Nobody puts Jasmine Curtis-Smith in a corner
This was originally published in our October 2015 issue.
"Fight Club, Memento, and the new TV documentary The Jinx,” I text to Jasmine Curtis-Smith a day after our interview. “And check out all of David Fincher’s stuff too,” I add, considering our five-year age gap. Pessimistic about it, actually. But Jasmine doesn’t disappoint. “Ah, but of course, Fincher,” she replies with a matching shimmery heart emoji.
To be honest, I was excited to meet Jasmine. In the process of preparing for our interview, I had already found out from another of her profiles that: her dream role was a character in a psychological thriller; she has watched all episodes of the American Horror Story; and the actress she looked up to the most was not some Mandy Moore-type in A Walk to Remember—it was Jessica Lange.
“I just really love those things, you know, things that fuck with your head,” she says. “And if I do a project like that, it would be amazing. I want to play a mentally challenged role. You have to learn how they think, why they would do those things, and then you have to justify those actions.”
“Where does the fascination with all the complexity come from?” I ask, never imagining that a prepossessing starlet like her would be so allured by such convolutions. “I don’t know... I just feel like a very complex person. You know how you can tell how a person will react based on their personality? With me, I think people are always surprised by how I approach things. I’m not like one of those public figures whose next move you can already predict,” says the girl who aspires to play the deranged Rose Byrne in Wicker Park.
It’s true. The industry should actually be kind of wary of Jasmine. She’s young and on the steady rise to greatness at 21, but you can’t tame her like a marionette, or force-fit her into a mold like Play-Doh. She absolutely refuses. And her talent—in contrast to the insipid shallow who sit in primetime royalty—is pervaded with a growing profundity. Jasmine won’t sell herself to anyone, and she doesn’t need to whore around to “make it” either. “Making it” is really the least of her concerns. “Artista,” she says with a sneer. “I never thought I would be like that. And yet here I am in front of you with false lashes, coming from a shoot and then a rehearsal,” she says in mocking singsong, where we talk after a run-through of her stage play No Filter.
"I think my yearning for this craft overrules this whole need to understand that this is a business as well."
While other beauteous 21-year-olds are obsessed about how to be the next It-Girl, Jasmine isn’t afraid to drop facetious comments about the ugly parts of her work. It’s hopeful. Here is someone who has all the expected merits under her belt: the gorgeous features, the fair skin, the petite frame, the figure just starting to take its svelte shape, the budding sexuality that comes with entering adulthood, the Last Name—but she doesn’t want to be reliant on any of it. Not really. “I hate just having to have to fit in,” she says, referring to the industry’s tried-and-tested matrix. “I don’t want to be boxed in. I think that’s the biggest struggle I had to go through [in this business], kasi at one point they had to sit me down and ask, ‘What do you want to do with your career?’ And I said, ‘well I just want to see whatever comes my way and take it as it is and figure it out.’” But an artista’s selling point is usually locked down like cans of corned beef—packaged and branded before it is sold and consumed by the multitude. “They had their own image for me which I couldn’t agree with because I felt like it was just so far from who I really am. They wanted a girl in pink, with long hair. Just those two things.”
I laugh. “That’s hilarious that that’s all they wanted from you,” I say. She replies, “Well that’s the foundation. And then they build from there.” So she said no. It’s not that she meant to be a hardheaded, ungrateful millennial. She is fully aware of the trade-offs, admitting, “They wanted that image because it sells, and it’s a hit. Fair enough, I could channel that, but... it’s just not me. I can’t do that 24/7.”
Check Jasmine’s Instagram account and you get a glimpse of what her 969k followers obsessively devour each day. But if you were really a fan, you would scour for real substance. Save for maybe the picture of her dog that brings her immense joy, the majority of her Instagram photos are a series of sponsored posts, project promotions, press announcements etc., which thousands are quick to ‘like’ everyday. Look for her Tumblr account instead, which only around 50 people care to read, and this is where a different Jasmine reveals herself in beautifully cryptic raw confessions.
But I am
Of not feeling
Of covering it up when I’m there
(but) Feeling tired.
When I get home all I do
is watch series
instead of living one.
Barely even speak.
All I want is to be left alone.
She listens to her own words being read back to her with a peaceful smile. “I think when I started taping for a show, I hated the first two weeks of it. I hated the hours. I just felt bored, like no one was listening, that I wasn’t really a part of the creative process of developing my character. Like I was a robot. They treated me like a Lego piece they plug in, and say, ‘this is how you function.’ I think I just wasn’t prepared for that, and the lack of involvement in the creative process just really brought me down.”
But while she’s honest that some facets of the industry frustrates her, she is not backing out. She just knows where she stands, is adamant about her craft, and professes that her love for the art of it all overrules the whole need to understand that the industry is a business as well. She is, in fact, idealistic about being a part of the group that changes how things are being run. “Kasi diba, what you feed is what the [public] will eat. So if you keep feeding them shit, they’ll keep eating shit.”
I can tell you this with finality: Jasmine doesn’t like being told what to do. She wants her work to do the talking (not the other way around), and she just wants to have a normal life. She reminds me of this herself when I see her that next Saturday, in the dingy side streets of a Cubao disco bar, listening to the live rapping of an artist who calls himself Curtismith. (No relation. It’s supposed to be a statement of some sort. He’s pretty good.) “I do have a normal life, I just have an extraordinary job. But I want the experiences of a normal life that I sometimes have to stay away from because people are watching me. I want to learn from all of those experiences, even the bad ones. God, I don’t want to be 40 and have to face something and not know what to do.”
Jasmine Curtis-Smith just wants to live. Can we afford to let her have that?
I wanna walk to the nearest milk bar
Listening to acoustic
Pondering on things
That should probably be out of mind
I wanna sit by the window
Look out to a cloudy damp sky
Have my window open
Smell that fresh breeze and feel it
I wanna... See just how it is
To be back there
It just was.