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Sunday, January 18, 2009

WJ cover Story Jan. 2009

Women's Journal

COVER STORY:Yasmien Kurdi Into a New Era



Away from the limelight and the attendant showbiz controversies that, she says, can be tiring, Yasmien would rather go back to two things closest to her heart: making music and going back to school to take up International Studies at the New Era University.

Yasmien is one celebrity who jealously guards her privacy. “Yung ibang artista, 75 percent ang ino-open up nila. Ako, 50-50 lang talaga. You don’t need to tell people your deepest secrets. ‘Yan ang isang natutunan ko sa showbiz. May ibang bagay na hindi na dapat ilabas. May ibang tao din naman kasing maapektuhan, hindi lang ikaw. Oo, public figure ka pero hindi ka public property. Puwede kang pag-usapan, but they don’t own you. Kailangan may personal life ka din.”
Yasmien admits that being in showbiz has toughened her up. It was difficult adjusting in the beginning, but now she likes to think she’s not just older, but wiser. One of the things she’s learned is how to draw the line between her personal life and her career. She realized, very quickly, that it is the key to surviving the rough and tumble world of show business. “Kailangan talaga, i-separate mo,” she says. “Kailangan minsan, pusong bato ka dahil minsan, paulit-ulit na ang ganoong intriga kaya parang namamanhid ka na.”
Then, perhaps realizing how jaded she sounds, Yasmien tries to soften the blow of her words. She pauses for a few seconds, adopts a thoughtful expression, and says: “Siguro not totally naman. Basta ‘wag madamay ang family at personal life ko sa mga issues . . . lalo na kapag sa parents ko, ayokong lumaki. Iba ‘yon. Hindi sila artista. Gusto ko, hayaan silang mamuhay ng normal. Ako, hindi bale dahil sanay na ako.”


As this story is being written, it is just days after the sudden death of Marky Cielo. Marky—who, like Yasmien, was a product of StarStruck—was her ka-loveteam in Bakekang. Of course, like everyone else, Marky’s death hit Yasmien hard as it cut short his promising career.
Marky is just one of several male GMA talents paired with Yasmien in the different series that she’s done. “Before, my loveteam was Rainier. Tapos naging si Jay Aquitania. Nagka-trabaho kami ni Marky sa Bakekang. Tapos naging si Rainier ulit.”
However, her most lasting—and also most controversial—screen partnership has been with JC de Vera. They first worked together in Pati Ba Pintig ng Puso, a local remake inspired by the Sharon Cuneta-Gabby Concepcion movie of the same title. The intrigues that came out last year about her and JC drove Yasmien up the wall. They made her look like she was desperately running after JC. At the presscon for one of their projects, she actually confronted JC about the rumors because they were making him uncomfortable. She asked him, point-blank, “Mukha ba akong naghahabol sa iyo?”
Although she acknowledges that what she did might be considered being “taklesa,” Yasmien says never in her wildest imagination would she run after a guy. “Nakakaloka yung mga naglabasan,” she says. “Ang sabi, nade-depress daw ako, eh hindi naman. Kesyo nag-aaway daw kami, eh hindi rin naman. Walang ganoon. Hindi na rin ako nag-react kasi ayoko nang palakihin ang issue.”
She hates it when people put words into her mouth. “They’re putting words in my mouth na hindi ko naman sinabi,” she says. “Kahit sa law, hindi puwede yung ganoon. Masama ‘yon. Bawal ‘yon. Di ba dapat kung magsasalita ka, speak for yourself, at hindi para sa ibang tao?”
Yasmien explains that she’s not angry; she’s just trying to make a point. “Hindi ako galit. Pinapaliwanag ko lang na hindi dapat ganoon. Dati din kasi ako, sobrang taklesa ko eh. I remember myself before, kahit schoolmates ko, sinasabing sobrang taklesa daw ako.”
Her concern is actually not so much for herself, but for her parents. She says that she can take anything that’s thrown at her, but she can’t say the same for her parents. As a star, she is fair game; her parents are not. “Ako naman, basta huwag madamay ang family at personal life ko sa mga issues, okay lang. Iba kasi ‘yon, eh. Kung may issues about my parents, ayokong lumaki. Hindi naman sila ang artista—ako. Sila, namumuhay ng normal. Naku, lalo ang mommy ko, apektado ‘yon kapag may mga issues sa akin. Si papa, mas affected ‘yon. Sobra kasi silang conservative. ‘Yung isa, Muslim. Yung isa, Iglesia (ni Kristo). Kamusta naman ‘yon, di ba?”
It may be old news to some, but Yasmien denies that there was ever anything going on between her and JC. “Never at any point nagkaroon ng off-camera thing,” she says.
There are times, says Yasmien, that the intriga becomes too much to handle, even for someone like her who has been in showbiz for years. “May times na nakakapagod talaga, to the point na gusto ko nang magbakasyon,” she says.


But since she is too busy to go on vacation, Yasmien has learned how to find pleasure in the things she does—like her music. Although she is known more as an actress, Yasmien has found that she enjoys making music just as much. “Minsan nga, mas masarap kumanta kesa umarte,” says Yasmien. “Sa acting kasi, lagi kang puyat.”
Yasmien can get very excited talking about her music. Her last album, released in 2007, is titled Love Is All I Need. Yasmien feels a bit sad that she wasn’t able to properly promote it because she became very busy with her TV assignments. “Since nilabas ko, na-busy ako sa kaka-TV, kaya nawalan ako ng time para sa album,” she says sadly. “Wala akong time mag-promote, nakaka-sad.”
Another reason she misses singing is because when she is a singer, there is less controversy to deal with. She focuses on the pure pleasure of making music. But Yasmien says that while she has not been able to do much by way of music lately, that doesn’t mean she is giving it up. “Yung music naman, nandiyan lang ‘yan,” she says. “Puwede ko namang balikan later on.”


Speaking of things “to go back to”, one of those things is her schooling. Yes, Yasmien has gone back to school—and her new and busier schedule is partly why she hasn’t been able to do much singing lately.
At the time of this interview, she was planning to enrol at New Era College for the second semester. She plans to take up International Studies. It is a discipline close to the heart of Yasmien, who is of mixed parentage and who grew up in countries other than the Philippines. With her background, and her degree, she will probably end up becoming an ambassador one day. But for now, all she wants to do is fulfill her dream of going back to school and getting a degree. “Na-miss ko kasi mag-aral,” she says. “Gusto ko talaga, kaya I’m really going to make time for it. Feeling ko kasi minsan, nabobobo na ako na puro scripts ang binabasa ko, na parang doon na lang gumagana ang utak ko.”
Of course, she knows that balancing a full-time student’s schedule with a full-time showbiz career is not going to be easy. But Yasmien remains optimistic as she goes into a new era in her life. “Kaya po ‘yan,” she says assuredly. “Time management lang ‘yan. Siyempre, kapag gusto mo ang isang bagay, hahanap ka talaga ng paraan. At saka gusto ko naman talaga mag-aral.”
There will be other dreams, bigger ones, for her to fulfill later on. Who knows, falling in love and getting married will even be among them. But Yasmien, who has now grown wise to the ways of the world, guards her heart as jealously as she does her privacy. When she falls in love, it will be at the right time, with the right guy. She doesn’t know when that will be, or with who. All she knows is that it will happen to her one day—and when it does, it will be special.
In fact, even at her age, Yasmien shows how much of a modern woman she is with her views on love, romance and yes, sex. She is alarmed by the number of unexpected pregnancies happening to her friends in showbiz. At the same time, she promises it won’t happen to her. “Mas maganda pa rin kapag binigay mo na ang sarili mo sa lalaking mahal mo talaga,” she says. “Kahit matagal, mas maganda na i-gi-give up mo ang virginity mo sa taong worth it.”
Ultimately, though, more than a wife or mother, what she wants most of all is to become a thoroughly modern and independent woman. She wants to break out of her shell and break away. She wants to find herself, even if that means doing it alone. “Ayoko kasi mag-depend habang buhay sa magulang ko,” she explains. “Gusto ko din maging independent sa sarili kong paraan. Hindi naman ibig sabihin na mag-re-rebelde ako sa parents ko. Walang ganoon. Wala naman silang kailangan ipag-alala.”


Yasmien Kurdi was born in San Juan, Metro Manila, on January 25, 1989, to Filipino-Chinese Miriam Ong-Yuson and French-Lebanese Mike Kurdi. Her childhood years were spent mostly in the Middle East because her father worked there.
Her name should have been spelled “Yasmine”—Arabic for the fragrant flower Jasmine—but her mother mistakenly wrote it as “Yasmien” after her delivery in the hospital and it has been reflected so in her birth certificate.
Yasmien started competing in singing competitions at the age of three. At seven in Kuwait, she performed monologue acting as “Maria Clara” in a zarzuela adaptation of “Noli Me Tangere” that was hosted by the Kuwaiti-Filipino community in celebration of the Philippine Independence Day.
After her parents separated, Yasmien and her mother returned to the Philippines. She studied at New Era University where she was reported to be at the top 10 of her class. Meanwhile, she did commercial modeling and her first print ad was for the beauty product Ponds. Then she auditioned at GMA Network's StarStruck in 2003, and was runner-up to Jennylyn Mercado in the female category. After the stint in StarStruck, she appeared in Click and SOP Gigsters, then appeared in various movies including SoHappy Together, Ai****e Imasu (Mahal kita) 1941, Lovestruck, and Happily Ever After.
In 2005, she released her debut album entitled In The Name of Love through GMA Records and her carrier single "I Know" (used as a soundtrack of Korean teledrama "Sweet 18") won the Viewer's Choice for Song of the Year in the 2005 SOP Music Awards. Also in 2005, one of her biggest projects was playing the role of Mira in Encantadia.
In September 2006, Bakekang began to air, where she played the role of Bakekang’s ugly daughter, Charming. It has been so far her biggest break as an actress. In November 2006, Yasmien became one of the stars of the film Pitong Dalagita where she played a lesbian and one of the seven girls who committed suicide all at the same time. In March 2007, she was the voice behind the character Rukia Kuchiki in the anime Bleach.
And in May 2007, Yasmien starred in Pati Ba Pintig ng Puso with JC de Vera, playing as Jenna, a maid who has an eye on her employer's grandson. In September 2007, she starred again with JC de Vera in the remake for TV of Pasan Ko Ang Daigdig, which originally starred one of Yasmien’s idols, Sharon Cuneta.
A strict vegetarian, Yasmien Kurdi is also part of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia-Pacific’s television commercial to promote vegetarianism. In November 2007, she posed inside a cage while holding a sign that said: "Liberate your diet. Go vegetarian."
In early 2008, she starred in her first drama-action-thriller show, Babangon Ako't Dudurugin Kita. In the middle of this production, she headlined a drama-comedy anthology series called Tasya Fantasya. After the said series, she took a rest to study. Starting last November, she is reprise the role of Maricel Soriano in Saan Darating Ang Umaga?.
In the second quarter of 2009, her home studio GMA Network—where she is back as princess of afternoon drama—is, sources say, giving her the lead role (with co-Kapuso star Angelika dela Cruz) in the serial Sine Novela’s Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin?


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