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  • Rissa Mananquil Writes to Daughters: 'I Was An Ugly Duckling Growing Up'

    "By doing something you are passionate about, whether as a hobby or for a living, you become more connected to who you are and ultimately, more beautiful."
    by SmartParenting Staff .
Rissa Mananquil Writes to Daughters: 'I Was An Ugly Duckling Growing Up'
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • In the new book, Letters to My Children, 35 parents, from showbiz actors to athletes to politicians, write to their kids to impart wisdom, affirm their love, and share words of encouragement on how to embrace the future. It is probably one of the few times you'll see these public figures at their most joyful, hopeful, and, yes, vulnerable. 

    One of the letters featured is by Rissa Mananquil Trillo, Philippine Star beauty columnist, model, and owner and co-founder of Happy Skin cosmetics. She is married to Paolo and mom to Enzo, Celestia and Audra. 

    Rissa imparts the lessons she's learned from being a beauty icon to her daughters, including how she was teased by her high school peers about her dark skin and shapeless form. Your intelligence and confidence will rise above all else, she says. This is her letter in full. 

    Dearest Celestia and Audra,

    It’s the eve of Audra’s birthday as I write this. She’ll be turning two tomorrow. We had a simple celebration today by swimming because Audra said that’s what she wanted to do. The shrieks and giggles you shared were priceless. It makes me teary-eyed thinking about how fast you’ve both grown. 

    By the time you can read this, your body will be going through changes—both awkward and beautiful. Maybe you’ll get teased, but you’ll be complimented, too. When I was your age, I had a neighbor who called me names. This neighbor was even my crush! In high school, my friends would always tease me for my looks. 

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    I was an ugly duckling growing up, so I was always on a quest to look better. I loved experimenting with various fashion and beauty products. I even spent one Christmas with a half-burnt face because of beauty boo-boos!

    I’m sure this doesn’t paint the typical picture of a future fashion model. I graduated from Ateneo with a degree in BS Management and I was always a Dean’s Lister. During my Poveda grade school and high school days, I was a nerd and a consistent honor student. Perhaps that’s why Lolo Robert wanted me to become a lawyer and Mama Millet wanted me to become a doctor. 

    Who would have thought I would become a model? I modeled for over 15 years. 

    I’m also passionate about my role as a beauty columnist and even created my own makeup line. So don’t ever think that the way you are now is the way you will be for life. 

    Pursue your passions. Intelligence will never stop being beautiful. By doing something you are passionate about, whether as a hobby or for a living, you become more connected to you are and ultimately, more beautiful. 

    As you grow up trying to define your own sense of style and beauty, here are seven things I wish I knew when I was your age:

    1. Fashion is like a quicksand. The harder you try, the more you sink.
    I realized that the worst reason to buy something is because it look good on a friend or an actress. It’s okay to be inspired, but don’t let glamour blind you. Buy something because it looks good on you. 

    I remember the first time I wore a fedora hat. I paired it with skinny jeans, ankle boots, and two layered tops. I felt cool because I was the only one dressed like that. My classmates laughed behind my back. Some told me straight to my face that I was baduy. It made me sad, but I continued to wear my hat because I liked it. 

    A year later, I was asked to appear in a campaign for a teen clothing line. I was only 12 years old and it was my first time to model! The stylist liked my hat and told me to wear it during all our photo shoots for the brand. That “baduy” hat later became my trademark for the teen clothing brand.

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    2. Wear it only if you can relax and forget about it. 
    I cringe every time I see old photos of myself in clothes I did not feel at ease in. Instead of enjoying the moment and the people I was with, I was too preoccupied with my ill-fitting outfit. That plunging neckline I had to keep adjusting. That last pair of shoes I forced myself to buy even if it wasn’t in my size. Fashionable? More like fashion victim. A fashion ensemble should be comfortable enough for the wearer to forget about it, but fabulous enough to be remembered by those who see it. 

    3. Mistakes pave the way for perfecting personal style. 
    I’ve tried it all. Sporty. Preppy. Rocker. Glam. Hip-hop. Grunge. Girl-next-door. Boho-chic. Minimalist. Avant-garde. Classic. When it comes to discovering your personal style, your teen years are the best time to experiment. You’ll make mistakes, but that’s okay. Mistakes are what help you develop and understand your own sense of personal style. 

    4. Rise above your flaws.

    Classmates would make fun of me because I was dark-skinned, skinny, and shapeless. After receiving so many labels, what I did was accept those names and transcend them. Even if I wasn’t the tallest, thinnest, or prettiest, I made it my mission to be the best model people could work with. One of my modeling milestones was when I modeled for United Colors of Benetton as one of the first Filipinos to represent a global campaign that celebrated all forms of beauty. 

    5. Confidence is not “They will like me.” Confidence is “I will be fine if they don’t.” 
    Say “thank you” when complimented. Don’t look away or look at the floor when someone says you’re smart, pretty, or talented. Saying thank you is the best response a confident person can give.

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     6. The beauty world is magical. Everyone can look beautiful with the right beauty tools!
    I’m passionate about my beauty advice column because growing up, I was teased a lot and I wanted to find the best beauty solution. That’s why I would always try so many products and recommend them to my readers if they worked. I wanted to help transform others through my column because I knew how it felt to be called names. Ultimately, I discovered that with proper care and the right products, you can become even more beautiful. 

    Truly good makeup should be your ally—not your enemy—in making you look and feel more beautiful! I realized it’s best to invest in makeup that also cares for the skin. Trend come and go, but overall skin? It’s most beautiful when it’s healthy and happy.

    7. That awkward stage of puberty is not going to last forever. 

    My high school barkada is called the UDC, short for the Ugly Duckling Crew. It started when one of our kabarkada’s boyfriends saw all our old high school photos and teased us about our looks. With our overbite teeth, braces, excess facial hair, pimply round faces, oily skin, ill-fitting clothes, and horrible haircuts, he said sobrang pangit namin and that we were all ugly ducklings! And so, the Ugly Duckling Crew was born. 

    Today, we continue to call ourselves the UDC. It’s a wonderful reminder to never be insecure of how you look, no matter how pretty you think your friends are. You’ll later realize that you have turned from that seemingly ugly duckling into the prettiest swan of them all! 


    Published by Summit Books, Letters to My Children (P295) is available at your favorite book store.

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