The author's bible during the years she wanted desperately to be an artista. Photograph from Amazon
Culture Spotlight

Call me crazy

Celine Lopez pursued stardom at 6 the way she would pursue everything else she wanted in life—with determination so dogged she turned people off. But why is there such a stigma for women being go-getters? 
Celine Lopez | May 18 2019

I was born into this world with a severe case of high self-esteem. When I listen to stories from my nannies and parents about me growing up, there was no doubt that even before I could spell my name I believed I would become the biggest movie star in the world.

From the time I could speak, I spoke in a medley of bad English and American accents. I would cry dramatically when my nanny would leave the house. I would resist bedtime like a suffragette. I always savored a reaction from my audience regardless of whether it was positive or negative. I lived for it.

I had pleaded to my grandfather to place me in one of the more popular shows in ABS-CBN at that time, even just as an extra. He sternly said no. If he couldn’t make my dreams happen, then I had to grab life by the balls and fulfill my destiny. At age 6, I hatched a plan to enter an open audition for a TV show in a competing network. The show was Ora Enkantada (Enchanted Hour). I groomed my grandfather’s driver Abrea for a month, bringing him imported Cash and Carry food from my mom’s refrigerator and mused about how he was the kindest person I’ve ever met. He was key to my plans and of course I needed accomplices.. just because. 

 

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I could taste it. I knew I’d nail it. I wasn’t a particularly cute kid but I had tons of personality to make up for it. On the day of the audition, I waited for my grandfather to take a nap and ran to Abrea along with my cousin and reluctant brother to go to the Channel 13 studio. I made Abrea sign for us as our father, and there we were: Lights, camera, action!

There were three thick lines of rock salt on the floor waiting for us. He made us kneel on it while balancing one thick encyclopedia on each hand.

They gave me a script and being the dedicated but alas slow learner that I was I couldn’t read the script, which was in pure Tagalog. This was not looking good. Nevertheless, I presented myself to the casting directors and proceeded to cry my eyes out in the most melodramatic way. Let’s just say that didn’t work out for me. They just thought I was crying. Period. Fake crying ain’t for sissiesI wanted to tell them.

We piled back in the car glum and dejected. I almost forgot about my grandfather. Almost.

As we hit home, there he was all fire and fury. He certainly wasn’t acting. There were three thick lines of rock salt on the floor waiting for us. He made us kneel on it while balancing one thick encyclopedia on each hand. On second 5, I summoned my Polish Orphan wail. It was so piercing that my grandfather immediately let me up. Ha! My crying worked this time.

I never abandoned my dreams of being a star. In school I made everyone call me Star. I managed to sign up voice lessons with Ryan Cayabyab. Poor guy. 

I saved up for almost a year to buy a pink denim outfit in Esprit for a trip to L.A. I made sure we booked a day at the Universal Studios. When we got there I sat on a bench with the biggest smile on my face. I smiled until my face hurt. Fame doesn’t come easy, I said to myself. I was hoping to be discovered that afternoon, not realizing fully that the amusement park was not the studio lot. 

I read this amazing book, So You Want to be Famous? I took over school plays (hijacked them rather), leaving my poor parents embarrassed after every performance. The only people clapping were my nanny (paid) and grandfather (in his late 80s).

I read this amazing book, So You Want to be Famous? which had Paula Abdul and some other Hollywood stars on the cover. I read it over and over that I memorized it. So many closed doors, so many misread messages, and yes more closed doors, but I was not discouraged. I never stopped chasing my dream. I took over school plays (hijacked them rather), leaving my poor parents embarrassed after every performance. The only people clapping were my nanny (paid) and grandfather (in his late 80s). I didn’t have talent. I couldn’t act, I certainly couldn’t sing, and when I danced people had the urge to call an ambulance. It didn’t matter. I think at the end of the day what really enthralled me was going after my dream. The rush of creating my own reality. Being an actress was my dream, but being my own person was really the purpose without me knowing it then.

In high school, I called my crush just like that. No nerves, no doubts—I was like “Hi!” 

My friends were judgey AF and told me that girls are not supposed to call boys. I didn’t pay attention to them. He became my boyfriend. Celine-1 Friends-0. 

We were slated to have our first kiss one weekend and I knew I needed to do some research. Thankfully, the actress in me never died. I watched Basic Instinct, which was then described as the sexiest movie of all time. I was a sophomore in high school, and I was highly competitive as always. I wanted to be the best kisser in the world. As I studied the kissing scenes and modestly fast-forwarded the more advanced scenes (sex was still gross for me then), I felt something bad was about to happen. Nevertheless I had an hour to be kiss-ready. I brushed my teeth ten times and lacquered my lips with lip balm. As the moment presented itself, I walked towards him like a gecko while pulling my hair instead of stroking it. I looked possessed. I lunged and forever scared my boyfriend. He called me a weirdo as he jumped off his seat. 

What did he just say?

It was the first time I experienced a boy trying to use a label to weaken me. Screw him. I mean he also didn’t know what to do, but at least I did my due diligence. This was just the start of a long history of name calling for me.

It ended with me saying “This is not going to work out” –a line I heard in the movies. 

As early as then I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t get me. I couldn’t be with someone who was afraid of a girl who was never afraid. We broke up. For me, nothing stops the show quite like a coward. And someone who uses insults to make themselves seem strong.

I always knew I was different. High school shamed me for being so. I went to an amazing elementary school that encouraged free-thinking. Then I was banished to a Catholic school with uniforms. I didn’t care.

My career in scaring away people: teachers, friends, boys and neighborhood pets, never really affected me. I grew up thinking that I can. There was no dream too big. No desire too high. Everything was worth going for. Win or fail, you’ve already succeeded just by trying.

I don’t know why there’s such a stigma for women being go-getters. They’re viewed as caustic, manipulative and aggressive.

Weird, unconventional, crazy, wild and intense. The words men use to deligitimize women are the words I proudly use to describe myself. The wild child in me has never died. From cold calling crushes to cold calling future bosses, I am proud I made my dreams happen. 

Sure you’re gonna scare people. Sure you can have a polarizing effect. You might even be described as an acquired taste. Condescending at its best and worst. And that’s on them.

The most important thing is that you can live with yourself each and everyday by being you. From one shameless moment to another. Getting what you want. In your terms.