It had been years since I last saw Marian Rivera, but as we happily said hellos in the makeshift dressing room, it felt like no time had passed.
She’s always had that unassuming way about her, charming, effervescent, and funny, like she wasn’t the massive movie and TV star that she is. As she laughs about with her glam team, the mood behind the scenes is busy but relaxed. It feels like they almost have a shorthand with each other as they bustled about, with work feeling as natural as taking in air.
Due to reasons of timing, and of course deadlines, we had decided that the best way to interview her would be in between takes at her cover shoot for Lifestyle Asia. Although she did invite me to tea for a much later date with her daughter Zia, after she drops off her son Sixto at school, I have had to pick the former. Truly tempting as far as tête-à-têtes go, but that would have to be a story for another time.
The entire team had begun preparing bright and early, and was now ready to begin. Marian emerges, her alabaster skin glowing even more against a backdrop of scarlet tulle. She poses against a mirror, looking absolutely graceful and lithe on camera, but in real life had to lean back with acrobatic precision, in sky-high heels no less. She makes balancing look easy, executing subtle yet purposeful movements as she posed, unperturbed by all the eyes upon her.
She’s clearly someone comfortable in her own skin, and comfortable in the spotlight. With a career that spans almost two decades, she’s played everything from a mermaid, to a superhero, to a fairy queen, and of course her fair share of rom-coms and soap operas. It was actually in one of these television shows, Marimar in particular, that she had met her husband Ding Dong Dantes. The telenovela’s story arc of love, then revenge and redemption, and then love again, and Rivera’s compelling performance made her a household name, and it’s been a wildly successful journey ever since.
With a filmography so vast, and varied, each character even more memorable than the last, we ask Rivera, or Yan, as her friends call her, what her secret is. “I won’t accept a project if I don’t plan on giving my 100 percent,” she shares. “I work hard in everything that I do, and when I approach a script, I really do study how I would bring a character to life. And if I need to do a workshop to learn how to really give shape to a character, I will.”
It is this commitment to her craft that has made her one of the most bankable actresses of our time, with her iconic portrayals ingrained in pop culture and television history. So much so that she has been dubbed GMA Network’s Primetime Queen, and her husband of course, the Primetime King. When asked about how she feels about this, she graciously replies. “I’ve always been grateful, but I’m not really into titles. I’m more into the people whose lives I may have touched because of all the work I did.”
She’s glad that her soaps have inspired people, and equally touched when the younger members of her fan club look up to her and Ding Dong and see through them the importance of a good education.
A consummate professional, she’s beloved by those around her not only for her star power but also her work ethic. Makeup artist Steven Doloso declares, “Even with her status now as an artista, Marian is never late. She’s always thinking of the welfare of those around her, which is one of the many things I love about her.”
We were well into our shoot at this point, and Marian had already done quite a few outfit changes, with each gown seemingly bigger than the last. As we watch in awe by the sidelines, Doloso shares, “If the call time is let’s say 8:30 AM, I am there at 7:30 because I know Marian will be in at 8. She loves working early in the morning, because she wants everyone to be home with their families in time for dinner. When the cameras start rolling, she is going to keep working non-stop and give us her all. Plus, she makes sure that everyone has food, everyone is busog. Whatever she eats and the glam team eats, she shares with everyone.”
With her delicate features and a smile that will stop you in your tracks, it goes without saying that she is one of the most beautiful faces in show business. But what isn’t written as often about her is her malambing side, and the way she takes care of the people around her. “She’s very loyal and very giving,” Doloso continues, “once there is trust between you two, she will take care of you.”
A Rare Beauty
The 38-year-old actress is now in a chartreuse number, where undulating waves of organza frame her petite figure. A ball gown of such proportions would have overpowered a woman of lesser substance, but not Rivera, who owns the moment, posing with a quiet stillness and strength.
Seeing her up close, she is luminous with an unmistakable inner glow. Her makeup is light, and fresh, but polished, just the way she likes it. With such a gorgeous face, she doesn’t really need much and even with two kids now, looks pretty much like how she did when she first started acting. She is always put together, simply but elegantly, and one who knows the value of pampering oneself. Her skincare routine is simple, but consistent, rituals that help signal the start and end of her work days.
She also loves going for treatments, with visits to Kamiseta Skin Clinic now a part of her self-care routine. “Whenever I have a shoot, I do have some treatments that help me look even more fresh. Or sometimes, when I am tired from work, I go to the clinic to pamper myself. The last few times I went with my Mama, so it also became a way for us to bond.”
Known for being honest and authentic, she’s someone who believes in whatever she endorses and being the face of Kamiseta Skin is no different. Aside from loving the effects of her regular facials, she is equally impressed by the clinic’s level of care. “What to me is really special about them is that they will only recommend something that is appropriate for the client’s skin,” noting that the clinic’s dermatologists always give expert advice. “You will feel a greater sense of ease, because you know they are doing what’s in your best interest,” she notes. “They help me by guiding me on what will really benefit me, until eventually, I got used to going there quite often and now have a few favorite treatments.”
She swears by the K-Poreless Treatment which aims to imbue one with the much-coveted glass skin, with effects becoming more evident especially after a few sessions. Not that she seemingly has any of course, but Rivera loves how it tightens the pores to give skin a powder finish effect, and that it’s also used for the contouring and lifting of the skin.
She’s likewise a fan of the PiQo-4 Treatment, which is designed for skin rejuvenation, dark spots, and dull skin. “It brightens my skin and is really effective in giving me the glow that I want to achieve,” declares the actress. Given how the nature of her work often has her under bright lights, or outdoors doing shoots or filming, she also cares for her body with Kamiseta’s Blancare Lotion, with an SPF 50. “I’m actually using it now, it feels really comfortable and complements my skin well,” she says.
But this collaboration goes beyond skin deep. Cris Aldeguer-Roque, the president and ceo of Kamiseta, couldn’t be more thrilled to have the actress on board. “Of course, she is stunning, but for me she is someone who is beautiful inside and out, the epitome of a total, complete woman,” Roque declares, sharing that what she loves about Marian is how she is not only how gorgeous she is, but also how she takes her craft seriously, is family-oriented, and embodies the best of Filipina values.
“There is good synergy between Kamiseta Skin Clinic and of course Marian Rivera,” notes Aldeguer-Roque, who loves working with the gorgeous but easy-going actress and couldn’t have asked for a better muse, especially now is in the midst of a great expansion.
Marian gets her makeup touched up in between takes and I squeeze into the makeup booth. She doesn’t mind that there are ten million things happening at the same time, and jokes with me about how much progress our interview’s been having.
We start to talk about her personal style, and what she loves. She says that she has always gravitated towards more classic pieces, and that it’s important that she feels comfortable with whatever she’s wearing. Not really into trends or fads, she seeks out pieces that truly resonate with her and her innate sensibilities, always wearing the clothes and never the clothes wearing her.
But despite knowing what she likes, even having a retinue of SAs texting her when new drops from her favorite brands arrive, she also loves to experiment. “She loves Chanel, which is very timeless, and she gets pieces from them regularly,” declares one of her long-time stylists Melville Sy of Studio 24C. “But now she’s also really into Schiaparelli, she loves the details of the brand. She also recently got a few pieces from LaQuan Smith, and if she wants something that is unique but isn’t over-the-top, we like Cult Gaia.”
Knowing too that she has quite a collection of handbags and haute joaillerie, I ask her and her stylists about it. They aren’t keen on divulging details, but shares that the actress has always had a penchant for nice things and acquires pieces that speak to her.
For red carpet events, Sy elaborates, “We stick to her personal style, sometimes we change it up a bit, but it always has to look and feel very ‘her.’ It’s clear she is a woman who knows how to carry herself. Be it in a Tom Ford evening gown, a floral dress from Giambattista Valli, a ballgown from Ralph and Russo, or chic co-ords that let her navigate mom-life with ease, she approaches fashion with a certain level of insouciance. There’s just something about her that makes people take notice, with her OOTDs often becoming fashion news.
The actress leads a productive and yet busy existence. Between family life and acting, she’s also managing her floral enterprise Flora Vida. “It was really my passion, and it just happened to turn into a business,” she shares, pleased at being able to create botanical masterpieces that would grace people’s homes.
Another thing she is equally passionate about is Filipino brands. “I will always have a soft spot for local brands and they will always be a part of my closet. Every time they would invite me to events, I would make sure to go and support them. I truly believe in the beauty of the work of Filipino designers and artisans,” she shares with pride.
Often spotted in feminine barongs or day dresses of indigenous textiles, Rivera couldn’t be more excited about the resurgence of Filipiniana. “The more people wear local, the greater the chances of people in these industries to have a job,” which she explains is even more crucial now.
Family is Everything
As a thespian of note, she’s done everything from romances to comedies, but the role that she cherishes the most now is that of a mother and a wife. On motherhood, she shares, “Motherhood is priceless to me. It’s a role that I want to give my everything to. It was always my dream to be a mom, it was my dream to have kids, maybe because I was an only child,” she shares.
And to see her as a mom is a joy to behold. She approaches it with such zeal and excitement, and embraces it with such wholehearted openness. She gladly shares snippets of the adventures of the Dantes family on her Instagram, their vacations, their activities together, and even her tutoring the kids sometimes. She enjoys being extremely hands-on, and finds absolute delight when her kids appreciate the way she takes care of them. Her daughter Zia, or Maria Letizia, who is now almost seven years old, is affectionate and sweet, much like her mother. “She loves making cards for me,” shares Rivera. And both Zia and her three-year-old brother Sixto show their appreciation by saying things like, “Thank you Mama”, “We appreciate you,” or “I’m really grateful for you,” and that has meant everything to the young mom.
“My first priority is my family. Everything else, just follows after that,” she declares. She credits being able to juggle her various responsibilities to good time management, and weekly meetings with her team to make sure all schedules are aligned. And if the kids’ activities coincide with her work, she tries her best to have the latter adjusted so she can be present for her children.
She and her husband also prioritize spending time together, going on dates at least twice a month, and are always on the lookout for new places to eat at. The couple, who tied the knot almost a decade ago, have made marriage look effortless, easy-breezy, warm. They’re now excitedly decorating their new home, and Rivera says she has gotten a lot of luxe and modern pieces from Italian brand Furnitalia.
Rivera claims communication is important to her and her husband, and if they spent time apart, they make sure to ask about each other’s day before going to bed. “Treat yourself like you are best friends, talking about everything under the sun, with no boundaries,” says Rivera. Trust is important as well as shared values. “I suppose both of us believe that if you have strong faith in God, everything is possible.”
It’s clear how she sees the luxury of family as the real treasure in her life, and shares how her family gives her strength, love, and joy. “They are the reasons why I wake up every morning feeling really happy. It truly is all about family,” she says, with a sparkle in her eye.
She looks forward to being able to visit her dad in Spain with the kids, or perhaps travel to Japan, now that the country has opened up. And whenever they get the chance, they love taking the kids horseback riding, as well as communing with nature as a family.
When Smiles Empower
It is evident that the actress loves nurturing others, and using her platform for good. She’s long been an ambassador for Smile Train Philippines, an organization with international roots committed to giving free cleft palate surgery to children in need.
Rivera first became involved after attending an event to mark Smile Train’s 30,000th surgery back in 2014, and has continued to support the charity. She saw how difficult it is for the kids both physically, and also emotionally, with some even unwilling to attend school for fear of being bullied. “I thought to myself, smiles are free, so why not find a way for these children to have it, and for them to be confident about their smiles. In this way, they can feel empowered and can work towards having a brighter future for themselves and even their families,” elaborates Rivera.
A Good Day
The shoot had been going on for hours, and was finally reaching one of its most crucial layouts – the one which could be the actual cover. Resplendent in an ivory ball gown with layers upon layers of pleated mikado, Rivera poses on the granite steps, blooming like a flower as sunlight streamed in through the glass windows.
And yet, though striking, we all knew that the photo could be a lot more. As the team brainstormed, Marian waited patiently, making jokes and chatting with people.
Eventually, it seems the best angles had been found. By this time, the photographer had been poised on a ladder, and quite a few heavy sofas and chairs have been moved to the side. Rivera was now standing on the steps with three people positioned about her, out of frame, ready to throw her gown into the air as she jumped at just the right moment. She made the illusion of weightless flight look effortless, looking back to the camera with an alluring smile. Eventually, the laws of gravity cooperate, and soon as it was clear that we had gotten the shot, the small makeshift audience erupts in unison into glee and applause.
And that is what is most special about her. She has a way of bringing people together, a way of looking at the world with positivity and gratitude that influences others to do the same. Despite her fame, she remains grounded, humble and curious. She approaches her work with passion, loves her family and friends fiercely, and is unafraid to be who she truly is.
Ecstatic from nailing such an epic layout, the shoot goes on for a little bit more, with our cover girl still delivering shot after shot of fashion gold. But when the last shot is taken, a little earlier than anticipated, everyone was happy and excited. It had been a long day, but it had been a good day. And just as is expected for any of Rivera’s shoots, it seems we are all going to make it home in time for dinner.
Photographer: Andrea Beldua assisted by Mario Pepito
Makeup artist: Steven Doloso
Hairstylist: Nante Alingasa
Stylist: Melville Sy assisted by Patrick Pleno
Sittings Editor: Candy Dizon
Art Direction: Paolo Torio
Videographer: Jose Ramirez
Shoot Coordination: Mae Talaid & MJ Almero
Shot on location: Furnitalia at BGC