More Gypsy than Princess – KC Concepcion

Okay okay okay!!! I have to admit it, I am a fan. Actually, a solid fan. Of whom, you ask? The one and only, Sharon Cuneta. I have always admired her way back in the early ’80s and to think that after all these years, I still think of her fondly. Now, I am more impressed with her in the way she has reared her daughter, KC. You can see the effect of the way she was raised by simply listening to what she is saying. I am surprised to have the same admiration for Sharon’s daughter as I have for her. I know this is a long entry but I actually liked it and it’s a nice read. To my surprise, I also found out that she has her own blog. Visit http://kooki.multiply.com/journal

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OH, TO BE YOUNG, and to be KC Concepcion. To find yourself one night at Rue du Faubourg Saint Martin in Paris for a party celebrating Karl Lagerfeld’s new clothing line, or in Toulouse to attend your best friend Stephanie’s wedding after a bachelorette minibreak in Palma de Mallorca, basking in the Spanish sun on a leopard-print yacht. Or even in the palengke at Rue Cler on the 7th Arrondissement for the week’s supply of greens and fruits-because it’s impossible to actually do proper marketing back home, where you will most likely be mobbed by autograph-seeking and photo-op-hungry vendors. Plus, the Parisian marketplace reminds you of those Tagaytay and Baguio trips you used to go on with your cousins and grandparents when you were younger.

Such is the charmed life of KC. This early morning. a few days before she jets off to Paris to begin her last semester in school, she finds herself allhe poolside of the family mansion in Wack-Wack, lying on a sunbed, wearing a gown by Patrice Ramos-Diaz, and bronzed to perfection from head to toe. Her hair is straightened and perfectly done to look like it was drenched long enough in the pool’s water and dried by the sun, and she’s being asked by TJ-her term of endearment for Tito Jun de Leon-to flash her “most expensive smile.” She tries-even if the sun is directly in her eyes and it’s a challenge to look straight at the camera. She loves shoots like this. “Kelan ka ba naman lulublob sa pool at naka-makeup ka’t and ganda-ganda ng buhok mo?” she says with a laugh. “Kung puwede ka lang gumising sa umaga na ganito na hitsura mo.”

It’s highly likely she does wake up this beautiful, whether she’s rising from the bed of her new apartment in Paris (photos of her unmade-up self posted in her blog prove this), or waking up for a 7 am shoot after a party at home (it was her mom Sharon Cuneta’s birthday the night before).

There is something about the world 21-year old KC has built for herself in the past four years, so that she can wake up in any continent and be surrounded by things that inspire her to be beautiful, or be excited about what’s next, or nostalgic about vignettes from her childhood. Indeed, since leaving Manila at 18, Kristina Cassandra, daughter of Sharon and Gabby Concepcion, has been less and less the privileged princess people have pictured her to be.

What she’s become is a young gypsy, with her bandanna-ed hair and white cotton dresses, an old soul with a boundless enthusiasm for life.

“It’s the freedom, the independence, being able to walk around,” she says when asked what she misses most about Paris when she’s in Manila. “At yung lamig. Nakakabihis ka kasi pag malamig, eh, iba-iba yung layers mo. And yung place mismo-Paris is so beautiful. I really thank God all the time. I never thought na titira ako sa Europe, I never thought I would even survive it.”

Days later, back in Paris, in a message sent by text, she would expound, “Living here is like going to finishing school! You learn to be quieter, and people seem to be more private with things they talk about. And you get the feeling na you drop a fork and you’re in trouble!”

Her life in Paris is not just about school, but also traveling to surrounding cities, watching the opera, picking lip the latest Elle Decor or ArtTravel. having picnics by her favorite bridge. And when she’s in Manila, she’s surrounded by a community of young artists. theater actors,
writers, photographers and fashion people-and most of them have become her friends. “I’ve always liked working in this field,” she says, glancing at the cover shoot crew. “Si TJ, dami kong natutunan sa kanya about photography, even how to present yourself in front of the camera. It’s not just about being beautiful. Here, you meet the best of the best. Where else would you have that?

“These days, I’ve been really into-siguro influence na rin ito ng Paris-painting and photography, all that artsy-fartsy stuff,” KC adds. Her blog is full of whimsical drawings and photographs, heart images, and poetry both her own (in Tagalog) and Henry Miller’s (”The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”). In one entry, she writes, “So what if we all just burst into color?”

Her European sojourn has made it possible for KC to create this world so different from the one she was exposed to, growing up with two very prominent parents in the showbiz industry. And she doesn’t hate showbiz. In fact, she seems to embrace it the way she opens her arms to most things. And for a girl who isn’t even officially a regular in the entertainment scene, she handles her celebrity with stunning maturity. She knows how to anticipate a media frenzy, choosing to share photographs of her reunion with her dad in San Francisco before an entertainment editor’s DPA could smell a scoop. She didn’t want any malicious suspicions coloring a genuine effort on her part to reach out to her father. She also knows how to use her celebrity for a good cause; last year she put together an art and music jam, gathering her artist and musician friends at the Rockwell Loft for an event that raised funds for Hands-On Manila and the Virlanie Foundation.

While it is a privileged life she leads, KC likes to downplay the glamor associated with her stay in Paris. To her, it’s just like any other young independent woman’s life-except that it’s happening in the most beautiful city in the world. “Doon, ikaw lang talaga mag-isa gumagawa ng lahat, eh. Parang si Lea Salonga sa Sana Maulit Muli, where she was on the phone while she was cooking and tending to other stuff.”

She has been living alone since she arrived there in 2002, and has recently moved into her third apartment, one that’s close to her school, a cheaper but bigger flat that used to be a boutique. She used to live farther away, so that she could have a longer commute while exploring her new environment. “Every day I try to clean my house. Dati, sobrang burara ako. I don’t pick up my clothes. Kung saan ko maiwan yung gamit, doon na lang siya. These days, pakaunti-kaunti, I try to pick them up. I wake up at 10 am. My courses have varied schedules. Actually, okay yung life ko doon, sobrang simple lang na practical siya talaga: mamamalengke ka, kailangan mapuntahan mo yung mga dapat puntahan bago magsara, kailangan maluto mo na yung dinner mo before you do errands, before you pay bills.”

Stuff she never had to think about when she was still living with her mom in Manila. Despite the independence, KC says Sharon is still a major influence in many of her decisions.

“Especially when it’s something about the industry. She’s been here for three decades, and I can’t say I know more than she does. Even the tiniest things, I ask her.”

What do they usually argue about? “lba-iba. lba-iba, naku.”

“Boys?” “Not so much anymore these days. I don’t know, iba-iba. eh. Sensitive topic ‘yan, parang ayoko naman i-mention pero…” She laughs, then pauses for a while. “Siyempre, it’s just harder when our lives are magnified, di ba? I’m sure every showbiz family experiences it. You have to be extra aware even of the small things, because. anyone can do anything with your words. Ana it’s so hard because even if you mean one thing, it’s so easy to manipulate things.”

Did she ever feel that having been born to famous parents made it more difficult for her to make decisions for herself “There are people who approach me and say, ‘Sharonian pa rin ako.’ I want to say, ‘Eh bakit, tinatanong ba kita? Eh dapat lang Sharonian ka, eh pati naman ako Sharonian. And forever ako magiging Sharonion.’ It’s hard, because I guess people have high expectations. But at the same time, I get pushed. ‘Ah, ganoon pala tingin mo so akin?’ Or ‘All, oo nga, actually puwede kong gawin yun, try ko nga.’”

Hence, being sent to Paris made really-major sense in the end: It was so she could forge her own persona, away from the prying eyes of the fans and the media who had watched her mom, and who had already pegged their own concepts of what KC is and what she should be.

“And how will you change for the better if you don’t, even know who you are? Yun ang natutunan ko talaga. And I’m glad that it happened while I was still young, kesa naman may asawa na ako, that’s when I realize kung anong…” she trails off. She’s thinking of marriage this early? “Nah, I’ve always been just hyper-aware because of what happened with my mom’s life. She got married at 18. I’ve always been aware of that:”

Three months before this interview, she had met a new man in Paris. His name is Lino Cayetano, the TV director, the handsome and talented son of the late Senator Rene. “Were not in a serious relationship,” she says. “but I met him, I like him, he’s a very good guy, very interesting. He intrigues me. That’s all I can say for now. We kid her that even her taste in men seems to lean towards the creative types. There was that deep friendship she shared with Rivermaya frontman and songwriter Rico Blanco. And now Lino, who. like her, looks like a young urban hippie, with his long hair, faded jeans. slippers and ethnic wristbands.

She pauses and seems to ponder the suggestion that there could be a trend when it comes to the men she gets attached to. She laughs, and then says quietly, as if still convincing herself, “Siguro there’s something about people involved in things like art that makes them more human, Maybe they’re more sensitive about the world around them, hyper-aware about every little thing that happens.”

KC might have met her match in Lino, but romance, for now, can wait. This is, after all, her graduation year from her International Corporate Communications course. While she may be looking forward to this last episode of her Parisian adventure, she is also dreading its heartbreaking end. “I’ve been there for so long I wouldn’t know how it would be like to leave for good,” she says, a hint of sadness in her voice.

But being the KC that she’s turned out to be, she wouldn’t dwell on this little gray cloud for long. A couple of weeks after she left Manila, her blog records happy thoughts. She’s rejoicing over the acknowledged biodiversity of Philippine seas greater than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Honolulu’s reefs combined. She’s happily trying on her new LV glasses in the very unsuitable 4-degree weather, and discovering her new all-time favorite sculpture at the Louvre, a marble piece of an angel and a woman about to kiss, done in the late 1700s “The world is so rich,” says another Henry Miller quote in her blog. “simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, interesting people. Forget yourself.”

Metro Magazine
March 2007, and website: http://www.sharoncuneta.com

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