The glitzy yet cutthroat industry of show business dictates to aspiring artists and celebrities how they need to fit tried and tested molds to make it in the competitive field—and that once they do, they have to ceaselessly strive to assume a “mass-approved” persona to ensure longevity.
French-Filipina Solenn Heussaff, however, has proven the formula wrong, unwilling to conform any norm.
Admittedly, the 31-year-old has the face and the body that has given her instant celebrity status, but more than half a decade into her showbiz career, she is arguably more popular than ever, defying every demand that most talent agents and managers would of their wards.
As this strong and beautiful woman pursues her goals head on and on her own terms, The Sunday Times Magazine shows today how Heusaff serves as an inspiration to her fellow females, in an issue toasting the empowered Filipina.
More than just a Fil-foreigner
Born to a Filipina mother and a French father of Breton descent, Heussaff carries strong features that are not hard to miss in a crowd. These are the same features that landed her modeling jobs in and outside the country during her teenage years, both in and outside the Philippines, marking the early days of her public life.
With her looks, her pedigree and the kind of education her parents have afforded her (Heussaff completed her secondary education at the European International School of Manila; studied fashion design in Le Studio Berçot de Paris in Paris for three years; took a six-month course in body painting, basic beauty, fashion make-up and prosthetics at Ecole Fleurimont and Make Up Forever Academy), it was no surprise that industry observers labeled her an ‘It Girl’ as soon as she became visible in the social scene. It was, nonetheless, a title she profusely declined, even as her circle of best friends include fellow ‘It Girls’ Anne Curtis, Georgina Wilson, Isabelle Daza, and Liz Uy.
Beyond the socialite image, the public first took Heussaff more seriously when in 2010, she joined GMA Network’s Survivor Philippines: Celebrity Showdown, the local version of the hit US reality show. There, the feisty and tactical French-Filipina became a fan favorite, and the much talked about castaway when she made it to a third place finish. As soon as she left the island, contract after contract waited for her back in the city.
The multi-talented Huessaff signed a recording deal with MCA Universal Philippines, a movie contract with Regal Films, and a TV deal with GMA Network and GMA Artist Center.
By 2011, she was one of the busiest female celebrities in show business. On the small and big screens, Heussaff made her debut as the stereotypical leading lady to Richard Gutierrez in Captain Barbell and My Valentine Girls, respectively. She also joined the cast of the remake of the campy 1980s movie Temptation Island, and the 2011 Metro Manila Film Festival entry Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, where she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
The next several years also proved to be very productive for the actress who pursued her passion for singing as a well-accepted recording artist. She released her self-titled album that year followed by her sophomore album in 2013, titled SOS.
Eventually, Heussaff also took her acting career into more diverse paths, shedding the stereotypical balikbayan, Fil-foreigner roles initially offered to her. Her recent forays include independent productions Flotsam, a movie that highlights the surfing capital of the Philippines, La Union, and Lakbay to Love that puts the spotlight on bikers, the joy of exploring the outdoors, and the need to take care of Mother Earth.
But, the fun-loving personality did not completely veer away from romantic-comedies, as she gamely took on a role in the unique storyline of Regal Film’s 2016 Valentine offering Love is Blind opposite Derek Ramsay, and with Kiray Celis.
Even before heeding the call of TV, movies and music, the Fil-French beauty has all the while lived an artistic life by painting and designing.
Not too many people know that Heussaff has been painting since she was three years old.
In an interview for Pelicola.tv/Rogue Magazine, Heussaff revealed, “I started painting when I was three—my mother and father enrolled me under kindergarten teacher who was a Spanish painter.”
She shared that her art classes carried on until she was 21. “Since then, I have been doingit on my own just as a pastime, to relax—nothing like professional.”
But that will soon be altered as the artist is set to open her own solo exhibition entitled Our People at Pineapple Lab in Makati beginning April 8 until May 8.
In the same article, Heussaff said her favorite subjects for painting were any photo her hobbyist father took in his travels. “I just got all [my dad’s]photos from Burma and I copied everything. If I paint on my own it will end up being morbid,” she jested, pertaining to her works that exhibit dark themes.
With her background in makeup, Heussaff put her skills to test when she accepted Rogue’s challenge of body painting for their cover. The result was nothing short of spectacular via the magazine’s June 2008 issue where the stunning Joey Mead-King flaunted the Philippine flag painted by Heussaff.
Besides painting on canvass, the multi-talented celebrity also learned fashion design when she studied in Paris for college. She gained substantial experience there as a backstage dresser for fashion week, and as intern for bridal designer Fanny Liautard.
When it was time to return to the Philippines, which she considers her home, she joined designer Lulu Tan-Gan’s fashion house and quickly became an in-house designer, specifically in charge of the L’Amour Armor Collection for Tan-Gan, her mentor’s knitwear line.
In show business, Heussaff has certainly broken many stereotypes.
First, she disproved the norm that Fil-foreigners have a shelf life in the industry because they can only do so many balikbayan roles. Heussaff to this day, continues to take on projects, which, though not very commercial, always have an important message or advocacy to uphold.
“I don’t wanna have a title, I feel like have to try new things all the time, I don’t know which one I’m actually good at but for me it’s about learning, always continuously learning,” the multi-slashie told The Manila Times in one of her most recent product endorsement launches.
Secondly, Heusaff has also defied the notion that when you reach a certain age as an actress, projects will start to dwindle. At 31 in fact, she is getting more projects past what showbiz considers “the prime age.” The proof? Even before 2016 has completed its first quarter, she had already starred in two movies, as previously mentioned in Lakbay2Love and Love is Blind. Within the same time frame she has been chosen as the face of Lux Perfume Bath and L’Oreal Paris-Philippines with back-to-back launches since January.
Third, the stereotype in show business that a leading lady should be romantically involved with her leading man—or at least pretend to be—as a draw for the viewers was never acceptable for Heussaff. Case in point, the actress even accepted to star opposite her good friend Lovi Poe’s beau Rocco Nacino when they were still going out in Flotsam. And when she did accept to play leading lady to ex-boyfriend Derek Ramsay in Love is Blind, she managed to go through the promo without too much reference to their past. In fact, the public has come to appreciate the work of the actress knowing full well that she is engaged to be married to businessman Nico Bolzico, with whom she has openly lived with for two years now.
The couple will wed in a castle in France sometime in May, with the bride-to-be keeping the public interested in her love life even with the carefully chosen information she reveals.
Heussaff’s ways breaks another stereotype that celebrities are compelled to share every tiny detail of their lives to the public.
“I’m open naman, I answer questions honestly and I share what I need to share, but when it’s super private, I just don’t want to create a big fuss out of it,” she explained to The Sunday Times Magazine.
She added, she will never use her upcoming wedding or any family matters, just so people can talk about her. “It’s so cheap,” she exclaimed.
Thinking again, Heussaff said, “Baka if you’re born in show biz, I guess it’s part of the job that you really have to share. Ako, I don’t think I’m showbiz and I don’t feel like it [personal matters]is important to the people, there are bigger issues in our country.”
It could have taken The Sunday Times Magazine more than the allotted page to feature what the multi-faceted woman has been doing. She has worn too many hats and added too many feathers on her cap that we are more than convinced that Heussaff is one of the very few celebrities who can do away with the limelight and still triumph in other endeavors.
Why so. Because she knows that the glass ceiling is a thing of the past and that a woman today can be whoever she wants to be.