Riza Oliva: The Girl From A Thousand Islands

Portrait of Riza Oliva for Tony Ward Studio
Riza Oliva. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

Text by Riza Oliva, Copyright 2021


The Girl From A Thousand Islands


If you google, “How many islands are in the Philippines?”, the answer would be 7,640 islands. In one of those many thousand islands, there is one called Cebu, the place I was born. While many in the United States had the luxury of being born in the hospital, I was born on a bamboo bed at home. I spent my first five years in the Philippines. My family had an opportunity to move to America as my grandmother became an Engineer for Septa. My mother was one of nine siblings, seven girls and two boys. I grew up with many women who were very hardworking and very passionate. I guess you can say, that’s where I get my drive from, it runs in my blood.

Growing up in America was interesting. I do not think many individuals from other countries realize how much blood, sweat, and tears go into living in “The Land of the Free”. One thing I can say is, that America has given me so many opportunities that I never dreamt. I graduated high school in Edinburg, Texas then moved back to Philadelphia and graduated college at Temple University. It was there where I received my degree In Health Information Management and worked hard to become a Subject Matter Expert for a health software company. While beginning my new career after graduation, I started modeling. Many doors opened for me by just going outside of my comfort zone. I was featured in music videos on BET Jams and Music Choice, walked in New York Fashion Week multiple times, was published in multiple magazines and featured on clothing websites. I also became a radio host for a local internet radio station. I eventually opened two photography studios in Pennsylvania and Ohio after starting my photography journey again. And when I thought about quitting it all, opportunities came knocking on my door. I dipped my feet into some background acting for major films and shows like Netflix’s Hustle with Adam Sandler and NBC’s Bel Air. I would say I was blessed but many of my achievements came from facing my fears, working hard and taking chances. I am proud of who I have become and will constantly try to be the best version of myself day in and day out.


About The Author: Riza Oliva is a professional photographer, actress, model, business owner and mom based in Philadelphia. To read contributing writer Katie Kerl’s interview with Riza Oliva, click here: https://tonyward.com/interview-riza-oliva/

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