Gorgeous George: Gutsy, glib, and glamorous, model and host Georgina Wilson is a force to reckon withBy Adrienne R. Dy
She came into the room like a whirlwind. A quick smile, a fast but firm handshake, a casual “Hi, I’m Georgina” (like we wouldn’t know), and she was off to the dressing room with a billow of her languorously loose top. Fresh-faced without a trace of makeup on, she was dressed simply, but her denim shorts and ballet flats highlighted lavish legs and enviable height. Pre-primping, Georgina Wilson is every bit as glamorous as her larger-than-life billboard versions.
For a photo shoot, the atmosphere was relaxed, and the backroom banter that Georgina wove in and out of was like that between old friends. But the cover girl herself seemed to be in constant flux, surrounded by a laptop and at least two phones, even as the hair and makeup team busied themselves around her. It was obvious she was immersed in more than one world at once, tweeting, texting, and thumbing through music in her iPod while keeping up with the conversation, never once missing a beat. “I have, like, ADD (attention deficit disorder),” she confesses sheepishly. The interview came in short bursts, and, unwilling to let the queries shift her focus from the fashion shoot, she ended up asking if we could continue it some other time. I agreed, hoping for a better conversation in a more relaxed setting.
Besides, no one says no to Georgina.
Perhaps it has something to do with being born with that proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, or more accurately, with the limelight that comes with being from the Diaz clan. With first Filipina Ms. Universe Gloria Diaz, actresses Rio and Cecilia, and painter Isabel among that illustrious pedigree, it would seem that to Georgina, beauty and talent make up her birthright.
“Nung una, super takot ako sa kanya,” admits BJ Pascual, photographer and long-time friend of Georgina. “I heard she’s difficult to work with daw.” But he is quick to clarify: “Some people mistake her attitude as bitchy—but she just knows what she wants.”
In truth, despite initial intimidation, Georgina is “very down-to-earth,” says Pascual. Makeup artist and friend Gela Laurel-Stehmeier agrees: “The first time we worked together, I didn’t know who she was, she didn’t know who I was. We just clicked because she was a crazy makeup junkie too,” she laughs. “It’s always fun shooting with her, parang hindi work. She’s very well-traveled, so hindi siya nagpo-profile or typecast ng tao.”
Born Georgina Ashley Diaz Wilson to a Filipina mother and British father in February 1986, she has lived in at least four continents in her lifetime. Only six months old when she moved to Yorkshire, England from her birthplace in Texas, USA, she remembers an uncomplicated childhood in the countryside. “We lived an hour away from the city. We had horses, chickens, cows, a barn and a playhouse—it was such a great childhood,” she says wistfully.
Despite that idyllic upbringing, Georgina says her fondest memories were of the Philippines. “I had been visiting Manila a lot, and every time we had to leave, I’d always cry.” She was 11 when she moved to Manila permanently. “I loved it,” she declares.
The Assumptionista admits to having had her fair share of growing pains. Her then heavy English accent was a sore issue. “The other girls would laugh, asking me if Paddington bear was real. At that age, you just didn’t want to be different. I was in Grade 6, and realizing how different I was…it took about two months to adjust, and a while longer to learn Tagalog,” she recalls.
Then there was the matter of height. “I was 5’7”, and jealous of the people who didn’t stand out. I hated being at the back of the line,” says the statuesque mestiza. Her genetic engineering for the modeling world was not something she was proud to inherit at first.
“I really didn’t want to model, so I was glad I wasn’t allowed to while I was in Assumption. When I graduated from high school, I didn’t have an excuse anymore,” she says by way of explanation for her baptism into the world of her tita Gloria Diaz. “I didn’t want to do it, but I never earned anything before that. When I heard what they’d be paying me for it, I remember thinking, ‘I could buy a lot of shoes with that,’” she says with a laugh. “I thought maybe it could be fun. After that, tuloy tuloy na.”
Georgina takes on life with a fierce intensity that would daunt the fainter-hearted. “Our generation is so multifaceted, all ‘slashers.’ We’re so much more in control, we’re not just going to submit to anyone. But at the same time, we have to be really good at everything, because everyone’s so talented and it’s all out there for us to take,” she says.
“Finishing college was one of the most confused times of my life,” the 25-year-old says. After graduating with a double major in accounting and finance from a university in Sydney, she hit a temporary lull, not from lack of opportunity, but more from internal pressure. “School was such a comforting place, with set parameters. I was good at it, I loved the challenge…I always understood numbers really well,” says the self-confessed nerd, recounting how she was poised to take a job in the corporate world in London.
However, there was some expectation for Georgina to follow her aunt and cousins in the “family business.” “I was really a shy type of kid who never wanted to be on stage.” She recounts how she once froze while doing a Shakespearean rendition back in high school. “I was the one who’d always volunteer to do lights and sounds instead of acting, so it’s very ironic that I’m doing this now,” she says of the jobs that put her mostly in front of the camera.
Georgina’s VJ stint fell into her lap while she was trying to figure out her path. “I had just broken up with a boyfriend and I was just happy to be home in Manila again.” Wanting to stay within familiar territory, she grabbed the opportunity to work as a VJ for Channel [V]. “My career just took a different turn. I was going to do it for a year, and ended up falling in love with it.”
And the projects just kept coming. Georgina was well-received as a guest judge for Showtime, ABS-CBN’s noontime variety show. She still hosts occasionally, proving that her affable charm is not only for the posh populace, but for the wider masa, as well. Alongside Cliff Cole, she is also the face of The Source, a local Star World production for style and showbiz that’s making regional waves, plunging into shooting for its second season this January. Last November, she became the talk of the town as a guest stylist in the 17th cycle of America’s Next Top Model. “It was surreal—I was flying to Greece and I couldn’t tell anyone why!” she says, bound by the secrecy clause of the popular reality series. She also has a steady stream of international cameos and local endorsements for hugely successful fashion lines. “The year 2012 is gonna be busy for me, I’ll be launching my own perfume line and starting some really exciting projects and endorsements,” she gushes.
Away from the camera and public scrutiny, Georgina says she’s a very private person. “Some things should be kept to the self,” she explains. Intrigues and rumors have not escaped her, but she gives us the runaround and eludes commenting on them, or on any insecurity these might have brought her.
When the inevitable questions about her steady dating with model Borgy Manotoc come up, she invokes the same right to silence. But she does give us a teensy peek. “Our families have been friends, and we worked together a couple of times, so we were like, ‘Hi, hello.’ But two years ago, we both found ourselves single. We just started talking—and haven’t stopped,” she says of the unexpected romance. “Sometimes I can’t believe I’m dating Borgy—it’s so weird.” But she shrugs off any comparison with Borgy’s former girlfriends. “There’s no pressure. Borgy and I complement each other.”
Georgina feels lucky that her closest friends are also in the industry. “Liz styles me, Mon and I hang out.” Hair stylist and friend Raymond Santiago attests to her being “super sweet, sobrang thoughtful, and super loyal.” “People expect us to be all glamorous, but we’re normal,” says Georgina. “We tease each other, go shopping, have sleepovers—and, more than people expect from us celebrities, we have each others’ backs. They’d be the first ones to be there for me if I was in trouble.”
Beyond modeling and hosting, numbers are still foremost in Georgina’s mind. A “frustrated business person,” she likes to dream up business projects. Her brain is wired more to the left, and while she “can’t draw to save my life,” it’s autobiographies and books like Freakonomics that are first on her reading list. “Just recently, I met with Manny Pangilinan. He’s my idol! It was like meeting Brad Pitt.”
It seems the world just isn’t big enough for Georgina. “I love traveling—it just makes you a better person.” This year, she visited Tibet—“so surreal”—then Cuba for the New Year, “just to do something different. Next year, I’ll be going to South America. And Japan!”
As for that relaxed conversation this writer was hoping for, the twice rescheduled interview was over in exactly 26 minutes, sushi dinner included. The makamasang socialite was off to yet another two events; apparently, the night was young. In true Georgina fashion, she left like a whirlwind.
Personal style: “I’m always described as ‘well put together.’ I’m the type, though, who’d go to my closet and go, ‘There’s nothing I wanna wear!’ I’d say my personal style is edgy, classy—and always overdressed!”
Music: Chromeo, M.I.A., Major Lazer, Chemical Brothers, “anything new wave disco!” “Just recently I went to the Berlin music fest—it was amazing,” she gushes.
Fashion: “I love Kate Moss, Diane Kruger—they’re so elegant. And Alexa Chung is so chic. I also go online for new looks. Oh, and French Vogue!”
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