Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Profile: Jasmine Curtis-Smith

Jasmine Curtis-Smith: At 1 am, this is how she looks like for a shoot...
An outtake. This photo by yours truly.
On her sure way up the ranks to super stardom, Jasmine Curtis-Smith stops for SALT to look at her life now: the award that changed her life, her love for the industry, her music and her interest in-of all genres, horror and mostly the woman behind her and her successes. An exclusive SALT profile. By Gerard Gotladera

Family First

Jasmine Curtis-Smith, did not have a magic moment. Contrary to popular belief and reportage, not all stars who make it big take root in that magic moment. You often read how actors are usually sparked by performances of famous actors and actresses, playing so terribly well on screen or on stage, that they too feel it's their own path to take. Quite the romantic touch, if you ask me, to any success story. But when my friend, award-winning actress, columnist, celebrity endorser and million-followed social media darling, confesses that there was "none whatsoever" of a magic moment for her, I was floored.

"It was the thought of helping my mama...Whenever I am given a role or project, she's always the primary inspiration to do well and give my best. The rest comes second. Along with that, I  owe it to myself to actually commit to something and be really good at it."

This is Jasmine Curtis-Smith in a quote. Despite her youth, beauty and stature, she plays the daughter role best. Decisions are strongly guided and grounded in family and this is one wonderful trait of the beauty. When asked why she chose the entertainment industry, her mother, the famous Tita Carmen, and her sister, needless of any introductions, the Anne Curtis, naturally spring out among the flurry of words she shares upon choosing show business.

"It just happened. I've always been exposed to this industry because of my older sister but I used to actually repel the idea of being an actress...because I badly wanted to be incredibly different from her. But one day an offer came along and I'd just started to enjoy acting in school, so I thought why say no when I can also help my mama financially."

BAYO's early 2013 Campaign
Photo from BAYO's Facebook Page

An Extraordinary Life

The 19 year old Filipino-Australian actress and student with her soft, timeless beauty and her strong will and focus, has fronted many brand endorsements, magazine covers, top billed two drama series and starred in two intelligent and touching Filipino films, is achieving quite a lot at a reasonably fast rate. While kids her age are still figuring out life unfolding in front of them, Jasmine is doing the work herself.

I've seen her quite a lot of times doing round-the-clock work and it's no easy feat, even for myself who could only see it. Quick for us to say people like them have it easy, but they honestly don't. And especially for her age, when she has the choice to let the career wait and enjoy what she could, you couldn't blame her for tiring days and tempting thoughts of a "free-er" life.

"Often times I feel that, but if it really is your passion, then no time is wasted...time goes in what you love to do. I'm blessed to be doing it this early in my life and be exposed to a lot of experiences one wouldn't usually be having access to. It's an extraordinary life and it might take a bit more time than I thought, to get used to."

"I really did not expect this..." Jasmine Curtis-Smith on her win for her first ever film.
Photo and quote from Showbiznest
No time indeed has been wasted. Not even a decade in the industry, she's already won an award for the Cinemalaya entry and Oscar-approved Filipino film Transit. Best Supporting Actress, Jasmine, debuted on film as the teenage Yael, whose struggles echo that of youth the world over, battling wars of identity and addressing the eternal question of belonging. She invited me and a few friends to catch it and it was the first time everyone was going to see her on film. On stage, in her Lanvin dress, she looked divine, but her tight shoulders and her anxious smile told people of the stakes that rest heavy on her shoulders. The expectations were high and we all know that she is aware of that. An hour and some 45 minutes later, we've seen her unravel in front of us all, on the big screen and you wonder: is this really her first film ever? It was a quiet, naturally-portrayed performance that didn't have the theatrics and noise that new actresses baggage themselves with. Jasmine did the opposite. She was very much human as Yael and her work for it won an award because she was real and seemed to have forgotten herself as an actress.

"I used to be so dependent on the directions of directors, but now I've learned to understand lines and take them personally as if I was really the character. It's cliche, but I basically become the role."

On portraying half-Israelite, half-Filipina Yael, I told her I wanted to believe it was easy for her because, as we all know, she is part Australian, part Filipina and that there were experiences they  have both gone through.

"Yael was a challenge to portray because of the similarities we had with our cultural problems, despite what people might was more challenging because I had personal experiences that weren't so happy, that I had to channel from my memory bank"

Rest assured, her hard work has paid off. At 19, it is an accomplishment to win an award from Cinemalaya not just because of the obvious, but also because it gave her an awesome head start in the industry. She cites her mother as the first person who came to mind when she received the award.

"...she wasn't able to stay for the awards that evening because she had to fly back home to Australia. The moment I was on stage, walking towards it, all I thought of was how excited I was to share the surreal news with her!"

Jasmine Curtis-Smith as Nikka for Puti. Photo from Starmometer

Another role she's played this year was Puti's Nikka, an apprentice to Ian Veneracion's Amir. The psychological thriller explores the dark side of the art world and the power of human conscience. Nikka is her first foray into the genre and she couldn't say no.

"Direk Mike Alcazaren looked for me when his story was approved by the board. He allowed me to read the script and decide for myself if I wanted to take it. And I found it difficult to refuse a role with so many freaky antics such as being hung upside down!"

In our two years of friendship too, I do see her doing independent movies-upon impression, but never for horror or something like a psychological thriller. And it wasn't even a question of capability. It was more of because she was the beautiful, new actress. I asked her if she wanted to play roles for horror films and she was game.

"I would definitely love to! I'm not a fan of being the 'pretty girl' all the time in my projects, it's pretty tiring and bland. In any genre, it's much more appealing to be a complex character."

It even didn't match Jasmine confessing love for the disturbingly good FOX series-which I am a huge fan of, American Horror Story, because you'd expect her to be a fan of something else, something less of a nightmare to watch.

"I love how odd it is and how differently the horror story unfolds, compared to generic horror movies or shows. I love horror films and TV series. I'm not sure what it is that makes me love it, it just fascinates me."

By now it should be apparent that she wasn't doing all these roles and citing all these things for effect. There was more to her than what my biases combined could read and maybe it was the reason why I find her quite the intriguing person. When asked about the dream role most of her kind would love to portray, we sparked a little conversation about the Filipino audiences' maturity and the kind of shows we watch.

"Often find myself dreaming of how I would portray a mentally challenged person. Their thought process and how they are would be a welcome challenge for me in terms of acting."

In our culture, I tell her, that while most local actors I've seen who've played these roles do splendidly well, the reaction from audiences (not all audiences) do not show signs of, well, for a lack of a better term, maturity. So I asked her why she thinks this is the case and if there are stories Filipinos aren't ready for yet.

"Our country has been very conservative with what is shown to audiences, so in turn when we do such roles or tell such stories, people aren't used to it and the only way they can cope with seeing an overwhelming story is by laughing. I think there is no perfect time to say when the Filipino viewers are or aren't ready for stories they  are not used to...What I believe in, is an aggressive approach to story-telling in order to up the maturity of all kinds of viewers. Take bigger risks instead of sticking to old ways of story-telling."

She also sees herself taking on roles that her Hollywood idols have done, namely Dakota Fanning, Emma Watson and Natalie Portman. When it comes to roles she couldn't give justice to yet-"scandalous and more mature roles", she considers the kind of viewers or fans she has "young girls" and also the limited experiences of her youth. But there will be enough time for Jasmine, I am sure, to explore her acting prowess and to experience things in life that will give her knowledge to do big and better roles.

The Person Behind The Star

Among the few stars and celebrities I know and have worked with, they all share the same (surprisingly) great quality about them: they're all incredibly human. While most of us have considered them as other-worldly creatures who have fairly, unfair better DNAs than us, truth is, they're all just human beings. They grow tired, still have dreams, listen to music and all these things. And that is what makes them most endearing. It's not the glamorous distance from the stars that makes fans, managers, clients, everyone believe in them, but the human-ness they all have. And Jasmine is of no exception.

She too has fears. In a line, she fears knowing the day she'll die. When asked which concert is the best she's ever seen-"hands down, Coldplay". Jay-Z is someone she would love to see perform. And another hour or two of Coldplay would definitely be awesome. Looking at her Top 25 Most Played  songs on her phone, Jasmine knows her music and appreciates both mainstream and less popular artists and songs. Her most played reveals an interesting mix of genres and artists: Azalea Banks, Bon Iver, Alicia Keys, Taylor Swift, Hale, Frank Ocean, Death Cab for Cutie, The Temper Trap, Bastille, Florence + The Machine, 30 Seconds to Mars, She & Him, The XX and of course, Coldplay

An interesting thing about Jasmine is her honest and candid response to "who is Jasmine in an alternative universe?"

"She's badass with thick eyeliner and a tattoo of her name in Hebrew! (Uy, wishful!)" 

Personal style for her "is being comfortable." A man's "intelligence" makes him handsome and a woman's "smile" makes her beautiful. Friends for her are most supportive. And you'd never guess the kind of book Jasmine is:

"I'd be a math text book, I'm a little complicated but if you're patient enough you'll know which formula works."

She cites Re: Stacks, quite the moody-and a little sad, song of Bon Iver to describe herself. She'd tell 9 year old Jasmine to "Keep dancing. Sign up for dance class."

She looks back at master lensman, Mark Nicdao's portrait of her family as the photo most telling of Jasmine Curtis-Smith. "The family portrait that Mark Nicdao did for my birthday. I'm a family person and the only time we all get together is during special occasions."

A screen shot of Mark Nicdao's beautiful family portrait of the Curtis-Smiths.

The beauty, who is always in the presence of great love and people, has learned, among the many things she has learned so far that: "Love has taught me to be rational. Sometimes too much of one thing is not healthy anymore, but you just have to learn how to make room for everything."

The Start

Whenever I see her, I forget that she's only starting. I forget that she's new, maybe because she already exhibits the qualities of actresses that have been in the industry for years. I have to remind myself that there is the future stretched wayyyy ahead of her, beautiful and bright. And like all of us, the future is there and the journey is ours to take. I know her but I have yet more to know, but like I've mentioned, time and time again, that wherever time takes us, I'm so sure of it that I'll see her still stopping people on their tracks, on a massive billboard on EDSA, her face and her cheerful voice on commercials, her on the cover of magazines and her movies not only showing in local theaters, but also in theaters everywhere else. She sleeps and wakes up to "To have a chance, take a chance" and this chance she has taken is indeed the start of many more beautiful chances that'll come to her in the future.

(special thanks to Ms. Betchay Vidanes for allowing me this feature)


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