The morning light flooded the home of Z and Aivee Teo one Saturday morning. School was out, and their three young children, KenZ, Kenzo and Keli were gathered around the marble dining table, preparing for a shoot with Lifestyle Asia. At only 11, 7, and 6 (respectively), the Teo kids already have a following on social media, followed by people who are obsessed with the lives of their celebrity parents. However, the three children don’t quite realize that the public has their eye on them. They are unaware that their parents run a beauty empire, that their home in Makati is one of the most beautiful in their private subdivision, or that the clothes inside their closets have designer labels. To them, it is just their day to day life. And like any happy kid, Saturday mornings are the most important thing in the world.
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Props to the Parents
It isn’t a surprise that the Teo kids are naturals at photoshoots. They are often photographed by the press for magazine or broadsheet features. Their parents, who founded and manage the Aivee Clinic, are staples of the social scene, so it comes with the territory. Upon arriving at their home, the children were eager to begin shooting with photographer Jack Alindahao. Eldest brother KenZ, acted responsible and oversaw that everything was running according to plan. But just like any close-knit group of siblings, a last minute argument broke out when Keli, overexcited with the goings-on of the day, bugged her brother. When mom and dad stepped in to manage the little quarrel, all became well quickly.
The Teo kids are some of the most responsible and mature children I’ve ever met. They may have fought that morning, but after a short talk with the parents, they apologized to each other and hugged it out. For the rest of the morning, there was nothing but sweet smiles on their faces. Their chemistry was infectious, and you can feel that they truly value one another. Props must go out to Dr. Z and Aivee Teo for raising such well-behaved children. “I’ve never met children this kind. When they speak to you, they look at you directly in the eye. They are so sweet,” said photographer Jack Alindahao to Aivee Teo between layouts.
The way the Teos raise their children should be a lesson to all parents bringing up kids in this modern, digital savvy world. The kids are only allowed to watch television for two-hours on Saturdays. They are discouraged to play with electronics, and are encouraged to go out and get dirty in the garden. Because of this, all three children are completely social. They enjoy athletics, chatting with one another, reading books, and playing with cards. It is the type of childhood we had before iPads and computers became the norm to distract the attention of kids.
The Little Princess
The first to be shot was the youngest, Keli, who is also the only girl. Known online for her Instagram @keli.fashion (with a following of 3.9k followers), the youngling is known for sporting cute designer outfits. The Teos’ love for fashion rubbed off on the little girl, who enjoys nothing more but selecting her own clothes for the day. At only six years old, she has graced the cover of a popular fashion magazine. So during our shoot, she was completely professional and in the zone. She patiently sat while makeup and hairstylist Syd Helmsley curled her hair, a decision that Keli made herself. By the end of the morning, Keli was calling Syd “her best friend”. She often hugged her and wanted to be near her, whispering secrets with one another about everybody else at the shoot.
Although her lifestyle may be perceived as glamorous by those who follow her, the truth is, Keli is just a little girl. She may have the knack and love for designer fashion, but the bright colors and interesting prints are more important to her then the name on the label. To the outside world, she is a little princess, and we don’t dispute that. But at this time of her life, Keli enjoys reading about princesses instead. Throughout the shoot day, she lugged around a large book of fairy tales, politely asking the crew to take turns reading her a story. Her favorite was “Rapunzel”.
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Intelligent at Six
Kenzo, the middle child, is highly intelligent. At only seven years old, he can carry a conversation so well, that you begin to wonder, “What am I doing with my life?” During the shoot, he was more than eager to share with us his growing collection of Pokémon cards. “These I share with my brother,” he says, while pointing at a thick stack. “These are mine…these, my tita gave me…” he continued while making his way through his vast collection.
“What is your rarest Pokémon card?” I said. He replied a rare Charizard, and points out that “It is a first edition from 1999.” I asked him how he knew that, and he said, “I researched it!” Very impressive, I thought. Although he talks about Pokémon cards like they are the end all and be all, we must remember that Kenzo is a child. What is very impressive is his way of communicating, which is so clear and eloquent, that his intelligence shines through even at this tender, young age.
He is also the most affectionate of the Teo children, always hugging both his brother and sister, helping dad figure out what to wear to work, and making sure his mother has a kiss on the cheek before she steps out of the house. His only vice: his wild addiction of Japanese wagyu, which Dr. Z has recorded and shown multiple times on his Instagram account. Kenzo can’t live without it…but that’s another story!
Coco, The Kuya
The eldest Teo, KenZ, who is lovingly referred to by his siblings as Coco, is the most responsible of the three. Being the oldest, he considers himself accountable for whatever his little brother and sister do, making him the most serious child. Still, KenZ knows how to have fun. He is an amazing football player (he can kick the ball on his knees 98 times before dropping it), and is part of the varsity team in the international school he is enrolled in. Most of his layouts were done in the garden, running around and showing us his passion for the game.
KenZ, like his younger sister, has effortless style. When he came downstairs for the shoot, he wore an extra-cool pair of shades, a red flannel polo shirt tucked into jeans, paired with black leather Gucci riding shoes. Everyone mentioned how he looked like a little movie star, with coolness similar to that of style icons Alain Delon and Steve McQueen. We suspect the young man’s easy style and awesomeness will only enhance as he gets older. He has the makings of becoming “The Most Popular Guy in School”. We wouldn’t be surprised if he already is.
A Family Who Plays Together, Stays Together
When it was time to shoot their layouts together, the synergy between each child was outstanding. They each carried their Pekingese dogs in one picture. KenZ oversaw that his siblings were well behaved, Kenzo made sure the dogs stayed in place, while Keli (the fashion girl that she is), was ready to give her poses all that she can. It was noisy, but fun, just as it should be when shooting with kids. “They say never work with children or dogs,” I said to photographer Jack with a laugh. He then replied, “But this doesn’t feel like work! They are all so fun!”
When the shoot ended, it was kind of bittersweet. Although the kids only met the crew for about four hours, they were sad to see everyone go. Especially, Keli, who had a made new best friend out of Syd Helmsley, our makeup artist. They gave everybody big hugs or handshakes and thanked everyone for their time. KenZ led the farewell party, before they all ran back upstairs to enjoy their Saturday morning.
Days later, as I write this, the memory of that weekend is still very pleasant for me. More than having a fun and easy work day, I am completely impressed with the Teo children. Their bond with one another is so strong, that I’m excited for them to reach their teenage years. It’s a comfort to know that in the future, they’ll always have each other’s backs during challenging times, through heartaches and other problems. But for now, as they grow up, they should stay as they are—enjoying their weekends with no care in the world.
Their relationship reminds me of the lyrics from the 1969 song “Come Saturday Morning” by the Sandpipers:
“Come Saturday morning
I’m goin’ away with my friend
Well Saturday-laugh more than half of the day
Just I and my friend (my friend)
Dressed up in our rings and our Saturday things
And then we’ll move on
But we will remember
Long after Saturday’s gone”
Written and Produced by Chino R. Hernandez
Photography by Jack Alindahao
Styling by Roko Arceo
Hair and Makeup by Syd Helmsley
Art Direction by Marc Pagdilao
Special thanks to Z and Aivee Teo, Ann Tirona and the entire Aivee Clinic Team