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Rhian Ramos Opens Up About Taking a Break from Show Biz and Finding Herself

Self-love has a lot to do with it.

by Owen Maddela | Jul 9, 2020

“I wanted to leave for a little while, because I wanted to just find all the parts in real life that I wanted to enjoy.”—Rhian Ramos

The distance from the car to the studio was supposed to just be a hop, skip, and jump away, but with a call time of 1 p.m., a temperature of 33°C, and a heat index of about 36°C, the walk up to the shoot’s 2nd floor location already felt like work. The heat was characteristic of the early March call slip, a tricky point in the year where the chill of February mornings and midnights begin to dissipate at the onset of the hottest time of the year. Squinting and sweating all the way up aside, however, the timing couldn’t be more apt to stage a summer shoot—albeit the indoor, air-conditioned kind.

Sharing the same code of brights and whites, the wardrobe selection and set design played off of each other: The fashion direction was fruity, painterly, and punchy against the backdrop’s geometric, part-Mondrian, part-Barragan palette. The combined visual was both editorial and Instagrammable, yes, but will it stick? Perhaps with the right girl.

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Fortunately, Rhian Ramos’ gait and gumption made for fashion shoot magic. Her comfort before the camera, obedience to the art director’s vision, portfolio of magazine covers (remember magazines?) and well-lit selfies on social media were, in total, an assurance that everything would look great.

But our cover subject proved to be more than just a looker; she was quite the talker, too. Her low, well-modulated register, impassioned inflection, and animated facial reactions were engaging, entertaining, and disarming. Years of acting, hosting, and having gone under the microscope during Sunday show biz talk show one-on-ones (remember those, too?) must have rubbed off on her, too.

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It was inevitable to touch on the topic of travel—the cover shoot’s timing and talk about her motley geotags on Instagram from the last year and a half were irresistible—and Rhian proved to be quite the resource person. During the interview, she talked passionately and lengthily about how she spent an extended break from show biz in New York City, offered recommendations for the ultimate NYC itinerary, and shared travel plans for the summer of 2020.


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Papaya bodysuit and sandals, price upon request, YONG DAVALOS, Instagram.com/yong.syudio

The plan, according to the editors, was to publish the story in late March which gave us enough time to turn the story over. But the national government, less than 10 days after the shoot had wrapped, imposed a total lockdown in all of Luzon to slow down the spread of COVID-19. It meant that photographer Koji Arboleda, nestled in Quezon City at the time of the imposition, couldn’t drive out to Bonifacio Global City where he kept his hard drive containing photos of the shoot. The trip would have been essential to the process but non-essential in the greater scheme of things.

It turned out that the rising and irritating heat index was negligible in the light of this new global reality. Clearly, it wasn’t also the right time to release a celebrity profile extolling the virtues of summer or the joy of travel. In the wake of the global pandemic, it would have been tone-deaf to rave about the 209-page wine list and memorable customer service at Eleven Madison Park, eat around Manhattan and Queens Bourdain-style, or draw up a light shopping list for when you end up at The Frankie Shop at the Lower East Side.

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RHIAN, RETOLD

“I didn’t know that every day would be a day off after making this video. Keep safe, everyone!”


One of many actresses who has added YouTube to their portfolio, Rhian thoughtfully started off a video she released a few days after the lockdown with aforementioned disclaimer. The 15-minute upload, a chronicle of a day away from the set of her GMA 7 telenovela Love of My Life, the primetime series she shares with Coney Reyes, Carla Abellana, and Mikael Daez, also turned out to be her last day off in the outside world. In it, she narrated and demonstrated how she, like us, did errands and all sorts of non-artista things (including walking from condo to pilates studio and having the rainbow colors we painted her digits with for this story taken off for work the next day), sometimes under artista circumstances (running into Tim Yap, Drs. Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho, among others) but without the pressure of a script or the command of a director.

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The other videos she would upload during the lockdown would make her even more relatable to most of connected and cooped up Manila: eating mukbang style, cooking eggs, working out, and engaging in ridiculous horseplay with family from the comforts of home. Of course, she wore athleisure or model-off-duty picks and barely-there makeup in these videos. By this time, too, Love of My Life would run out of episodes to air and save for a rerun of the 2009 Pinoy adaptation of Korean drama series Stairway to Heaven on TV or an on-demand rewatch of 2007’s Ouija and the surprisingly satisfying 2012 satire Sosy Problems, all that 2020 Rhian was exuding, now 29 years old, was a glow-up all her own. She was unafraid to slip up, comfortable in her own skin, and the guard-down kind of funny.


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A year and a half ago was a completely different scenario altogether—about the time she decided to take an extended break from show biz in late 2018. “It was a personal decision that I had made, knowing that I needed a change,” she divulges during our pre-lockdown interview. “I just felt like my life had come in so many stages and it also moved so quickly. The show biz stage was where I’ve gotten to a point of asking, ‘What the heck is happening?’.” She claims that show biz wasn’t something that she had planned—that she “kind of just rolled in” and found herself in it. She goes on, “I had no adult experiences outside of show biz because I started at 15 just like everyone else I knew. I just couldn’t remember a life that was not show.”

Then there’s the mental and emotional toll of taking on characters. “I don’t know if you’ve watched afternoon soap operas but they can be pretty brutal in terms of how they were written and what they can put your character through,” she expounds. “In one show, I had been beaten up and raped and from that rape I got pregnant and then my child drowned in a pool. I mean, that’s a lot for a person to go through in three months. Everything hurts!”

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Karin silk shirt, P3490, H&M, SM Mega Fashion Hall

She does admit to indulging in the sensation of “being in another place” but dreads the burden of “taking the character home.” It’s a cycle she first experienced during her time in Stairway to Heaven and never goes off with every project she takes on. “I think I have just gotten so addicted to the feeling that at one point, my director came up to me and said, ‘You need to stop putting yourself too far into the scene. I can see you’re hurting yourself. Once in a while, just make it look like you are crying.’” That director was Ricky Davao, himself an actor.

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“So yeah, that’s why I wanted to leave for a little while, because I wanted to just find all the parts in real life that I wanted to enjoy.”

A PRE-LOCKDOWN PIVOT

“When you kinda feel that you are in a rut or something, there is nothing that makes you see everything more clearly than not being in that situation and just looking at it from the outside.”


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Karin shirt, P3490; Boots, P5490, both H&M, SM Mega Fashion Hall

New York City offered things that her relatively charmed life in Manila simply couldn’t: independence, the chance to meet people who knew nothing about her celebrity or had no preconceived notions of her, and an environment that bred street smarts and toughness. “I wanted to pick a place that was known for being tough and that time, I thought New Yorkers were tough people, I think of all the training that I have gotten here—say yes even if you mean no—and how I wanted to be in the presence of people that would probably teach me something else.”

Rhian made use of her time in New York to go back to school, signing up for improvisational comedy classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv comedy and sketch group whose roster includes modern greats such as Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, and Adam McKay. Rhian claims that the only way she saw herself being in show biz many years ago was through shows such as Saturday Night Live and Whose Line Is It Anyway?—and being in class allowed her to reconnect with that dream. “I never thought I would become some kind of dramatic actress, you know?” she laughs.

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Carter printed maillot, P1990; Maria printed scarf, P999; Margaret printed mini skirt, P2690; Kahlo thong sandals, P4490, all from H&M, SM Mega Fashion Hall

She spaced out her classes so that she only went twice a week and spent the rest of her time soaking up life in the city and being as self-reliant as she could. Without a personal assistant, a glam team, or a road manager, she actually enjoyed her first shot at independence, budget issues notwithstanding. “I think about it at the end of the month: Am I overspending? I can’t eat out anymore for the next two weeks so I would cook my own food instead,” she reminisces. “People in school were like, ‘Oh, let’s go get drinks’ and at the back of my head I was like ‘Oh, but I haven’t washed my sheets!’ It’s just nice to have a different set of responsibilities and try to be good at it.”

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“When you kinda feel that you are in a rut or something, there is nothing that makes you see everything more clearly than not being in that situation and just looking at it from the outside,” she says, looking back at her New York sojourn. “I think what I really just needed was a sense of balance. Now I know where I’m taking my life and what I want to achieve. I didn’t even know what I wanted before.”

A “YES AND…” KIND OF GIRL

“Before, I used to really be so nitpicky about something looking loose or something poking out and I would have so much self-hate because of it. But after I had come back from New York, I was like, ‘Girl, you looove yourself.’” 


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The “Yes, and…” philosophy is arguably the Golden Rule of improvisational comedy. It means to accept something as fact and build on it—the way there is practically no dead air when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler throw lines at each other or how the jokes just never seem to end among the judging panel at Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Applied to work and life, it is akin to demonstrating a level of proactiveness or in certain situations, rolling with the punches.

It wasn’t too long until opportunities came knocking for the balikbayan. Armed with a new zest for life, Rhian would become busy in the second half of 2019 for a variety of engagements: guestings, a telenovela in the works, and the chance to reach more audiences on digital. It was also before Christmas that she finally made public her relationship with boyfriend Amit Borsuk whom she had been seeing since the start of the 2019. On top of these, she started work on a new album, writing her own material and singing each track, too. She also hinted at an opportunity in fashion retail but was not at liberty to give more details just yet.

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COVID-19 has put most of these things on the backburner—a fact she has accepted—but she has also been building on those she can control. Right here, right now, there’s no better evidence of her reemergence than in the quality of her personal relationships, her effort to keep audiences entertained and inspired throughout the lockdown in her own (digital) way, and the glow-up, which we all should all work on ourselves (that is not at all related to a skincare or workout regimen).

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“Before, I used to really be so nitpicky about something looking loose or something poking out and I would have so much self-hate because of it,” she admits. “But after I had come back from New York, I was like, ‘Girl, you looove yourself.’”

She continues, “On a beach trip that I took after that, being in a swimsuit and having rolls—I didn’t have any abs or whatever—I’ll be like, ‘So?’. Ang sarap lang. For now, though, stay home, wear pajamas the whole day, miss one shower! Brush your teeth, though; it won’t make you feel good if you don’t brush your teeth.”


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Produced by Maura Rodriguez

Photographed by Koji Arboleda

Art Directed by Bacs Arcebal

Co-produced by Nicole Cruz

Fashion Direction and Styling by Yanna Lopez

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Makeup by Sylvina Lopez

Hair by Isabel Escobal

Nails by Posh Nails

Words by Owen Maddela

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