“I didn’t always dream of becoming a beauty queen. We were meant to climb the corporate ladder in school,” reveals Kylie Verzosa as we talk about dreams. It’s all bright lights and crowns the way we see it now. Kylie says it was a little bit more than that. “On my first try, I didn’t win, and that even made me want to try harder. I kept going until I eventually won.”
One will quickly discover that Kylie doesn’t let anything get in the way of what she wants. She describes her road to her Binibining Pilipinas International and Miss International 2016 win, “It was every day of just waking up with one thought: ‘I want to win the crown'” Kylie doesn’t just think of it, she goes all in, “I didn’t go out, I didn’t party, I didn’t drink, I didn’t see my friends for a year because I was just so focused. I only had this one chance. I couldn’t screw it up.”
Now imagine that hard work and passion as Kylie transforms into a fully-fledged actress. “I’m the type of person who always gives my best at everything.”
How did acting fall into your life plan? It was always a childhood dream of mine. It was a secret dream. I wanted to be on TV; I wanted to be in the movies. But I was always told that I was too tall, so I found modeling first. I used to dorm in Ateneo because I’m from Baguio. On my dorm wall, I would stick the magazine photos I liked. I didn’t realize that was my vision board.
Do you remember specific photos on that vision board? Funny, you know, being a beauty queen wasn’t even there. I love the Victoria’s Secret Angels [Laughs]. I was such a big fan of Candice Swanepoel and Miranda Kerr.
How do you find the transition from beauty queen to actress? In the beginning, it was quite difficult because you built this person; you built this Kylie: a pageant queen. And then the challenge was to take all those walls down, to take all the things you built over the past years, and to show you have the capability to become someone else, and not just to say the lines.
Acting isn’t just reading lines. In the beginning, I flopped as an actress. When people saw me fail, I felt like people said, “She’s just a beauty queen. She can’t act.” But then again, it pushed me even further.
You’re the type that when more people say “No,” the more you’re like “Go.” Yes. The more I fail, the more I want to be better.
Behind the scenes
Let’s talk about “Parang Kayo Pero Hindi” with Marco Gumabao and Xian Lim. I honestly can’t wait to show more of the things I’ve learned now. I believe I get better with every project.
My recent project with Marco and Xian, it’s a beautiful story. It’s one of my favorite projects I’ve done so far. It’s a story about complicated relationships. You know the feeling when you’re dating, you’re doing everything that couples do, you’re lovey-dovey, you’re sweet, but ‘di pa rin kayo (you’re still not an item), or it’s very undefined? Neither one of you wants to make the first step, or either one’s not ready.
It was very fun but also a bit of a challenge to play, but I enjoyed it.
How are Marco and Xian like as your co-stars? Marco has been my friend since 2016 because we did Los Bastardos together. It’s so much fun working with him. Funny too, because I’m more friends with Marco than Xian. I told the director, “Direk, I think it would work that Xian and I don’t know each other so much as compared to how Marco and I know each other.” It helped with our role. Marco and I were together in a long-term relationship in the miniseries, while Xian and I are a new item.
Real-life helped out the script. It worked!But, taping it, Xian and I got close also.He’s super professional. And we had to tape under quarantine, so we had to be disciplined. We shot for 17 days.
I noticed you’re such a fan of your director RC Delos Reyes. Why is that? I still consider myself relatively new to the acting industry, so it was different from my past directors when I worked with Direk RC. I was able to talk to him, and he gets me.Some directors would say, “Oh, you’re sad here, sad!” But you can’t really act out what it’s like to be sad when you don’t know why you’re sad.
I would call RC an “actor’s director.” He gets the emotion you need from the actor.
Love, or something like it
Did you experience anything similar to the plot of “Parang Kayo Pero Hindi”? Yes. For sure. I hated it.I hated walking on eggshells.
How did you get out of that? What’s your advice for anyone who is going through that? People really need to go through that, I think. That’s why the story is relatable. When I went through that period, I put my foot down. I was very straightforward in finding out what was happening.
How did it turn out? It turned out good because I knew what I wanted. But if I were also wishy-washy and didn’t know what to do, I would have gotten a different result, maybe.
I always say you have to know what you want from a relationship. Do you want a fling? Do you want to get kilig? Do you want to stay with this person forever? Do you want love? Do you want company? Don’t get hurt if the person doesn’t give you what you want when you don’t ask for it in the first place.
How do you work on your craft off-camera? I do theater workshops, especially during the lockdown. Tomorrow, we have a session. This is how to keep your instrument warm.
Is this just a private group? It’s a group of private theater people, but Jake [Cuenca] is in it. I do a lot of acting workshops and script reading with a theater coach. I do it twice a week. It’s just reading scripts, but what I found is that theater actors dissect the script in a different way. It’s in-depth and detailed.
It’s been a productive year or so, it seems. Yes, it was. I had to say, the start of 2020 was a bit hard. It’s cool since before Viva gave me Parang Kayo Pero Hindi, or The Housemaid, I was doing these workshops with my friend. Without even having a sure thing. I just did it because I just really wanted to get better at it. We shot Love Lockdown also. Have you heard of that?
Oh, yeah. How was working with Jake Cuenca in that way? Working with Jake made me realize I need to get to his level. He’s been in the industry for like 20 years. I’ve learned a lot from him also.
What do you have coming up? I have The Housemaid coming out. It’s an adaptation of a South Korean movie. It’s a psychological thriller.
It’s my first lead role in a film, so I’m so nervous. It’s a role I’ve never done before. The original went all the way to Cannes Film Festival, so I have big shoes to fill.My co-stars here are Albert Martinez and Jaclyn Jose.
What did you learn from these two powerhouses? I was just so amazed by them. Miss Jaclyn is straightforward. She tells you, “Parang, di ka magaling dyan (It seems you weren’t so good there),” so you’re always on your toes. You listen to her comments, and it’s even an honor to receive them with her years in the industry. Si Sir Albert, maalaga siya. (Sir Albert is nurturing.)
Many dark things are going on in the film, so I learned how they prepare before scenes. I observed how both of them do breathing exercises. They moved around to get into character.
What did you develop in terms of your acting skills through this film? I really like this character. It was really so difficult, though. It wasn’t easy because she was not me at all. I even went through my theater coach about it, and she asked me if I’m sure about the role.
Let’s talk about Mental Health Matters. I started Mental Health Matters because I found that there was a lack of information. This was 2016. There was a lot of misinformation about depression. I was going through my own struggles, and I couldn’t really find any resources about it. And no one was really speaking up about it. There’s also a stigma behind talking about mental health, mental illnesses, depression, and anxiety. I also wanted to shed light on the fact thatdepression is a real sickness that, if left untreated, can lead to suicide. That was a bit of my advocacy that I believe really needs to be spoken about in public.
How difficult was it to go public about this? And not only that but to gather yourself to help others? It was difficult for me to start because I didn’t really know anyone speaking up about it. When I started to share my story–I felt so scared becauseit’s such a big part of me.
I started a support group on Facebook because I foundthat I had a really good support system while going through that rough time in my life when I was depressed. And I was thinking: “What about the people who don’t?”
When you speak up about what you’re going through, it heals you little by little.
What’s the next big thing for Mental Health Matters? We partnered up with KonsultaMD. If you text “KYLIEKMD” to 22566002, we’re offering one month free of KonsultaMD. Through this app, you can consult anytime with doctors.
What’s the advantage of connecting online with doctors and experts? I love online sessions because you can go anonymously–you can turn your camera off. It’s just taking the first step, and that’s one thing that Mental Health Matters advocates. It’s okay to seek help. Let’s normalize going to a psychiatrist. It’s okay to speak to someone about what you need to. It’s normal; it’s even required.
What’s one thing you want to tell people who are going through depression? Depression is a real sickness that needs to be treated for you to get better. I know ittakes supreme effort on your end. It takes willpower. It is going to be difficult, but you have to drag your ass out of bed; just take it one day at a time. Brushing your teeth and taking a shower when you’re depressed may be the smallest thing, but that is already a triumph.
Parang Kayo Pero Hindi can be streamed via Vivamax, available on iOS and Android. The Housemaid is set for release later this year by Viva Films.