* Content Warning: This story includes mentions of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and extreme dieting.
There's no denying being a celebrity in the '90s and early 2000s was a whole different ballgame. Opportunities where stars can open up about their struggles with being a celebrity were rare or they might never come at all. Rica Peralejo is one of the few personalities from that era that have bravely spoken up about what it was really like to be in the limelight back then, and how all that attention affected their lives.
In a vlog, the former actress shared a timeline of her personal beauty journey, from when she started in showbiz to present. She revealed her struggles with unrealistic beauty standards and everything she did in an attempt to meet them, plus the consequences that bloomed after.
How industry pressures affected her body image
"'As a performer [and a] TV personality, we had to think of a lot of things. Our hair, our face, naturally, but also our body," Rica begins. "So much of our body was involved in the entire process because they always say to us na, 'Di ka pwedeng tumaba kasi 10 pounds lagi gine-gain mo pag nasa harap ka ng camera."
This pressure to remain slim, Rica reveals, had led her to developing an eating disorder. "I would go through starvation, I had different kinds of diets and then excessive workouts, as in pinapagod mo talaga yung sarili mo. And there was a point there that I had anorexia," she shares. "I would not eat and I would get so thin, and still when I looked in the mirror I felt fat."
Anorexia, or anorexia nervosa, is defined as an eating disorder that causes severe weight loss due to extreme low-calorie diets and a fear of gaining weight.
On getting plastic surgery at 18
Because of the excessive focus of the industry on actors' bodies, Rica says that she ended up getting breast enhancement surgery when she was only 18 years old. She states that she can't remember why she had it done in the first place. "All I can remember it was gonna be very useful for my career back then," she explains, as during that time her management wanted her to transition from being a teen star to having a sexier image.
"When I look back, I'm so regretful about it because I opened up myself to what was an otherwise not present danger to my body..I am not judging those who have implants, but I did not study this when I had it before, na may implications talaga siya sayo."
Rica had her breast implants taken out by the time she had her second child. However, she surmises that this caused one issue she had after giving birth. "My breastfeeding had issues, and I don't know, I will never know if taking out on implants has an effect on that. You see how far reaching that is?" says the former actress.
She then offers advice to those who are also considering getting dramatic cosmetic surgeries stating, "Procedures that kind of alter the way you look in a very aggressive way, think about them not only twice thrice but many many times. It will really dictate to you so many things in your life even sa pagtanda mo."
On how she dealt with the preference for Western beauty features
"You have to understand that I existed in a time where there were certain representations for certain types of beauty. 'Di uso ang mga Japanese-looking Chinese-looking noon," Rica notes. It was why she never considered herself pretty or beautiful at that point of her career. "I always dumbed that down because back then, the overwhelming standard beauty that the world has chosen for itself was Western [features], hindi talaga Eastern."
The industry's preference for Western beauty had Rica wishing that she had more Hispanic features than what she had naturally. "Very ridiculous thoughts, but also very real in a sense na ganun talaga pag nadadala ka sa sinasabi ng mundo. Madidictate din niya kung paano magrun yung thoughts sa mind mo," she concludes.
Fortunately, Rica shares that she eventually grew to be confident in her own skin. Receiving compliments from people around her for things that she had naturally, like good skin and beautiful eyes, among other things. "I realized what's beautiful about you, you usually get to know about them through other people than [noticing it yourself]," says Rica.
Her goal as an influencer at 40
At 40 years old, Rica has different priorities as a personality, one of which is to be a representation for a different kind of beauty. She expounds, "Whether it be small or big or whatever way, kung merong makakaidentify sa katulad ko lalo na sa beauty na parang, 'Uy medyo kamukha ko siya,' ganyan. Hindi na makita nila ako as maganda, parang maaffirm lang sila na hindi lang iisa ng itsura ang lahat ng tao dapat."
And because she's now in her 40s, she thinks she's become firmer about her self-image. "Hindi na talaga ako tinatamaan ng definition ng mundo pagdating sa beauty and body," says Rica. That said, she strives to be careful about how she talks about topics such as beauty and body on her social media because of how it can affect others.
Rica also offered advice for those who are struggling with their self-esteem: "When you start feeling low about who you are and yourself because of the way you look, think about why you feel that way. Who is making you feel that way? Is it really just coming from your heart...or is there a reason behind that?" She also quoted a verse from the bible: "It doesn't matter if you're happy about yourself or not, but God has fearfully and wonderfully put you together...Just the fact that you're still standing, your body is working, that's a wonderful case of creation of God."
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