Senior Spotlight: Monique Manaloto

“Be farsighted because if your creation is going to be beneficial to society, confining yourself to the current rules will never move humanity forward in the right direction.” Monique Manaloto is a two-time Fashion Scholarship Fund recipient and has traveled to the world’s top fashion capitals to study fashion technology and sustainability. Here, she talks about integrating her love of fashion with health and wellness, and the power of intuition…

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy? 
In high school, I wanted to go to art school. My heart was torn between incredible design programs, but a part of me sought something bigger. I also wanted the complete university experience, so I kept my mind open. As a local, it was common sense that I look into USC. When looking at its design programs, I saw a link to the Academy and clicked on it. No other program I applied to seemed to have as diverse and flexible a course load or such interest in individuality and spirit. It was the only place where I could be more than just one thing. So when I got my acceptance, I remember my mom and I celebrating around that yellow envelope and throwing some crazy dance moves - I could live out my dreams.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working on?
Trent Jones (an Academy senior), Tara Bordbar (a senior at the University of Texas, Austin), Leigh Yeh (USC graduate student in computer science) and I are working on our Garage Experience project with a mission to democratize wellness through creating a culture of conscious creativity and community. We see it manifesting as a smart fashion ecosystem and we're working on our first device. When researching the topic of wellness, we realized that there was no concrete evidence to support ideas of "moderation" or "mindfulness" or even "self-care." The concept of wellness remains esoteric and difficult to define because everyone has such different backgrounds, conditions, environments and concerns. This is why our team is working to make wellness something that is based on physiological data and your local context. This transforms well-being into a personal experience that will actually nudge the individual towards healthier habits they'll be able to access and specifically benefit from. By encasing this in the form of fashion, people can use this technology in a familiar, easy way. Our mission can penetrate popular culture as clothing has always had a hand in status. If we can help make true wellness the status quo that would just be absolutely wonderful.

What inspired the project?
When I was eight, I wanted to be a fashion designer. After one sewing lesson with the instructor describing some sewing machine nightmares, I backed off and focused on design. But growing up, I noticed I had this witchy intuition when it came to fashion and style. I swear I predicted high waisted jeans, the top knot half down hairstyle, the septum ring, color-blocking, checkered Vans coming back - it's weird. I guess my subconscious love for fashion became so strong that it exploded into my consciousness, letting me realize that this was what I should be doing. Another passion of mine is health and well-being, particularly the lifestyle. Since I was 13, I've been going to acupuncture and using herbal medicine, using prescription ointments, practicing meditation on and off, journaling, and trying out different diets and exercise regimens to find what works for me. I am very in tune with the best way to treat different parts of my health thanks to years of trial and error. However, not everyone has that privilege to afford years of trial and error – sometimes, it’s just error and another treatment or method may be difficult to access. With such focus on competition and physique in today’s culture of health, many people like me struggle to find a space to discover their own well-being because too much general and lofty advice has obscured the core of well-being. So my team’s GX is all about creating such space.

A young woman holding a shoe poses with two others
A young woman working at a laptop

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you?
Too many! Lana Del Rey, Princess Nokia, Solange, Stella McCartney, Hoda Katebi, Tyler Haney, Lorde, etc. — there's a constantly growing list of people I consider my inspiration for their artistry, creative intuition, loudness, and fearlessness. (I actually met Tyler Haney when she visited campus. Totally geeked out. I honestly hope she didn't notice.)

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?
"The most beautiful of souls are those universal ones which are open and ready for anything, untaught perhaps but not unteachable."

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?
I have four followers on Twitter — one of them is Topshop!

What the one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?
My parents taught me many things, but one of my favorite teachings is that giving is receiving, both in your personal life and career.

A young woman grins while standing in a closet


What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
My computer, phone, chargers, planner, L'Occitane hand lotion, roll-on eucalyptus oil, and my rose salve lip balm.

Favorite app or website?
The notes app is a God-send

Fav class at USC and why?
I really loved WRIT340. We could write about what we cared about, so it allowed me to do research and think deeply about things I'm interested in. I was also lucky to have a witty, funny, sharp professor who had a knack for asking very thoughtful questions. I'm currently working on that skill.

Favorite way to de-stress:
I like taking naps, drawing while listening to music, and writing. I also really like taking screenshots of any inspiration I come across and throwing them in a folder. It makes me happy to look back at these images and words.

Guilty Pleasure?
The Great British Baking Show, America's Next Top Model, and researching my idols. I like knowing their journeys and hearing their perspectives.

Thank you, Monique!