there is a light that shines

Yassi Press­man is liv­ing, walk­ing, breath­ing proof that the cruel world does not have to beat you into the ground if you fight back and don’t let it

Scout - - ON THE COVER - Pho­tog­ra­phy by SHAIRA LUNA In­ter­view by ROMEO MO­RAN Styling by GRACE DE LUNA

This much I know, af­ter half an hour of speak­ing to her face-to-face. At this point, the 21-year- old Bri­tish- Filip­ina ac­tor/dancer/singer/ host has ust wrapped up a e- hour shoot in the swel­ter­ing sum­mer heat— the in­suf­fer­able, scorch­ing pre­lude to the storms you’re wad­ing through now— but she is still spry and, most im­por­tantly, ea­ger to talk. Al­though she’s al­low­ing her­self to rela now, I don’t nd a trace of fa­tigue in her chip­per oice. And al­most e ery­thing she tells me is as bright as the af­ter­noon sun that shines through the win­dows of this ho­tel.

From the out­set, Yassi’s de­meanor sur­prises me. Show­biz, es­pe­cially Philip­pine show­biz, is a jun­gle that swal­lows peo­ple whole— they ei­ther get spit out or get bet­ter. I was ex­pect­ing a girl who was ei­ther sub­tly guarded (if there was a spot to pro­tect or re­lie ed to speak a lit­tle freely about their dis­dain (if there was any, at all). It can get that cut­throat. As you might ha e al­ready guessed by this point, Yassi Press­man is none of those things.

I was seek­ing out any­thing, any pits and lows in all of her 21 years in this world that might ha e pulled her down a time or two. ot that I was wish­ing it on her, though— ne er that. I was just look­ing for an en­try point into her world— a world that more and more peo­ple disco er e ery day with each new en­dorse­ment, each new co er, each new mo ie, each new dance ideo— that could get us to re­late to her e en more.

Sure, she had her usual quirks (“I al­ways try to get yummy food!” she says proudly, when I ask her about the se­cret to her hap­pi­ness) but noth­ing ex­traor­di­nar­ily hu­man­iz­ing. Yassi’s been in show­biz for al­most e years now, pro­pelled to near- ubiq­ui­tous fame by iral Face­book ideos, magazine co ers, com­mer­cial en­dorse­ments, and star­ring in both mo ies with friends a ine

and her own ehi­cles. ot to com­mod­ify tal­ents, but she’s be­com­ing more and more wanted by the day; that, in my opin­ion, should be enough time to fer­ment some burnout or ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis. Things peo­ple my age con­stantly deal with, things that they’re look­ing up to bet­ter peo­ple than them for some an­swers. Or some sug­ges­tions, at least.

So I spend my con er­sa­tion with Yassi per­sis­tently prod­ding at her ar­mor, look­ing for some chink or dent in that bub­ble of joy. Or a stream of deep con­scious­ness I could un­leash. years in show­biz that made you want to quit? “It made me look at my other op­tions,” she says pensi ely, but ne er gi ing in to the word. Do

you ever wake up with doubts? “ o.” No re­grets?

“ o, no re­grets.” So ev­ery­thing you’re do­ing now is you do­ing what you love. “Yes.” I guess your man­age­ment never has the prob­lem of try­ing to get you to stay happy and smil­ing all the time. “I hope so! I don’t think so.” In­stead, she gi es me ght­ing words. Lucky you, you don’t have to rec­on­cile do­ing what you love with do­ing things you’re told to do or things you have to do. “I think you just ha e to nd a way to lo e what you’re do­ing. How do I ex­plain that? There was also a quote about it. Try to be happy where you are, make your­self happy where you are.” I guess you don’t

feel like you’re burn­ing out yet. “Maybe when those non- sleep­ing days just go on and on and on and on, that’s the only time where I feel ex­tremely ex­hausted. But then again, who am I to com­plain? These are all bless­ings com­ing to me.” “ on’t gi e up. You just re­ally can’t, if you re­ally want some­thing.”

In all of this, the most de­press­ing thing she’s said is that she has days she wishes she could go out in pub­lic peace­fully. “Some­times I just wanna walk in a park and be with my dog,” Yassi muses. “On sad days, if you’ e just gone through some­thing, you just want quiet time. You don’t re­ally get that some­times.” And she e en man­ages to turn that loss into a win “I lo e the lo e that e ery­one’s show­ing. One time, I was walk­ing in Green­hills, I just wanted to— it was like a bad day for me. A lit­tle girl came up to me and she was cry­ing. She’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, Yassi, you’re the rea­son why I’m danc­ing! Thank you so much! I won best in dance when I was grade four!’ she said. That made me lo e the craft e en more.”

And as though she’s suc­cinctly ex­plain­ing her at­ti­tude, Yassi sums up her life phi­los­o­phy as such: “The good thing about me de­cid­ing how to deal on a daily ba­sis is that there’s al­ways gonna be some­thing that’s not per­fect. There’s al­ways gonna be some­thing that might an­noy you. I don’t know, maybe a bird would like shit on your shirt, or some­thing. You ha e no con­trol o er some things, and you just ha e to push it aside and just con­tinue. Or you could just be badtrip the whole day. It’s your choice.”

Go­ing o er our con er­sa­tion in my head, I felt that maybe my stan­dards of un­hap­pi­ness in the show­biz in­dus­try are too gra e. I’m prob­a­bly just a lit­tle too cyn­i­cal, too negati e for a guy who’s only e er gi en quick glimpses through whom I’ e been able to talk to. But e en then, I gured that, hey, I could still re­late more to the celebri­ties who ha e been too o er­worked and mis­un­der­stood, who’ e got more than a few pangs in their chests, those who’ e got some­thing painful kept in­side all wait­ing to be ented.

For all I know, e ery­thing Yassi has told me is a put- on, a bra e white lie she has to wear e ery day just to get through. But all through­out her telling me about the good things she be­lie es in, I nd that it hon­estly ne er feels arti cial. Her most con­sis­tent af­fec­ta­tion is her be­ing blind­ingly positi e. If it’s a lie, it’s a damn good con in­c­ing one, but I’m gi ing her a lot more credit than that and be­lie e that that’s how she re­ally is.

It takes a few min­utes on my 15- minute walk home that night to nally arri e at an im­por­tant re­al­iza­tion: con­trary to whate er I be­lie ed in pre-Yassi, maybe the way that she is ac­tu­ally is pos­si­ble. Maybe her im­pen­e­tra­ble joy is a real thing, just as real as sad­ness and stress? That a per­son as busy and bur­dened as she is is able to em­brace hap­pi­ness e ery day in this harsh un­forgi ing city/coun­try/world/life? All this time I was look­ing for a way to “hu­man­ize” Yassi, to make her “tan­gi­bly hu­man,” but why had it ne er oc­curred to me that it could be just as hu­man to tackle each day with un­fail­ing op­ti­mism? Why couldn’t her hap­pi­ness be ex­traor­di­nar­ily hu­man?

I then be­come para­noid that I might ha e of­fended her in some way by in­di­rectly in­sin­u­at­ing, through the kind of ques­tions I’ e thrown at her and the an­swers peo­ple can tell I wanted, that she could pos­si­bly be some­thing other than her ibrant, beau­ti­ful self. That she may be in­ca­pable some­where in there of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sin­cere hap­pi­ness. That she can’t not be like the rest of us, who al­low oursel es to be bogged down by our li es.

Be­cause why can’t it be just as re­al­is­tic that she’s cho­sen to take the higher road? Why can’t she teach us— and why can’t we learn, if we are able to learn— that it’s okay to not be­lie e life isn’t all frus­tra­tion and hate and jad­ed­ness? Or that it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble to pro­ceed tri­umphant de­spite it?

You’re a bea­con of light, Yassi Press­man. e er dim.

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