Stop Calling Heart Evangelista a Trophy Wife

She has never been and will never be defined by a man and the status of their marriage.

Social media is rife with gossip that Heart Evangelista and Senator Chiz Escudero have broken up after tying the knot in 2015—pointing to blind items and cryptic posts online as shaky proof. 

While the couple has not confirmed whether or not this is true, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning all the *possibilities* about why the couple allegedly called it quits, with all kinds of theories on who was most likely at fault.

Full stop: Getting your personal life dragged out in public, with people making all sorts of speculations, some of them pretty wild, is a horrible thing. While both Heart and Chiz are public figures, that doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to their own privacy, and ~even if~ the news were true, that just makes it worse. Imagine going through possibly the worst heartbreak with strangers passing judgment as if they knew every detail of your life.

Among one of the many hot and problematic takes on the rumored separation is the finger-blaming on Heart, even so far as calling her a “trophy wife” for Sen. Chiz.

But just what exactly is a trophy wife? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary simply defines a trophy wife as this (while noting it as a disapproving term):

“an attractive young woman who is married to an older successful man.”

Urban Dictionary, meanwhile, offers a more colorful description of the term:

“A young, attractive woman married to an older, more powerful man.

“His role in the relationship is to be her sugar daddy and provide her with power and material wealth. Hers, beyond providing sex, is to remind others that he is powerful or rich enough to be desirable to such a woman despite his age and thus to serve as a marker of this status — hence the ‘trophy’ part.”

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Basically, a trophy wife is a derogatory term used to look down on certain women in a marriage who are usually young and beautiful, but with nothing else to offer aside from her looks—hence, she's perceived as a shiny “trophy” a husband flaunts and parades around to others. It’s the kind of label people say in hushed whispers, or in Heart’s case, blatant ridicule, in passing judgment on a person they hardly know.

Before anyone else interjects, let’s do a quick fact check: Yes, Heart is younger than Chiz—she is 37 to his 52 years of age. Yes, she’s beautiful—her long list of movies, television shows, and numerous magazine features, including covers she’s done, is more than enough proof of her style and stunning looks.

While Heart may live a glamorous lifestyle and image, in part fueled by her career as one of the Philippines’ top celebrities and as a rising international fashion star, that does not give anyone the right to reduce her entire being and character to simply what people see on the outside. Just because she’s younger and attractive—and married to a senator, a person with a position of power, no less—doesn't mean she serves as a mere trophy for Chiz to show off like a shiny new toy. Being labeled a "trophy wife" is an extreme disservice to Heart Evangelista, the superstar and talented multi-hyphenate who has worked since she was 13 years old, and even to her marriage with the senator.

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The same is true for women everywhere: It is extremely disrespectful to reduce them to mere “trophy wives.” This is yet another showcase of sexism rearing its ugly head, placing its unfair double standards on women and expecting them to conform to certain expectations of how they should act in society. Men are praised, even celebrated, for dating older women, and their careers don’t seem to suffer at their expense—just look at Harry Styles dating Olivia Wilde, or French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. No one is calling them trophy boyfriends or husbands, and they are clearly at the top of their professional game.

But when a woman, who has met fame and success on her own merits and has enough accomplishments for her to rest on her laurels, meets a man who happens to be older and established in his own right and happens to fall in love, she’s suddenly reduced to her looks and youth like she has nothing to offer to the world. Not that anyone needed the reminder, but Heart has been a top-billing actress in both networks of ABS-CBN and GMA-7 since she started in showbiz as a teen. She has had several blockbuster movies and television shows, has had multiple sold-out exhibits as a visual artist, is the CEO of a beauty and wellness line, and has long advocated for the welfare of stray animals and aspins. And that’s not even mentioning her successful reinvention as a global style star, landing front row of several top-tier fashion shows, which she has achieved without riding on her husband’s coattails.

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By simply reducing Heart to a “trophy wife” despite all her achievements, we’re sending the wrong message to young girls who look up to her. We tell them a woman cannot define herself on her own terms, that she cannot be whatever she wants to be—she can’t be beautiful and embrace her personal style and be intelligent and of substance at the same time. We tell them a woman, no matter what she does in this world, will be reduced to her role of being a man’s partner and even the mother of his children (which Heart isn’t, and it's yet another crazy thing she is being blamed for as a woman).

Come on guys, it’s 2022: A woman can have the looks of a supermodel and the brains of a scientist at the same time. And when that woman falls in love and gets married, she’s not some man’s trophy wife; she’s simply a wife.

And while we don’t know whether the Heart-Chiz breakup rumors are true, if they are, then we hope both people receive the healing and strength they need to move forward. But truth or rumor, Heart Evangelista has never been—and will never be—defined by the status of her marriage. And neither should other women.

This story originally appeared on Cosmopolitan Philippines.

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