“I ate a whole pizza. No regrets!” screams the T-shirt worn by Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez as she poses in front of a huge pizza. The model/accessories designer/entrepreneur could have very well said that.
A Christmas gift, the T-shirt was her children’s cheeky homage to her huge appetite—which, by some miracle, never made her fat.
She is learning to pace herself in many aspects of her life, among them, avoiding overindulgence. “I limit myself to a slice of pizza,” she says. In her younger years, she could consume a whole pizza and bound across the squash court for hours until she was dog-tired.
At 50, Tweetie still manages to turn heads. Arriving at the Inquirer office way ahead of the appointed time, she wears a cream spaghetti-strapped top and loose slacks from Zara, accessorized with a giraffe-printed envelope clutch and a ring with orange and gray agates, both her designs.
At a time when everyone wants to look and be younger, women who keep busy in midlife are more secure about themselves, as they become more accepting and wiser.
“The young Tweetie was angsty. I had to prove many things. When you’re young, you need validation. Now I can accept what I can’t do, and I’m okay with that. I’m kinder to myself, and that gives me restful nights.”
The challenge of midlife is striking a balance between the familiar and the new to prevent stagnation.
On celebrating her golden year last March 2, she never gave it much thought because life has so much to offer.
“My consciousness is filled with my kids. In their teens, they needed me a lot as a mother, confidante and adviser. It is a tough phase for parents, but it is also enjoyable,” she says.
Being surrounded by her children—Sabina, 20; Lorenzo, 19; Nicolas, 17; and Alfonso, 12, keeps her young. “I have a new set of friends. There is so much to share,” says Tweetie. She admits that there are limits when her children prefer to be with their buddies.
“I still have my 12-year-old,” says Tweetie.
Then there’s her 22-year marriage to Ramon Gonzalez. “It was a whirlwind romance. We were married after less than a year of dating,” she says.
One of her learnings is that a relationship is not solely based on passion but is a collaboration, a partnership made solid by understanding each other. They lead busy lives, as Ramon is into construction, and Tweetie runs her jewelry manufacturing and retail business. Yet, they find time to go out on movie dates.
Asked what she knows now that she didn’t know in her youth, Tweetie replies that she is more introspective. “I’ve come to know others by understanding who I really am. Loving the self is important in order to share kindness with others. Giving an empty cup is useless to another person. It results in a wounded heart.”
She has realized that she can’t expect people to be like her. Discovering people’s uniqueness has been both “an adventure” and a “source of vulnerability.”
“I absorb so much energy, good and bad. Knowing how to filter and take only what is positive can be a challenge.”
Nonetheless, 50 is an age to celebrate. “There is so much to be grateful for—I’m in good health. The kids have good heads on their shoulders. I’ve had a stable marriage and enduring friendships. My career continues to give birth to other things.
Tweetie had her first brush with fame as the image model of Anne Klein label and Heno de Pravia in the early ’80s. She then became the country’s first representative to Ford Agency’s Supermodel, the international search for models in 1987.
Tweetie belongs to the generation of models who professionalized the industry in the country. The career led her to acting—on TV shows such as the sitcom “Okay Ka Fairy Ko,” the franchised reality show, “Project Runway Philippines,” and an editorial job for a bridal magazine.
On her long list of endorsements, she counts the series of Nestlé commercials as one of the most impactful. “Choose Wellness,” a campaign about eating well, exercise and positivity, was launched in the early 2000s. It established Tweetie as a health advocate.
To this day, she is tapped to promote such products and services as Organique Acai Berry and PLDT Home Fiber Optic.
When her children were toddlers, Tweetie started making her own jewelry, after reading a how-to book given by her mother-in-law. She then took up online courses from the Gemological Institute of America.
Working till early morning, she ended up straining her eyes and wearing glasses for close-range vision when she was in her 30s. However, the hard work paid off when Tweetie established the TdLG label, which was sold in a department store and a high-end boutique.
Four years ago, she bravely opened a 20-sq m eponymous boutique at the Alabang Town Center. It specializes in handcrafted jewelry, clutches and minaudières. The business has taught her patience, especially when retail goes through its fluctuations.
She is also part of Manila Design Collective, a group of creative individuals who join pop-up shows here and abroad.
Tweetie has time for sports, which has taken her through phases. It was tae-bo when it was the trend in the early 2000s. After giving birth to Lorenzo, she took up squash to burn calories. For six years, she was an advocate of the sport, organizing tournaments to promote it.
Tweetie is now learning tennis.
“I accept that I’m not as strong, especially my endurance,” she says.
She is reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. There is no sagging in the arms and jawline, no pleated forehead. She attributes her vitality to her genes and not being afraid of aging. Her mother, Ma. Lourdes, is her example. Pushing 90, Ms De Leon is elegant and sparkly.
“She has a healthy appetite. Her blood profile is normal and she doesn’t take maintenance medicines,” says Tweetie.
To keep young, Tweetie makes sure there’s always something to get up for in the morning.
“Take up something new like a different sport; meeting up with old friends and being with my family are enough to make me content. I tend to grow plants. Rosemary plants used to die on me. Now I can grow them.”—CONTRIBUTED