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Confessions of a Former Teen Queen: An Open Letter by Kathryn Bernardo

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"I’ve seen stars rise and fall, and more often than not, the greatest tragedy is when they choose to live in a box."

Dear whoever might be reading this,

I’m not sure if you’re doing so because you love me or you hate me. (Or perhaps it’s somewhere in between? I really can’t tell for sure.) But in any case, I’m turning 23 this month, and this is going to be a particularly challenging yet exciting year for me. So before anything else, there are a number of things I want to share with you.


Kathryn Bernardo for March 2019

Kathryn Bernardo for March 2019

I was seven years old when I started acting. A quick Google search would tell you that my breakout role was playing Mara in the 2010 reboot of Mara Clara, but it was actually long before that when I would every so often travel four hours from Cabanatuan to Makati to attend auditions and casting calls that might only last for a few minutes. While other children my age were busy trying to master the periodic table, I was memorizing lines for a VTR, which—fingers crossed—could potentially land me a short role in a drama or a TV commercial. While waiting for my turn beside fair-skinned girls who were vying for the same role, there I was, worrying that I might not be "tisay" enough or pretty enough to actually get the job. It’s okay, though, my parents would say. There’s always a next time.

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Red tweed coat, price unavailable, GUCCI, Shangri-La Plaza East Wing.

If I could travel back in time and give that seven-year-old girl a pat on the shoulder along with some sisterly advice: “Don’t worry too much and take things slowly,” I’d tell her for sure. “You have to be tough. You have to be strong. It won’t be easy, but if you’re patient, you’ll get there eventually.”


Ruffled dress, price unavailable, GUCCI, Shangri-La Plaza East Wing.

"I’m glad to have experienced what I had to experience because nothing worth it ever comes easy."

Thing is, aspiring to be an “artista” at a young age robs you of a normal childhood, albeit unintentionally. It requires a certain level of discipline: pages on end to memorize, early call times, long working hours. It barely leaves you with enough time to visit a playground or dress up a Barbie doll. Don’t get me wrong, though: I’m not here to play the victim card. In retrospect, I’m glad to have experienced what I had to experience because nothing worth it ever comes easy. And throughout that tough climb, I was lucky to have a strong support system. My family was with me every step of the way, always reminding me to look at the bigger picture. It was because of them that every single rejection and failure seemed fleeting.


Cardigan, pink top, leather skirt, purse and sneakers; prices unavailable; all GUCCI, Shangri-La Plaza East Wing.


To be honest, I can’t really remember when someone first called me "Teen Queen." But as everyone started to follow suit, I didn’t know how to react either—Do I pretend I didn’t hear it? Do I take it as a joke? Do I just say “thank you”? It was not until I wasn’t a teen anymore when I started to understand what that title held. I’m flattered as I think about it now, because now I see it as a testament that people respect me as an artist. I realize, they must have given me such a title because they acknowledge my hard work. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Sadly, though, I can’t forever remain as your Teen Queen. Like everything else in this world, change is inevitable. And I, too, need to grow.


Jacket and animal print skirt, prices unavailable, both GUCCI, Shangri-La Plaza East Wing.

Strawberry print top and bag, prices unavailable, both GUCCI, Shangri-La Plaza East Wing.

If there’s anything I’ve learned while working in this industry all these years, it’s the constant need to evolve. I’ve seen stars rise and fall, and more often than not, the greatest tragedy is when they choose to live in a box. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I became an actress at an early age and yet I took my time before deciding to take on more mature roles—my first kissing scene, in fact, was in 2016, for the movie Barcelona: A Love Untold. I didn’t want to rush things. I didn’t want to do anything I wasn’t prepared for. I took things gradually because I felt it was the right thing to do. But as I grew older, I felt it was about time to finally break out of that shell. While I don’t regret taking my time to grow, I also don’t intend to get left behind.


"I can’t forever remain as your Teen Queen. I, too, need to grow."

Green blazer and knit top, both GUCCI, Shangri-La Plaza East Wing.

Of course, there’s no way I can talk about growth without mentioning DJ (Editor’s note: Kathryn’s on- and off-screen partner, Daniel Padilla) because he’s a big part of what makes me who I am today. He’s played a crucial role in helping me become not only a better actress but also a better person. Some of you might already be aware of this, but late last year, we made a mutual decision to not accept projects together this 2019. We both know it’s going to be tough for both of us and maybe even tougher for our fans, but we really gave it some thought, and while there’s nothing we want more than to make you happy, we’d appreciate if you can give us this year to pursue our individual growth this time around. It’s a risk, and I’d be lying if I told you that the idea doesn’t scare me, but at the same time, I’m excited to discover what kind of opportunities await us both in this journey.


Needless to say, DJ and I will still be here; I will always have his back in the same way that I know he always has mine. It’s just that, in the meantime, we want to support each other off-cam.

Maturity takes courage, and courage takes maturity. Because I know myself better now, I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a leap of faith sometimes and trust in the process. Because, I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s impossible to make everyone love you. No matter how good you are, no matter how talented, it will never be enough. Ultimately, people will love who they choose to love and hate who they choose to hate. So given that, we can all use a little kindness and compassion in this world.



"I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s impossible to make everyone love you... Ultimately, people will love who they choose to love and hate who they choose to hate."

To all my fans who’ve always been there to support me, while I honestly don’t know what you like about me, I hope it’s because you see yourself in me. I hope you know that we’re just the same—the only difference is I happen to be an actress. Sure, I have stylists who dress me up and a glam team to make me look like I had eight hours of sleep (when the truth is I only had three). But just like every other celebrity, I’m not perfect at all. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get hurt. I hope I don’t disappoint you with my flaws, because at the end of the day, I’m just a human being like everyone else.


To my family—my mom especially, I will not be where I am now if not for you. Truthfully, I used to be jealous of other young actors who didn’t have their parents constantly tailing them. I also wanted to be able to make my own decisions and take control of my life. Looking back, however, it was silly to even think that I was capable of being alone. I’m glad you stood by my side and guided me the best way you can. Thank you for giving me so much of your time, to light my way and to ensure that I become a responsible person who isn’t blinded by the spotlight. And now that I’m old enough to stand on my own two feet, my wish is for you to finally be able to give time for yourself. I’ll be okay now, I promise, because you’ve made me stronger all these years.


"What’s more difficult than climbing your way up is being able to stay there."


To be honest, though, what’s more difficult than climbing your way up is being able to stay there. If you asked me the secret to longevity, I don’t think I’d be able to give you an answer. I, too, am still in the process of figuring it out. But if I can give advice to my future self, I’d tell her to cherish the moment because nothing lasts forever.

So to end my letter, I’d like the final note to be addressed to myself: When the time comes that your star isn’t shining as bright anymore, I don’t want you to have any regrets. Live in the moment. Take risks. Don’t overthink. Surround yourself with people who make you feel like the best version of yourself—but don’t try to be perfect, because no one is.




Produced by Marj Ramos

Photographed by Shaira Luna

Styled by Loris Peña

Art Directed by Mark Buenaobra

Co-produced by Jam Nitura

Makeup by Justine del Rosario

Hair by John Valle

Shoot Assistant: Teresita Gabat

Nails by KathNails

Shot on location at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC)

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