Lea Salonga: On Ricky Martin, Aga Muhlach and FFXIII

By Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Apr 08 2010 03:54 PM | Updated as of Apr 13 2010 03:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Beyond Lea Salonga's superstar status and amazing talent lies an even more interesting woman who finds joy in life's simple pleasures.

Unlike most celebrities who hide themselves from the public eye by hiring hordes of errand boys and assistants, the world-renowned singer and theater actress enjoys going to drug stores and grocery shops by herself -- in a t-shirt, jeans and flip flops, and without any trace of makeup.

"There are things that I really like to do, like errands -- and that's healthy. And I urge every celebrity to do that for herself. They'll have a better picture of the world if they do that," Salonga said at the sidelines of a product launch of which she's an endorser.

Salonga, best known for her role in the international musical hit Miss Saigon, does not feel any pressure dressing up despite her huge fame. Instead, she likes to keep it simple but real.

Lea Salonga: On Ricky Martin, Aga Muhlach and FFXIII 1
Not just skin-deep. Salonga is more than just a pretty face -- she's one of the world's most talented performers. She's smart and funny, too.

"When people see me and if they say 'bakit siya naka t-shirt? (why is she wearing a t-shirt?),' so what? I'll be like 'is that the worst that somebody can think of me?' Sure, I wear t-shirts and jeans and flip-flops. It may not be that impressive, but that's me.

"The more that you show it's you, there's no more room for people to think about. They'll just say 'okay, she's normal, let's leave her alone,'" she added.

After months of concerts and performances in countries across  the globe, Salonga is set to rehearse for her role as Grizabella in the broadway musical Cats next month. The classic musical play will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines starting July 24.

She'll also be hosting the 44th Visionary Awards at the Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles on April 19 with Jap-American actress Tamlyn Tomita. Despite her busy schedule, Salonga said she still finds time for her family -- and even video games.

"I did a show for 3 weeks, from 8:45 to 9:55, almost 10 p.m. After the show, I'm up in my room, I get out of my clothes, I take off my makeup, I get into my pajamas, I order myself some dinner, and I'm in front of the TV [playing Final Fantasy XIII]. And I'm there until 5 in the morning!" she shared.

Here are Salonga's answers to questions posed at the event:

SINGING/CAREER

Do you sometimes play around with your voice?

If I get too drunk in a karaoke bar, my technique starts to go awry and it can endanger my voice. So, no. This is my collateral, my capital, what I do for a living -- and I really have to be careful. Because I can break an ankle and still do a show, but not without my voice.

How do you take care of your voice?

I warm up whenever I have a gig, I try not to drink anything too cold when I'm not working. I have a humidifier in my room. I try to stay away from a dry climate and anything that would give me gastric acid reflux.

I'm careful with everything I eat and drink, as well as the amount of sleep I get. My voice really requires full maintenance. I really have to undergo so much care for my voice, so I really don't have time to do anything else. So that's probably why I don't like dressing up or putting makeup on.

Most singers stay away from ice cream to protect their voice. Do you?

I still eat ice cream, I just don't eat as often because it's fattening (laughs). It's not really good for your voice, but it's not really bad for your voice either. It's just satisfying.

How has your family supported you throughout your career?

I come from a very supportive family. I travel a lot for shows, but my family recognizes it. My daughter also understands that mom goes away often. It makes me do what I'm best at without the guilt.

If you're not a singer/performer, where do you think would you be by now?

I really don't know. I think I'm already at that point in my life as a performer where fallbacks are no longer an option. I really don't know. I really couldn't think of an alternative because God didn't give me one.

I feel lucky to have the power to influence people and to change people's lives. To inspire and to encourage them.

ON RICKY MARTIN AND AGA MUHLACH

Background: Ricky Martin, a Latin pop icon and Salonga's friend, recently confirmed a longtime rumor that he's gay. Aga Muhlach, meanwhile, is Salonga's leading man in "Sana Maulit Muli" back in 1995. She'll be shooting another film with Muhlach in November.

What's your reaction to Ricky Martin's 'coming out?'

I was so proud and happy. Because of the people's speculations that he was gay, some thought that maybe, it's not really news. But when a person actually says "I'm gay" to the entire world in his own terms, it's really a proud moment.

And for me, who has worked with him and known him, and for me who has gay friends and relatives and family members and colleagues, it's an amazing amazing thing.

It must've been difficult for him at first -- he's a huge pop star! And to come out, it's really huge, and really amazing. It just makes me feel so proud.

Did you have any idea that he was gay?

I think my own speculations mirrored what the public was thinking. He has a kid but doesn't have a girlfriend, and that's a bit out of the ordinary. But I never really thought about it. It's not for other people to think about. If he's gay, I know he'll just come out when he's ready.

Were you ever romantically involved with him?

Oh, heck no. We were paired in a video when we were teenagers. But we never dated, oh heck no. I think when we met, he was just 12 years old. He's awesome as a kid.

When was the last time that you and Ricky saw each other?

The last time we met was when he had a concert in Manila at the PICC. I went backstage to say hi.

What about Aga Muhlach, were you ever romantically involved with him?

What, why? Of course not. Aga has a family, I have a family. There just seems to be this demand for us to make a movie. Both Charlene (Aga's wife) and Rob (Lea's husband) are excited for us to do a film together. And you know what, you can have your personal lives, and the public would still know what it wants.

What do you like about Aga as an on-screen partner?

I have to have complete and absolute trust on the person I'm working with, so it's pretty hard for me to find someone right now who I can have a movie with. It isn't really by default that I pick him, but it's just really much easier.

FASHION/BEAUTY

What's your take on beauty?

Beauty really comes from within. It sounds like a cliche, you know, beauty contest answers. But I found that I'm attracted not necessarily to the prettiest people, but to the people who are funny and really really smart.

I find smart and funny to be sexy, really sexy. I would take that any day over pretty people.

Because pretty people, if you don't develop your smarts, I'll only be interested in you for 5 minutes. But if you really have the personality, if you have the intelligence and the sense of humor, I'll be interested in you for weeks, months, years, and we'll have a very fantastic friendship.

As for me, my looks aren't going to last forever. So when I'm 80, I got to have something that still makes me attractive as a friend, as a soulmate, as a colleague. I want to offer the world something that's beyond skin-deep beauty.

What's the best beauty advice that your mom ever gave you?

Stay out of the sun. Slather on the sunscreen when you go out. Moisturize, sleep, and drink lots of water.

What are some things that you can't leave the house without?

Let's see...I don't know how many lip balms I have in my bag. I think I've tried all the different brands out there. In planes, I like using the ones in sticks.

I have a hand cream in my purse since my hands tend to get dry especially when I'm abroad. I like something with shea butter since it has more moisturizer.

I have 2 pairs of glasses -- sunglasses and distance glasses. Because when I drive, sometimes streetlights look like starts. Faraway things start to get blurry.

I always have to have a rubber band or a ponytail on my wrist, a cardigan or a sweater in my car, and a light cotton or any light material scarf when I'm in air-conditioned rooms so I can protect my voice.

Where's your favorite place to shop?

Here in Manila, it's ATC (Alabang Town Center) because I live in the South. In Makati, I love going to Greenbelt. There and Power Plant. They have beautiful stores and privacy -- well, as much privacy as I can get.

VIDEO GAMES

Background: "Final Fantasy XIII" is a popular role-playing game for the XBox and the PlayStation 3 (PS3). For a review of the game, click here.

Do you still play video games?

Yes. I've been playing Final Fantasy XIII. And it's so good. They have it for the PS3, and they also have it for the XBox. So we have the XBox, and that's what we play.

I did 3 weeks doing a show, and my show's from 8:45 to 9:55, almost 10 p.m. After the show, I'm up in my room, I get out of my clothes, I take off my makeup, I get into my pajamas, I order myself some dinner, and I'm in front of the TV (playing FFXIII). And I'm there until 5 in the morning!

The next day, I wake up, do my show, then I'm back there. So I didn't see the great outdoors for about a week.

Who's your favorite character in FFXIII?

The characters (of FFXIII) are all so good, but my favorite is Fang. I like her, I really like her. And when she comes into the fray when she starts fighting and I read her stats, I'm like, oh my gosh, she's insane! How do I get everyone to catch up to how strong she is?

I try to go back so I gain more experience points, to go back and forth to get the crystarium to level up to this and this and this. I'm such a nerd now (laughs).

It's a long game but it's so good. It's so worth getting because it's so long. I got Bioshock 2 and I finished it in 3 days. I was so disappointed. It only took me 3 days to finish this? It's just not right.

It took me about a week or 2 to finish the first Bioshock. But the second one's still a beautiful game.

What type of games do you usually play?

I pick the games that I like. I like it when there's a little story drama, and the sidequests. I usually like role-playing games and first-person shooters.

Did you grow up playing video games, or is this just a recent hobby?

I've been a gamer ever since I was young. I got into World of Warcraft pretty seriously. We play mostly on the consoles now, though.

BOOKS AND HOBBIES

What do you do during your free time (aside from video games)? Do you have any particular hobby?

Free time, what's that? (laughs) But I like reading. I just got the iPad and it's absolutely amazing. The best thing I like about it is that I can read books there. You can even get a copy of the Noli Me Tangere at the iPad store.

Any book that you're really into right now?

I've been really into David Sedaris -- anything he's done, whether he wrote it or edited it. He's funny and smart. I recommended him as a read for my father.

What's one unique thing that you're incredibly good at (aside from singing)?

I'm good at household repair. Living in the States, I had to do it since it's too expensive to hire someone. I've got all kinds of screwdrivers, I know how to use the drill. I like to do things with my hands.

POLITICS

Will you be supporting a particular candidate in the 2010 elections?

No. I'd rather be apolitical. I'd rather be far away from it.

Do you believe in political endorsements by celebrities?

I'm not going to pick a candidate based on who's endorsing him. I'm going to pick a candidate based on the candidate. And at the end of the day, that's how all of us have to judge -- which candidate is the best based on what he can do for the country.

How do you find the current set of candidates for the 2010 elections?

I think all the candidates have good intentions for the country. So may the best man win. Or woman.

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For comments and suggestions, email the author at karen_flores@abs-cbn.com.