July 27, 2010

Charice misses the point of Glee

(Charice, before Botox and Thermage. Photo from Pinoy Paparazzi)

HOLY Botox, Batman! That teenage singer Charice Pempengco’s got a new face! The question is, why?

Okay, so Charice says she did it because she wants to be “fresh on camera” for her appearances on the hit US series Glee (which used to be my favorite TV show). I didn’t know an 18-year-old was already considered tired and ancient. Damn, now what would that make 45-year-old me?

Charice added: “Lahat po ng mga tao inaasahan nila, ‘Ano kaya ‘yong itsura ni Charice? Karapat-dapat ba siyang itapat kay Rachel Berry?’ So, siyempre sobrang laki ng pressure,” she said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.

Isn’t it ironic that Charice chose to have her facial features enhanced when Glee is all about celebrating natural beauty and being true to oneself?

I remember one particular episode, for instance, where the rotund Mercedes Jones (played by Amber Riley) desperately tried to lose weight because cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester threatened to kick her off the team if she couldn’t wear the standard female cheerleading uniform of a short skirt and sleeveless shirt. It was former Cheerios star Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) who had to remind Mercedes that she used to be so secure in her own beauty; no one should make her feel bad about herself. And it’s true, despite Mercedes/Amber’s heft, her talent and self-confidence makes her shine through, which is why she is one of the most admired characters among the Glee cast.

I’m aghast that Charice’s own mother, Raquel, allowed her daughter to undergo the cosmetic procedures, although technically at 18, she is considered an adult and capable of making her own decisions.

What’s more disturbing is that Charice’s cosmetologist, Dr. Vicky Belo reinforced the teenager’s lack of self-confidence by encouraging her to undergo the Botox and Thermage treatments! I’m surprised she didn’t even push the young singer to get a boob job!

But I’m pretty sure the doktora, who’s already been involved in a number of controversial issues in the past, is enjoying this bit of notoriety again. Anything to publicize the clinic for free, huh? And to use Charice in this manner…tsk, tsk, tsk. Shouldn’t the Philippine Medical Association be investigating the blatant promotion tactics of this doktora of her clinic? From what I know, other countries have strict laws against doctors advertising or actively promoting their practice. Why this unethical practice has been allowed to run unabated by the PMA is anybody’s guess. As they say, only in the Philippines!

For those who still don’t know, Botox is short for Botulinum toxin; in other words, it is a poison. It is frequently used in cosmetic procedures to smoothen out lines and wrinkles one one’s face, because it basically paralyzes the muscles. It is seen as a cheaper and less invasive alternative to a face lift, although the effects last only from four to six months.

So now, Charice has to go back to her doktora once her face starts swelling up again. This is for life, do you understand that Charice? Every six months you need to go back to your doktora and have her stick the needle along your jawline and shoot you up with poison to relax your facial muscles!

Aside from Botox injections, which reportedly made Charice cry, she also underwent a treatment called Thermage. According to the Thermage web site, it is “a safe, non-invasive, radiofrequency cosmetic procedure that’s clinically proven to help smooth, tighten and contour skin for an overall younger looking appearance. The treatment delivers natural looking results with little to no downtime—on all skin colors, on and off the face, all in a single procedure.” Obviously, both the Botox and Thermage procedures were designed for older people who already experience some slackness in their facial skin.

But according to Dr. Belo, Botox and Thermage were used to narrow the singer’s “naturally round face.” Then the doktora added that Charice’s face was getting wider because she chews gum. So couldn’t you just have told Charice to stop the habit, doktora? Of course, now that even the Hollywood press has played up this controversy, the doktora is now saying Charice is suffering from a medical condition called bruxism, which makes her involuntarily grind her teeth when she sleeps. Yeah right.

Charice didn’t look bad before she underwent her cosmetic procedures. In fact, she’s cute in a bibingka sort of way. But her fans admire her not because of how she looks but because of her powerful voice. She landed her recording contract and that spot on Glee because she could bring audiences to their knees. Oprah even called her “the most talented girl in the world!” And still the young lady (frankly I thought she was just 15) wasn’t happy with how she looked. Naku Charice, lagot ka ke Ninang Oprah!

Of course this just reminds me of singer Lani Misalucha who I already thought was smoking hot especially with her set of pipes, and currently wowing audiences in Las Vegas. I saw her in a feature by Cheche Lazaro’s Profiles sometime last year, and hardly recognized her! The only thing that was really wrong with her was her teeth – easily replaced with a new set of dentures or jackets. But it looked like she had a rhinoplasty to get rid of her typical Pinoy nose, and something certainly was done to her eyes and her chin. Apparently she made a local TV appearance recently that my friend Viola described her as “Madam Auring’s long-lost daughter.” Ach.

Then of course, there was Gretchen Barretto who also tampered with her already oh-so-lovely face and had what looked like a cheek implants. (Years ago, there were rumors of a lip injection as well.) Already so gorgeous (and rich!), and still not happy? Did Gretchen’s daughter stop telling her in the morning how beautiful she was, she had to tweak her face? Or was the man leaving? All the cosmetic procedures in the world won’t keep your man beside you, hon. Tsk, tsk.

Perhaps we just don’t understand the “pressures” Charice and all these other celebrities are under. If you spend your life under the spotlight, sooner or later, the cameras are going to notice your “flaws”. All I know is, if Barbra Streisand had fixed her schnozz, she probably wouldn’t have the success that she’s had. She never gave in to constant appeals of the idiots around her to have her oversized Jewish nose reworked. She knew that it was her voice that would carry her through every audition and every singing gig. Such moxie! And that nose is what gives Ms. Barbra character.

(If there’s anything that Charice should actually change is her fashion style. With all her earnings, she could very well afford her own personal stylist. You see her being photographed in ill-fitting hats, wearing Madonna-era black lacey gloves, then what about that ghastly Jollibee terno during President Aquino’s inauguration, huh? Ick.)

This is why I’ve always maintained that Charice is so wrong for Glee. She certainly missed the point of the show.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on July 22, 2010.)

(Charice - after the Botox and Thermage.)

(UPDATE:) While many doctors will swear to the safety of botox to the body - even my own board-certified dermatologist says so - my own research shows there really is no long-term study yet that supports this, except for the one drawn up by Botox's producer. If you still want to continue to inject it in your face, I'm not gonna stop you. What most dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons apparently object to was the use of Thermage on Charice, when, as I've already mentioned, it's a procedure meant for older people. So there.

July 12, 2010

Black sheep (and my own wishful thinking)

ALL families have one.

It’s the relative who doesn’t quite fit in the traditional mold of the rest of the family.

He is the relative who possesses the least number of personality traits that usually marks one as a member of that clan.

He is the one who sometimes brings embarrassment to the rest of the kin because of the things he or she says, or his or her aberrant behavior.

* * * *

Often called the family oddball or eccentric, his antics sometimes run from the quirky and harmless—you know, like Lady Gaga, who dresses up in outlandish but creative costumes—to the truly wild and jawdropping, like the relative who feels the urgent need to declare to the entire world that her partner gave her a sexually transmitted disease.

There’s no rhyme or reason for the black sheep. He just happens, much like the Joker in the deck of cards you’re shuffling which you thought you’d already removed.

In a number of families, he or she is just the constant butt of jokes—like your elderly aunt who always shows up for the family reunion with yet another escort young enough to be her grandson.

Then there is the drug addict in the respectable family of lawyers who constantly fails to get rehabilitated.

* * * *

I MUST admit that when I was campaigning for then-senator Noynoy Aquino last year, the most difficult criticism I had to fend off was not that he had no credible political track record to speak of, but that he had Kris Aquino, the TV celebrity, as his sister.

Unwarranted or not, Kris has become the epitome of what family black sheep are all about. One could easily dismiss it as her being born in the month of February and being an Aquarian, given to eccentricities, but even I, who share the same birth month and zodiac sign with her, and can come from the left field at times, am constantly stumped by her erratic behavior.

The potential voters I talked with then warned me that if and when Senator Aquino would become president, Kris would lord (lady?) over it in Malacañang. After all, Aquino has no wife, so who else would function as his First Lady? Certainly, they said, his other sisters—Ballsy, Pinky and Viel—had their own lives and families to get back to, and they felt that Kris, who always seems to crave the spotlight, would revel in the role of de-facto First Lady.

I, of course, defended my then-candidate that, no, Kris would have her showbiz life to go back to, and also her family—Josh, Baby James and Big James. I remember saying that with the amount of financial support Kris would send her brother’s way for his campaign, she would need to earn these back through more showbiz projects and product endorsements. I supremely believed then that when he won, Aquino would thank the bunso for her tremendous backing, then send her merrily away back to showbiz.

I guess those guys I talked with last year are now laughing at me, because what they had predicted has come to pass. Who else could have suggested to now President Noynoy Aquino to appoint Girl Abunda as tourism secretary? Ach. (By the way, just for the record, I also admit that I eventually didn’t vote for Senator Aquino after seeing how he poorly handled the infighting in his camp.)

* * * *

BUT what family, like I said, doesn’t have a black sheep—a relative who can be a continued cause of embarrassment? Of course, for political families, it can be quite devastating.

A story by ABC News in 2007—published on the occasion of the arrest of Al Gore III, son of the former US Vice President and then-yet-to-become Nobel Laureate, for possessing marijuana and prescription drugs—cited a number of famous political black sheep.

Former US President John Henry Adams had a son, Charles, who was an alcoholic. Others include the great Democrat Franklin Roosevelt’s son who became a Republican; the drinking and free-wheeling Alice, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt; William Henry Harrison’s sons (one an embezzler, another an alcoholic); the late Sen. Teddy Kennedy—himself a black sheep because of the infamous Chappaquiddick incident—and his son Patrick, now a congressman himself, who had a substance-abuse problem in his youth and was dragged into a rape controversy with his cousin William Kennedy Smith, among others.

And even before Kris, there have been also quite a number of presidential siblings who had gained notoriety: Jimmy Carter had Billy, who was on the payroll of the Libyan government; George W. Bush had Neil, who was said to have engaged the services of prostitutes; and Bill Clinton had a half-brother, Roger, a cocaine user and alcoholic (not to mention, a bad Elvis Presley impersonator).

To their credit, the older Aquino sisters knew that Kris could be a liability to their President-brother’s governance, so they apparently exhorted her to give up her showbiz talk shows.

(Of course, Kris being Kris, she stole the show once more just three days before her brother’s inaugural by admitting to the entire world that she has given up on her marriage to basketball player James Yap. UPDATE: Kris and her children flew to the U.S. on July 8, 2010 and is said to be taking a 3-week vacation.)

One only wonders how these six years of semi-seclusion from the public life will affect Kris. For all we know, being under the constant watch of her sisters could do her good. It can’t be easy for Kris, who lives to hog the headlines, to have her every action monitored and controlled by her siblings.

What many wish for Kris—and really, despite her antics, I admire how she always puts her children’s needs ahead of hers—is perhaps, a Teddy Kennedy moment. Once an embarrassment for his entire family, Kennedy - also the bunso among nine siblings and born in February as well - eventually shed off the bad behavior and became one of the most revered politicians of our generation. (Now, I don't mean that Kris should become a politician like Kennedy or her brother and father, although it wouldn't be surprising if she does enter the field herself, but to just well, grow up. And maybe shut up about herself sometimes. It doesn't have to be all about you all the time, Kris!)

So, you see, there is some hope for black sheep after all. I would like to believe that, eventually, Kris will find her real place in the sun, and instead of being someone that her siblings would always have to watch over, become a constant and major source of pride for her family.

(My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life Section of the BusinessMirror. Black sheep photo from www.mi9.com. Yap family photo from Reuters via www.daylife.com)

July 08, 2010

Ang pagbabalik ng...


1. This recently-elected political hotshot certainly knows how to throw parties and give gifts to his supporters. After winning the recent elections, he threw a party at a 5-star hotel for his family and campaign volunteers. It's quite certain that he didn't pay a single centavo for the said party, as is his usual custom. Last Saturday, Mr. Hotshot hosted a birthday party of the spouse of one Presidential relative, who he gifted w/ a brand-new car. He also added to the merriment, held at a public university, by giving out expensive raffle prizes including trips abroad. Bingo!

2. Ms. Separada looks like she's depressed right now, but our sources have it, she is actually playing the romantic card w/ a very much married politician, said to have his sights on a higher political office in 2016. What she may not know is Mr. Married Politico has also been regularly seeing another woman (aside from her and his wife) who works in the hotel industry. We're pretty sure he's not just out to investigate the problems of the workers in her industry. Bam!

3. When a major scam hit the former occupant of Malacañang, this former head of a govt agency was said to have fled to country supposedly due to threats on his life, bec. of what he supposedly knew about said scam. The truth is, the scam became a convenient cover for his own personal scandal. Apparently, Mr. Ex-govt agency head was caught having an affair w/ a woman connected to a food testing lab.

Stumbling on the truth of her husband's les affaires, Mr. Ex-govt agency head's wife supposedly made sumbong to her cousin, a Senator who recently ran in the May elections, who promptly gave the ex-agency head a dressing down. Forced to see the error of his ways, Mr. Ex-govt agency head tried to woo his wife back by bringing her to the States. During their stay there, he privately told his close relatives and friends that he had been playing "driver" to his wife. Btw, there's no truth to the rumor that Mr. Ex-gov't agency head's favorite color is Pink.

July 05, 2010

Shalani's long wait

(President Noynoy Aquino and Valenzuela Councilor Shalani Soledad. Photo from Inquirer.net)

IT all started with my friend Casper’s Facebook status one morning last week.

He said: “P-Noy should exercise presidential prerogative and break protocol to let his girlfriend sit at the front row with his sisters at his inaugural. Pinoys love a good love story, and this is a good one for this nation of telenovela lovers.”

Casper, of course, was referring to the lovely Shalani Soledad, who recently won another term as councilor of Valenzuela. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the fresh-faced Shalani...except maybe for presidential sister Kris? Hehehe.

The girl seems to be shy and soft-spoken—remember how she absolutely avoided talking to the press about her relationship to then just plain Sen. Noynoy Aquino after he had just filed his certificate of candidacy? This was one of the endearing things about Shalani, I suppose, and the romantics among the media who covered the then-senator just couldn’t stop needling him when he would marry the young lady.

After Casper’s declaration, his friends followed suit, commenting that they agreed with him. I was the spoilsport who didn’t support his proposed seating arrangement.

First of all, Shalani and her disarming smile, is still just a girlfriend, I said. The relationship between her and now President Noynoy could prosper—or it may not. There is no commitment between these two lovebirds to get married to each other, at least, that's what they've said so themselves. They are not engaged, so strictly speaking, Shalani isn’t family (unlike, of course, Girl Abunda, who has declared himself to be the fifth Aquino sister).

Also I told Casper, the electoral campaign was over, P-Noy had already won and “[he] should have enough sense not to use the relationship as a gimmick just to entertain the masses. There are more than enough telenovelas to deliver on that.”

But on the day Casper made his statement of support on behalf of Shalani’s place at her boyfriend’s inauguration, the gossip mill started churning out the bit that the President and his girlfriend were no longer an item. There was even one news report quoting Shalani denying the rumor which apparently had been swirling since P-Noy’s proclamation in Congress.

The rumor pointed to the fact that Shalani was seated four rows behind P-Noy’s sisters during his proclamation in Congress, and just beside singer/composer Ogie Alcasid. Also, she was absent at the small dinner celebration the Aquinos held with P-Noy’s buddies and schoolmates at Luk Foo, that Cantonese restaurant beside Puregold Supermarket along Commonwealth Avenue. (Good restaurant choice by P-Noy, by the way. Just simple and straightforward Chinese dishes, and inexpensive.)

Apparently, Casper also heard the rumor and by late afternoon of that day, he told me that the breakup was all true. He added that his respect for P-Noy even rose higher because of the latter’s reason for the breakup. “Para sa bayan?” I asked. Casper confirmed that, yes, supposedly P-Noy did it because he wanted to focus first on the task at hand, i.e., leading the nation.

Well, P-Noy’s inauguration on Wednesday went swimmingly without much incident at the Quirino Grandstand, and thank God it didn’t rain. But, of course, quite a number of people watching the ceremonies on TV noticed that Shalani was seated behind the Aquino sisters, specifically behind the President's sister, Viel Aquino-Dy. I don’t know if the seating plan is a clue to whether Shalani and P-Noy are still together or not. But why would you invite an ex-girlfriend to your inaugural ceremony, right? That’s kinda weird. And according to a GMA news report, it was P-Noy himself who chose Shalani’s designer for the event.

I think it’s already significant that Shalani was there. I don’t think people should make mountains about the molehill-fact that she was seated behind P-Noy's sisters. To me, it just means protocol was strictly followed by the inauguration team. We’re under a new administration after all, so it’s to be expected that proper decorum and rules on conduct are followed.

But gads, I would really hate to be in Shalani’s shoes these days. It can’t be easy when one’s relationships are put under the microscope, or in P-Noy and Shalani’s case, under close media scrutiny. Every move each partner in the relationship is constantly dissected, assessed, deconstructed and analyzed to no end. God help Shalani if on her way to work, she leaves her house with her hair all wet and unkempt. People will probably immediately dismiss her as unfit to be P-Noy’s wife!

Of course, the same kind of scrutiny goes for P-Noy’s siblings.

For instance, Miggy noticed that when Kris arrived at the Quirino Grandstand, she kissed a number of the guests, but didn’t even bother to greet Shalani. No beso-beso, no nothing. When Miggy put this out on her Facebook status, the comments poured in from her friends who also noticed the same. I missed that bit on the screen myself, so I couldn’t comment. (At the inauguration street party at the Quezon Memorial Circle later that night though, many noted that Shalani was seated beside Kris. So all's well, perhaps between this two?)

As a woman, I feel for Shalani. There is just too much pressure put on her, being the presidential girlfriend. As she said so in a lengthy newspaper interview back in April, she really has to mind what she wears these days. When before she could just dress up casually (“I go to the supermarket na naka-slippers, naka-shorts”), she now checks herself constantly, making sure her shorts or her skirts are of the proper length. (Well, Shalani was so gorgeous in her yellow terno by Rajo Laurel—a surprise—during the inauguration. She really stood out in her simplicity, and looked so much better than, sorry, P-Noy’s sisters, Kris included. Whoever made that 'Big Bird' terno for Kris and those updated Maria Claras for the other sisters should be shot.)

Of course, many people wonder if the relationship will last, now that Shalani's boyfriend is the new President of the Philippines. Sure, it’s a feat any girlfriend should be awfully proud of, but as Shalani said so herself, she expects there would be less time for them to be together. Even if she is mature enough to comprehend the realities of the situation, I’m sure she can’t help but wonder when she and P-Noy are even going out on a date again. At the same time, she will feel guilty for thinking just that. How can she put that kind of pressure on someone who has more problems to think about than setting the next date with his girlfriend?

Fortunately for Shalani, she will be busy with her own job as councilor, filing ordinances, and trying to get them passed by their city hall. She will have her family or close set of friends to hang out with after her work is done for the day.

Whatever happens, I wish Shalani the strength to take whatever difficulties may come in maintaining such a high-profile relationship with P-Noy. Between her and P-Noy, she will have to be the more understanding one. She will have to be the patient one, and the forgiving one, especially when dates have to be broken for reasons of the state, or when, yes, he bitches a little because he’s too busy to listen to her making lambing on the phone.

(President Noynoy and Shalani are certainly no Michael Douglas and Annette Benning in The American President.)

The romantics among us continue to imagine P-Noy and Shalani’s relationship as the same as Michael Douglas and Annette Benning’s which managed to beat the odds in the film The American President, but, really, it isn’t. In real life, a 30-year-old woman who could have anyone as her beau, and with marriage and children perhaps on her mind, is bound to ask herself if her boyfriend, the President, is worth the six-year wait.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror.)