Bela Padilla

We’ve got our on her!

Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - Front Pages - By Gaby Ig­na­cio Pho­tog­ra­phy By Paolo Pineda

Could you play some Lana Del Rey?” Bela Padilla asks sweetly, stand­ing un­der the bright stu­dio lights as her very first

Cos­mopoli­tan cover shoot kicks off. Wear­ing a fig­ure-hug­ging black body­suit, jeans that could more easily be called de­mol­ished than dis­tressed, and sky-high black booties, she looks the epit­ome of an elu­sive kind of laid-back cool, mak­ing the re­quest more than ap­pro­pri­ate.

“Sum­mer­time Sad­ness” comes on, and with that, Bela trans­forms right be­fore the team’s eyes, be­com­ing sul­try, pen­sive, and jaw-drop­pingly sexy, be­ly­ing the quirky-girl vibe she sashayed in with be­fore­hand. You can hardly tell that it’s been a long and busy day for the 25-year-old ac­tress, who shows with ev­ery click of the cam­era that she is one of those most de­light­ful of show­biz crea­tures: a pro­fes­sional.

Dis­cov­ered at 17 dur­ing a school field trip, Bela is a rel­a­tive vet­eran in the in­dus­try, as well as a mem­ber of one of the country’s most es­tab­lished show busi­ness fam­i­lies. De­spite this, she ad­mits never hav­ing en­ter­tained the idea of act­ing be­fore she was scouted. “I was re­ally shy,” she shares. “When we were grow­ing up, we would be asked to dance, per­form, en­ter­tain the titas, and I would al­ways be the kid at the back beg­ging not to be picked. I re­ally didn’t imag­ine that this op­por­tu­nity would fall into my lap or that this would open up for me.”

A lack of con­crete plans after grad­u­at­ing, how­ever, would serve as the cat­a­lyst for her ac­cep­tance of the of­fer. “I think the fact that I had fam­ily mem­bers who

were in show­biz made it eas­ier for me to imag­ine my­self act­ing. It’s still over­whelm­ing, but it was def­i­nitely help­ful see­ing peo­ple I’m close to and peo­ple I trust work­ing in this in­dus­try.”

div­ing deep

This, how­ever, isn’t to say that it’s ever easy. “Ev­ery time I get a new project, or read a new script, I get scared,” she con­fesses. “Ev­ery­one who’s worked with me knows that on the first day of shoot­ing, I’m lit­er­ally shak­ing be­cause I’m an­tic­i­pat­ing when the char­ac­ter is go­ing to sink in.”

There are tinges of Method act­ing in her tech­nique: She nar­rates how, while shoot­ing

Ang Probin­syano, where she played opposite Coco Martin as his wife, she would come home still wear­ing a wed­ding ring. One story she re­gales us with de­tails her cry­ing and upset about the death of her “hus­band.” “I took feel­ings home. I’d snap out of it after a few hours, but un­til then, I rel­ish the char­ac­ter,” she says.

She shares her de­sire to tell true, com­pelling sto­ries rooted in real peo­ple’s experiences, and this rev­e­la­tion sheds light on how she has man­aged to be­come so versatile an ac­tress. “I’m a dif­fer­ent per­son when I’m in front of the cam­era, but I try to in­ject a bit of Bela into per­for­mances. That’s what I’m try­ing to live by now, in try­ing to make the char­ac­ters I play more au­then­tic: I try to delve deeper into all my char­ac­ters,” she says. “I do feel the pain ev­ery time I cry, or get slapped, or ev­ery time my char­ac­ter gets hurt by an­other char­ac­ter, so I hope it trans­lates.”

Branch­ing Out

Writ­ing, though, is a more con­scious ef­fort for Bela. With sev­eral fin­ished scripts and con­cepts al­ready un­der her belt, in­clud­ing the hit movie

Camp Sawi, she shares that she hopes to le­git­imize this facet of her ca­reer. “I don’t want es­tab­lished writ­ers to won­der why I’m getting a break. I’m tak­ing writ­ing cour­ses so I can feel that I put the work in. I want the work to feel real,” she says.

It’s a smart move on her part. “I don’t see my­self act­ing for­ever, be­cause the turnover for ac­tors is so fast,” she says. “I’m try­ing to po­si­tion my­self in a way that I can write as a ca­reer if peo­ple stop cast­ing me. If peo­ple would have me, of course I’d want to act for as long as I can.” It’s a prag­matic state­ment, and one can’t help but re­spect her for her trans­parency.

“Writ­ing’s not some­thing I thought I’d do full time, be­cause I’ve tran­si­tioned from see­ing act­ing as some­thing fun that pays the bills, to re­ally lov­ing ev­ery bit of it,” she ex­plains. “On set, that’s my com­fort zone. Every­where else, it’s like I’m living half a life, but when I’m on set, I feel like I know what I’m do­ing and what I’m do­ing is some­thing I can be proud of.”

It would be easy to as­sume that, hav­ing crossed over, Bela would in­sist on be­ing in­volved in each script, but she cor­rects us: “Out of re­spect for other writ­ers, you play what’s writ­ten.” When writ­ing scripts for her­self or for friends, how­ever, is when she can flex her cre­ative mus­cles. “I no­tice I tend to down­play char­ac­ters I write for my­self and try to up­lift the oth­ers,” she ex­plains. “It’s a con­scious ef­fort. Peo­ple here have so much to say about ev­ery­thing, so it’s just to be safe.”

grow­ing up

She would know, after all, about haters. In 2012, she found her­self in the mid­dle of a con­tro­versy when a men’s magazine put her on its cover, along­side sev­eral mod­els painted in black­face. The in­ter­net cried foul, cit­ing racism, and promptly at­tacked Bela. “I hon­estly don’t think about it any­more,” she says of the brouhaha. “You can’t pre­dict how things turn out. You make the most out of things, I guess. I would have re­acted the same way now as I did then, which was to apol­o­gize. I didn’t do any­thing in­ten­tion­ally hurt­ful, but that peo­ple were hurt by it was a sig­nal for me to apol­o­gize. You don’t have to be in the wrong to say sorry. I know the team didn’t in­tend to hurt me; they didn’t want to put me in a bad light.”

One could say it was a bap­tism of fire. She’s mel­lowed, though,with ex­pe­ri­ence. “It wasn’t easy, but I guess with the du­ra­tion I’ve been in show busi­ness, you get a lit­tle bit more ‘Ah, who cares?’” she says. “I used to be re­ally af­fected. If there were a hun­dred com­ments, and 99 were great but one was bad, I’d fix­ate on the bad one. Now, I ap­pre­ci­ate the 99 more. Those lit­tle things used to scare me, that I’d lose my job over that one com­ment. Now I know it’s not true. You get more work by be­ing pro­fes­sional, and I hope the peo­ple who write those hate­ful com­ments re­al­ize that the peo­ple who pay us know more about what’s go­ing on.”

Bela says she keeps do­ing the work, de­spite the chal­lenges, for the most im­por­tant peo­ple in her life: her fam­ily. “I was

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