Andi Eigenmann Will Always Be a Star
HER LAST NAME IS EIGENMANN. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. This is the Philippines after all—home to dynasties of politics, businesses, and of course, showbiz. It is a country whose future belongs to its spoiled children, and life is almost too easy if you’re the son of $ or the daughter of XXX. You don’t have to do much but party and it’s even easier to be forever caught in a last name’s shadow. This, we are pleased to inform you, is not Andi Eigenmann’s life.
At the cover shoot alone, the monsoon did not care about last names or social stature. The weather was ruthless that day. Despite days of rain preceding our shoot, and persistent texts from everyone wondering if it would push through, we decided to go on and say to hell with the storm. Choosing a beach location with dreams of turning it into some South Pacific Hamptons did not make the rains any less forgiving. Other “celebrities” would have turned around and bitched all the way back to Manila. Not Andi.
As she talked about her life back in high school, it’s easy to see how things like storms don’t faze her much.
“I don’t know if I can say that I was popular in high school, but I can say it wasn’t my goal to be popular,” she says. “I didn’t look like those girls who aspired to be artistas. I was an athlete, I played basketball and I was a swimmer. I didn’t concern myself with how I looked.”
Perhaps being popular isn’t something to concern yourself with if your last name is Eigenmann, a name synonymous with showbiz royalty—her parents are Mark Gil and Jaclyn Jose. As with all children who were born into a legacy, expectations have always been there for Andi. At first glance, thoughts of her being an actress are almost instinctive. She admits, though, she never saw herself as such. “I’ve always considered myself as an artist. But I never saw myself as an artista.”
It’s a common trait among children with iconic parents and larger-than-life last names. They try to get out from under the familial shadows. As much as people expect them to follow in their family’s footsteps, they do try and make their own mark. Of course, there are also those who make new ones despite it all.
“I loved the arts and I was happy being an athlete but after one try at acting I was in love with it,” Andi says.
Call it fate or call it genetics, there’s no denying Andi was meant to be a star. Less than two years after her first stab at acting, she headlined a teleserye on ABS-CBN’s primetime schedule. The usual formula these things follow is to carry a budding actress into stardom by putting her in a show surrounded by the very best actors. For Andi, she was set up to act alongside none other than... herself. Yes, herself. With Agua Bendita, Andi had the daunting task of playing two roles—Agua and Bendita.
She looks back now on the biggest break she’s gotten. At this moment, she’s away from all the lights and cameras, the makeup artists, the stylists, and the handlers. Months away from her teleseryes and several movies, one in which she co-stars with, of all things, a haunted refrigerator. But that story is for another time. Right now, in our interview, she moves closer to the back of the couch, crosses her legs, and pulls her hair back into a ponytail. She finds her spot to tell her story.
“People actually thought that the project was served to me on a silver platter just because my parents are so-and-so. Not really. I worked hard for Agua Bendita and I did it on my own,” she tells me. It’s a statement of fact for anyone who dares to argue. Like she’s had to answer that every day of her life. It’s not out of some childish arrogance to disrespect her name or her parents, but from a justified pride of what she’s accomplished at such a young age.
“I loved the arts and I was happy being an athlete but after one try at acting I was in love with it.”
THERE WAS NO STOPPING ANDI from making Agua Bendita a hit. From her time as an athlete, she never let go of her competitive streak. “I didn’t force myself to be an actress, but when I got the show, I knew that I wanted to succeed. I wanted to be a good actress and I wanted people to watch it. And at first, people saw me as beautiful or sexy. That’s ne and I’m grateful for that but what I came here to do was act. I’d love for more people to tell me that I’m talented or that I’m a good actress. I don’t think I’m here to just show people my physical appearance.”
A hit show and a deluge of endorsements poised Andi to be the network’s next big star. It was right there waiting for the taking. It was almost a guarantee. But as Andi found out, almost was still a long way.
After weeks of rumors in tabloids and blind items, Andi confirmed that she was pregnant. And for a country still controlled by so-called religious truths, all eyes were on her. She became the talk of the town, not for the success she accomplished but for matters that should have been a private affair. Her plans of furthering her career were put on hold. Endorsements eventually left. And Andi, in one fell swoop, went from being the country’s newest sweetheart to its latest scandal.
“That’s when the real pressure started coming. I was about to make it to that next level of my career. I was already there. Feel na feel ko na talaga. Then I got pregnant.”
She cut herself off then; gave herself pause, to think about what she’d say next. It’s hard to put into words the last several months of uncertainty. Who could blame her? She was barely out of her teens when her life changed. Barely an adult when she got her crash-course in growing up.
It could’ve been different. She could’ve let the baby go. She could’ve continued her career and become even more successful, gotten even more endorsement deals, and starred in more projects. Maybe even had someone who had the guts to stand by her.
“I knew I had to make a choice. And I chose to take full responsibility of my pregnancy. I thought then that I couldn’t have the best of both worlds. I had to prepare myself and make myself be ready for the fact that this might be the end of my career. I’d have to find other ways to make a living and to take care and raise my daughter well.”
Andi was not the first one to bear the brunt of such a scandal. In the months surrounding her news, other starlets were also rumored to be pregnant. They didn’t say anything. Not a word. Or worse, the irresponsible men said it for them. But Andi was the first in a long, long time to take the responsibility for everything. She stood out as a true example of the modern woman.
“I didn’t hesitate in telling people that I was pregnant because it was what I decided on. I decided to go through with it and to raise a child at this age. I was just thinking, why would I hide it? If I hide it people are still going to talk about it. I’d rather be honest than hide or deny something.” And those other actresses who denied it? They’re wishing now that they had the strength—and career—of Andi.
“The thing about the pregnancy was that I learned that my acting job didn’t define who I was or who I am. I learned that showbiz and fame aren’t the only things in life. Now, even my life wasn’t just about me, that I had to live for my daughter too.”
ELLIE EIGENMANN was born on November 23, 2011. Today, she is weeks away from her first birthday. Today, her mother is making her showbiz comeback, sharing top billing with some of today’s best actors in one of primetime’s best dramas. She’s still too young to see her mom’s shows or her movies—one of which involves her mom being haunted by an evil refrigerator—again, that story is for another time. One day, she’ll grow up and see those movies. She’ll also grow up and learn how strong her mother is, what a brave soul she has, and beautiful, as she is on these very pages. She’ll know that Andi never gave up on her, and never will. And she’ll grow up with a last name she’ll always be proud of.
This article was originally published in the November 2012 issue of Esquire Philippines.