It’s a Thursday afternoon in July at the headquarters of Golden ABC in Quezon City and, for most of its employees, it was business as usual.
But on the fifth floor, at Studio 1155 and the Gallery, a big secret: K-Pop superstar Sandara Park was shooting her first campaign for Penshoppe.
(READ: Sandara Park’s secret is out)
She posed effortlessly in front of the camera, rocking a hat and vest from an upcoming collection as 2NE1 songs blasted from speakers.
“She’s a very good mover, she has a beautiful face, she’s very charming. I think that she takes direction beautifully. She’s very energetic,” said photographer Cliff Watts, who also shot Cara Delevingne and Sean O’Pry for Penshoppe. Cliff flew in from New York for Sandara’s shoot.
After booking three supermodels in a row—Cara, Sean, Kendall Jenner—Penshoppe may surprise fans with its choice of new endorser. But it makes sense, given Penshoppe’s expansion to other Asian countries. The brand already has stores in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Cambodia, and it will be opening two stores in Vietnam in October.
“We wanted to get someone who would complete our Asian Superstars pool. To join Mario Maurer, we picked Dara. She’s well loved by Filipinos but at the same time is very global. Her sense of style and fashion pretty much sealed the deal for us. As we go more regional, tapping the Asean countries, we feel that Dara is the ideal brand ambassador to help us reinforce our international vision,” said Jeff Bascon, Penshoppe’s brand director.
Asked why she said yes to becoming the new face of the brand, Dara said, “Because I love Penshoppe. Talagang sinusuot ko yung Penshoppe since high school days pa lang.”
She recalls a red Penshoppe shirt that she couldn’t stop wearing. “I wore it so much. When I see my pictures from high school, ’Huh? Ito na naman suot ko?’ It’s funny.”
Long before Dara conquered the K-Pop world, she was the Philippines’ “Pambansang Krung-Krung,” the quirky, funny, pretty Korean girl who melted hearts with her tearful Star Circle Quest audition and charmed her way into show business. She bagged commercials, starred in TV shows, made movies and released songs like the then-inescapable “In or Out.”
As she sat in front of us after the shoot, wearing a cat beanie and a blue Penshoppe polo with another adorable cat peeking from its pocket, it’s easy to forget that this is Dara from the massively popular K-Pop group 2NE1, the ubiquitous presence in Korean fashion magazines, the actress who just finished two Korean web dramas (“Dr. Mo Clinic” and “We Broke Up”) and who is about to star in her first Korean film.
It’s easy to forget that this is a girl whose every move is chronicled by K-Pop websites and blogs devoted to her, whose adoring fans create YouTube videos as a tribute to her and her cuteness. It’s easy to forget all that when she begins waxing poetic about Jollibee, which she requested to have for lunch that day. “Always the same, spaghetti with chicken pero spicy chicken and dapat may Jolly Hotdog. That’s my favorite,” she said.
It’s easy to forget, too, when she insisted on speaking Tagalog during the interview, something she doesn’t get to do in Korea. According to her, “Nagte-text ako ng Tagalog but in Korea nobody can speak Tagalog so medyo nabubulol ako.”
She may have moved back to her birth country, but the Philippines will always be her second home. “Ang dami kong memories. I miss this place,” she said.
And Filipinos miss her too, welcoming her excitedly at each visit. “Hindi pa rin nila ako nakakalimutan,” she said. Sandara hasn’t forgotten either; her Twitter handle is @krungy21 and her bio includes “Pambansang Krung-Krung ng Pilipinas.”
Dara may be a Korean superstar, but she will always be a Filipino darling.
What do you like about Penshoppe?
It really fits my personality, and gusto ko yung mga style nila, iba’t iba. Like yung mga sinuot ko ngayon, may hip-hop, may cute, girly clothes, meron ding sexy. I can show many sides of Sandara Park.
How was the shoot?
It was super fun. Medyo mainit sa rooftop pero sobrang ganda ng mga pictures so hindi ako nahirapan.
What did you think of the clothes?
I love them. Kinuha ko nga, eh. Sabi ko, “Can I have it?” (laughs)
So you’re bringing some back to Korea with you?
Did you have favorite pieces from the shoot?
Yes, meron akong favorite pants na sinuot ko kanina. Talagang hinahanap ko yung ganung style pero wala akong nahanap. Then, nakita ko ngayon and size ko pa. Extra small. So sabi ko, this is mine. They’re black pants na parang skinny pero may chuva-chuva dito.
How does it feel to be back in the Philippines again?
So good. Parang feel at home. Naho-homesick na naman ako eh, so yeah.
When you’re in Korea, what do you miss the most about the Philippines?
Marami, pero siguro yung food. So sometimes I go to Filipino restaurants in Seoul. Masarap naman, pero syempre mas masarap dito.
What do you normally eat there?
Sinigang. And sisig. Lechon. Yeah, I order a lot.
You ate Jollibee today. Is Jollibee something you miss also?
Yes. Ang sarap. Walang Jollibee sa Korea. And there’s something special about their spaghetti.
Do you ever watch your old videos from your time in the Philippines?
Of course. I love watching my old movies. Minsan nahihiya ako kasi eh… parang… ginawa ko yan? Sinabi ko yan? Pero it’s still a memory so I love watching my old movies.
When was the last time you watched your Star Circle Quest audition?
Medyo matagal na siguro, mga one year. Pero meron pa ako sa iPad ko. Pero hindi maganda yung quality.
Are you still in touch with your Filipino friends?
Yes. Of course, yeah. Super hi-tech na ngayon, so text.
Are you going to see them while you’re here?
Yes, actually na-meet ko na si Joross nung first day pa lang. And then I’m going to meet more friends.
What’s the best thing about being a K-Pop star?
Siguro being loved by all the fans all around the world and being able to travel to different places. Sobrang gandang experience.
2NE1 is on a break now…
Yeah, we’re all doing individual activities for now.
When will people get to see you guys as a group again?
Hindi ko masabi. We don’t plan things. Pero if we have a good song, sige, release na natin, next month na! Pero pag walang inspiration, pag walang good song, it can take one year, two years, katulad dati. I’m waiting for a good song and inspiration.
Do you still get to hang out with them?
Yeah, of course. Pero si CL nasa LA ngayon so (feigns crying) nami-miss ko siya.
What was it like working on those web dramas in Korea? Is it different from acting in the Philippines?
Pareho lang, kaya it helped a lot. Matagal nga akong hindi umarte pero naalala ko yung mga dati kong experiences dito so parang it was not hard. I had fun. Yung dalawang web drama na yun super different characters, yung isa sobrang umiiyak lagi pero yung isa super naughty kaya super fun.
Is it true you’re doing the Korean adaptation of “Begin Again”?
Yes, pero actually, it’s not the same story as “Begin Again.” We have our own story. Pero it’s related to music, that’s why siguro they say it’s the Korean version. But it’s not.
Have you started working on it?
Not yet, but I’m going to start shooting very soon.
How do you juggle your love for music and acting?
Syempre I love doing both. Sa latest web drama ko, I sang the soundtrack of the drama. So I can do singing and acting at the same time.
What else do you want to do?
Marami pa. Gusto ko rin maging DJ ng radyo and gusto ko rin ng hosting. I love playing instruments. Lately, I’ve been very much into drums, so they call me Darammer. Hindi drummer, Darammer.
Would you be willing to do a movie in the Philippines again?
Of course, I would love to… Pumunta nga ako sa Star Cinema, nag-usap kami ni Tita Malou (Santos)… like this and like that… Kaya lang nahirapan kami sa schedule so… But I’m hoping someday makabalik ako and do a movie with many cute actors in the Philippines.
If you were going to do a movie here, who would you want to work with?
Si Papa John Lloyd… Iba yung eyes niya pag-umarte siya.
Everyone says you haven’t changed. How do you stay grounded despite the fame?
I don’t know, it’s just natural. I’m just the same Sandara and I don’t want to grow old and I don’t want to forget the memories… I don’t know, I don’t try to do anything, same lang, it’s normal.
Is fashion something you really enjoy? Describe your personal style.
Yes. Yan ang pinakagusto ko. I love something unique na hindi sinusuot ng iba. Gusto ko yung simple basic items na may cute details, parang ganito (looks at her cat shirt).
What’s your current fashion obsession?
Skinny jeans na roll-up jeans and wearing sneakers or flats that are unique.
Is there anything you wouldn’t wear?
Sexy outfits like bikini. Hindi bagay sa akin… Hindi ako comfortable.
Sa beach anong suot mo?
Rash guards. Yun naman ang uso ngayon. Para wala ring sunburn.
What are five things you can’t live without?
Hmm. My family, friends, people around me, my lovely cats and siguro cellphone, kasi I can watch TV and do Internet with my cellphone. And food. And aircon! Kasi mainit. (Laughs)
What’s the craziest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
Actually, marami. Pero naalala ko, 10 years ago, nung bago pa ako dito, meron akong group of fans who followed me wherever I went. Parang nakikita ko yang van na yan…as in whole day, they were following me. And sa Tagaytay ako nagshu-shoot. Andyan din sila. Parang wow. It’s really unforgettable.
Did you get to meet them?
Yes. I know them. Close sila sa akin.
Friends mo na sila?
Do you have a message for your Filipino fans?
Yes. Maraming salamat sa inyo. Hanggang ngayon hindi niyo pa rin ako nakakalimutan kaya nandito ako ngayon with Penshoppe. Thank you. Salamat. And gusto ko bumalik ulit. Mahal ko kayo. Yun pa rin. Hindi ako nagbabago.
What else can fans expect from you?
The upcoming movie. And I don’t know yet pero I really want to work hard.