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
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.