!), but it was only later that l learned that she was a fashion designer. Back then, l was already designing my own pageant gowns, done by a neighborhood mananahi, very amateurish really… but looking back, yes, Eddie Baddeo was an inspiration for me to go beyond the pageant stage and consider fashion as a career.”