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Lovi Poe Is Ready to Take on the World and Here's How She Plans to Do It

The actress talks about her first Hollywood movie, and what she's been up to in the past three years.

by Sofia de Aros | Dec 17, 2021

"I always feel like the world is too big to just stay in one place, to do what you love to do in just one place. You can always explore and get out of your comfort zone. It's so cliché, but that’s where the magic happens."

Lovi Poe has been living out of a suitcase for a while now, having split the last three years between Manila, London, and Los Angeles. It's a lifestyle she deems “fun, but hard", one reason for this being the scarcity of great Filipino food abroad.  As it turns out, a Filipina can reach Hollywood actress status and get to call people like Alex Pettyfer and Poppy Delevingne her co-stars, but still won’t be cured of the regular sinigang, adobo, and sisig cravings. Hence, when Lovi isn’t navigating the usual airport-hotel-movie set racetrack in which show biz people run so readily, she hits Filipino food spots with friends. Though she could cook for them, she opts not to: “I don’t want to give Filipino food a bad name by cooking it,” she laughs.


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Lovi Poe for Preview.ph December 2021

The other reason is a more obvious one. Traveling in the time of the pandemic—especially across three different continents and at the frequency at which Lovi does—is a behemoth undertaking. When we spoke over Zoom in November, she was quarantining in a Metro Manila hotel, jetlagged to the bone and freshly done with filming The Chelsea Cowboy, a Hollywood biopic set in ‘70s England about the adventures of gangster-turned-actor John Bindon (played by Alex Pettyfer). The film was shot in London over the course of a month or so. After they wrapped, she flew to Los Angeles, quarantined there for 10 days, then flew out to Manila, only to quarantine for another 10 days. I commented that she spends nearly a month of her life quarantining after every one-way travel leg. “I was just getting over my L.A. jet lag, and now I’m starting another one,” she shares. “It's hard to keep a routine going, and I’m a routine person.”

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Hotel quarantining is an interesting pandemic experience. In the same way that you rarely tip over your bag to empty out all of its contents on the room’s carpeted floor, you rarely offer a hotel room all hours of your day. It’s usually just allocated for brief windows of decompression: You crash into an oceanic white bed after a late night event, only to crawl out of it unwillingly at 4am the next day to catch a flight. Or, you dash into the room to retouch your makeup before dinner after a full day of sightseeing, scrambling out the door within 20 minutes. If you spend too much time alone in a hotel room, you start seeing it for what it is: An unblinking, too-quiet impersonal space awash in a cold smell that never fully warms into a home-scent. So, what happens when a limbo zone becomes an inescapable bunker for nearly two weeks? “Overthinking,” Lovi says. “I really keep myself busy or else I’ll probably be feeling all the weird things.”

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“But I guess if you really wanna do something, it doesn’t matter, the headache that comes with it. The headache is usually just jet lag, and the hell of a commute," she shares. While in quarantine, she drinks coffee, exercises, reads the scripts of her upcoming projects, and “recuperates” from whatever it is she’s just finished. “When I get out and finish my quarantine, I'll be on set again. That is exactly my life now.”

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Owning the Scene

The life in question, though, is quite the exciting one. In The Chelsea Cowboy, Lovi plays the English blues-rock singer Dana Gillespie, a vivacious, sultry It girl who lived and breathed the beating heart of the legendary London music scene. The real-life Dana is now 72, sports an intense red mullet, and possesses the alluring, free-spirited candor you’d expect from someone who partied hard with Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and The Beatles. “Dana was like, ‘I can’t believe that a Filipina is playing me,’” Lovi says, recalling the time she met the musician during her first day of filming. “And then when she saw me, she was like, ‘Oh my God. Okay!’”

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Like many of the opportunities that come into her life, Lovi got this unlikely role somewhat out of the blue. She met the film’s screenwriter, Leon Butler, in a restaurant called Craig’s three years prior, when she was visiting L.A. In hindsight, she guesses he might have been working on the script for the film then and had her in mind for the part, because he reached out to her when they started production this 2021. While both Lovi and the young Dana do share pronounced cheekbones, sleepy eyes, and husky, alto voices, that’s pretty much all they have in common on the surface level. To bridge that gap, Lovi went ahead and took accent lessons to nail the British twang, even if the initial plan was to stick to her American accent. “I actually watched [Dana] perform live after my first filming day and it was just nice to see someone own the stage,” she says. “And, you know, it's as if singing to her is just like breathing, so that was very inspiring to me.”

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Despite the public nature of her profession, Lovi is a fully-fledged introvert—a "super shy" person—and says all her friends know this about her. And yet she launched into an anecdote about a time she went off-script and licked fake blood off a co-actor while dancing wildly for a scene—things no particularly shy person would normally do. This was for the psychological drama-thriller film The Other Wife, and the shocked but willing co-actor was Joem Bascon.

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“I just had to breathe. And I eventually pushed Lovi aside,” she says. “When I watched myself do that, I didn't see myself at all. And that's good.” But while her acting chops are seriously great, (she’s won numerous acting accolades, including a Best Actress award from the Manhattan International Film Festival), her motivations for getting a scene down pat can read as comically lighthearted. “I always thought to myself that you have to do your best every time on the first try, so that you don't have to do it again,” she explains. Which makes sense: The more takes you have to do, the longer you have to spend under a spotlight surrounded by other people, right?

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But then again, Lovi always had the bandwidth to hold down an audience. As a kid, she secretly loved to sing, and would keep instrumental CDs in her car at all times, in anticipation of a performance. She never volunteered to do so, but "silently prayed" that someone, (i.e. her mom), would force her to sing, so she could shyly concede and shuffle onstage, CDs giddily in hand. This happened at a friend's birthday party in Pizza Hut. After her not-so-impromptu performance, another kid and two waiters asked for her autograph. "And then that was the turning point. I was like, 'Okay, this is exactly what I wanted,'" she says.

"There are a lot of bottled-up emotions that we usually don’t let out. But with acting, I’m able to. It helps a lot."

If she weren’t an actress and singer, though, she would be a psychiatrist. “I love listening to people's stories to understand their lives,” she says. It’s not that different from what she does now, given she has to shed herself and enter the lifeworld of another for every role, picking apart the sinews of mannerism, personal history, and motive. “But acting for me wasn’t number one,” she clarifies. “Being on stage, performing—that was number one. I would always join glee clubs. Acting was secondary.”

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“When I started acting, I fell in love with it. I’ve been doing it for like, 15 years, and now I realize that it’s very therapeutic to get to play someone, to be someone you’re not. You get to release certain emotions that you don’t get to release in real life. There are a lot of bottled-up emotions that we usually don’t let out. But with acting, I’m able to. It helps a lot,” she says.

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Her First Love

Her first passion, music, is an endeavor she now gets to pursue alongside her acting career. She revealed that she recorded songs for an upcoming film called Seasons, a movie that she actually conceptualized herself. In 2019, she starred in the film The Annulment opposite Joem, and for it, recorded a stirring rendition of the heartbreak ballad “Di Lang Ikaw”, which was written by Ice Seguerra and Juris Fernandez. For the performance, Lovi deployed her voice like a curl of smoke that ribbons upward from an extinguished candle wick, stitching her breaths to the melody while working around a lump in her throat. “I was in tears while singing that,” she says. “I had friends that were going through annulments at the time. When I sang that song, it really came from the heart.”

While her wafting, svelte vocal timbre best lends itself to pensive songs, she finds her footing in pop. On the ‘90s-inspired bop, “Candy”, which was produced by Omen, a Grammy Award-winning collaborator of Beyoncé and Drake, she sings about partying and flirting. Her two other singles released just this year, “Lost” and “Under”, tap into more nocturnal experiences of thirst and heartache, with searching melodies sparkling over hip-hop beats that dribble like raindrops. “The last time I had a full album was when I was 16 or 18,” she shares. “It’s not that I said goodbye to it, I was just taking a different path. Now that I'm getting back into music, it gives me the feeling of meeting your first love again.”

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"But I always feel like the world is too big to just stay in one place, to do what you love to do in just one place. You can always explore and get out of your comfort zone."

Lovi's World

Lovi, whose full given name is Lourdes Virginia, seems to be winding the thread of life through a bunch of lucky needles that just happen to align. She carries herself with a peaceful, glowing sophistication that can’t be faked, and maintains a sweetly positive outlook on otherwise chaotic things. For one, she sees social media as “a place where you can be inspired, and at the same time, get to inspire other people.”

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“Everyone’s been really nice online,” she continues. “I curate my feed, which I love, simply because it looks nice. But whilst I curate my feed, I also design the life that I love. I do it along the way. I don’t go out of my way to do something so I can post a cool thing on Instagram.”

“The negative thing about social media is that we get to compare our lives to other people's lives. But we have to remember that if we're busy watering our own grass, we'd be too busy to worry about other people. Just focus on yourself. And remember that real life is much more important,” she says, smiling. “Do what makes you happy. If dancing on TikTok and dubbing things makes you happy, keep doing it. Those are fun to watch anyway.”

Although she’s swiftly blooming into an international talent, Lovi assures that she won’t be leaving local show biz any time soon. “There's nothing wrong with staying here–the industry is good, and a lot of people are thriving,” she stresses. “But I always feel like the world is too big to just stay in one place, to do what you love to do in just one place. You can always explore and get out of your comfort zone. It's so cliché, but that’s where the magic happens. I'm just happy that I am somehow experiencing that magic.”

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Now 32, Lovi is flourishing in the nomadic setup. It doesn’t matter whether she’s in transit between cities or characters—the “magic” finds its way to her when she chooses to be present and to live in the moment. “This happens to me a lot. When I go through something really great, instead of enjoying the moment I worry about the next one,” she shares. “And then when it’s passed, I'm like, ‘Aww, why did I worry about it? I let that moment pass!’”

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“Enjoy every single moment. Be present, as they always say. That's hard to do because we're always worried about the future and stuck in the past. If I could, I would always choose to live in the present, live in the moment, and be happy.”

Photographed by Rowben Lantion

Makeup and Hair by Elena Von

Styled by Adrianne Concepcion

Lovi wears Balmain Spring/Summer 2022 Runway

Words by Sofia De Aros

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