Bela Padilla Owns Her Multiple Narratives
Bela Padilla owns her multiple narratives
The term “nasty” has its negative connotations. For years, it’s been linked to words like “distasteful,” “foul” and “unpleasant.” These are, after all, parts of its dictionary definition—and we aren’t here to contest that. But when you put the word “woman” after it, they form a term that has become the battle cry of and is now a movement for women empowerment.
The Nasty Woman, if you haven’t met her, lives by her own definition of herself, is unafraid to step up or step away when the need arises, is strong but knows how to be gentle, is curious and humble enough to admit she doesn’t have all the answers. This month (and every month), she is our hero. But in case you need a little more of an example, if you want to understand her a little deeper, let us introduce you to the multiple sides of Bela Padilla.
Bela Padilla first entered the entertainment business when she was fresh out of high school at the age of 16. She remembers that time and calls herself naive; barely knowing the world outside of school and home. And yet, quite quickly, she was thrust into auditions, makeup chairs and dressing rooms. There were adults around her telling her how to speak, walk, dress, wear her hair, eat and present herself—a little overwhelming for someone who couldn’t even legally make her own decisions.
“I suddenly had to change myself,” she tells us. “And as they kept telling me to change myself, I think I kept believing that I should stay the same.” Bela, even with multiple individuals expressing their authority and expertise, knew where she had to plant her roots. She decided to put her faith in herself, her parents and the friends whom she grew up with.
A decade in this career now and Bela still holds these relationships in pretty high regard. When we ask if there’s anything about her past that she’d rather not have presented to the public, she surprisingly says no; there’s nothing that she has to hide. Instead, she tells us she wants to keep old conversations private, not for their risque topics or embarrassing content, but just because they helped shape who she is today. “[They’re] a part of my life [that] I want to keep forever to myself,” she explains.
Nowadays, Bela admits she’s a pretty open book, someone who’s dedicated most of her time to the work entrusted to her. And while she doesn’t recommend it for everyone, it’s paid off in terms of the stories she’s able to tell and the characters she’s had the privilege to explore. She tells us, “This is where I want to be. Now, I get to do the roles I’ve always dreamed of; there’s nothing more now that I want to do. Everything that comes along now is just a bonus for me.”
“I will fix myself every time there is something wrong”
Despite all this and all the people she’s helped throughout her career—Bela’s no stranger to the occasional, “Your character helped me cope with what I was going though at the time”—she humbly admits she doesn’t quite think she’s “made it.” Her career, by anyone’s standard, is something to be proud of, but a stellar resume isn’t the only definition of success.
“I think I will ‘make it’ when I go on the perfect date one day,” she explains. “And that will eventually lead to a family, hopefully with many children and many grandchildren.” There’s a life in her future of days filled at home, eating carbs without restriction and being surrounded by family.
We finish this topic when she says that this career is only a portion of her and, while she fully admits not having worked on the different aspects of it just yet, they will eventually come to life. It’s at this point that Bela jokes with us, telling us that maybe we’ll sit down with her in another 30 years and she can finally tell us the story of how she made it.
But until we get to meet 58-year-old Bela, we still have the multihyphenate churning out film after film, delivering moving performance after moving performance (who can forget “I made you an ideal man, kaya ayaw kong masira ka?”)—not that everyone is a fan, of course. Like every other human in the world, Bela’s had her share of haters.
And when she has her moments, when the world slows down a little and the lights dim, she converses with fans and critics like. You see, she’s a firm believer that no one should be handing out hate like it’s a currency they own. “No one has the right or reason to attack anyone or anything on this planet,” she tells us, her voice dripping with seriousness. “We have no right to.”
Videography and editing MV Isip
But does this mean that there’s no room to say anything, no room to try and help open the minds of the people around you, especially when you have the attention of millions? As Bela explains it, there’s a lot of noise in the world as it is, and people need to understand that they must earn the right to speak up sometimes.
“I’m very conscious about what I say,” she tells us. “I’m very conscious of not hurting people when I speak up.”
That said, Bela does speak up; her Twitter is full of posts and reposts regarding issues that she believes in or fights for. The trick she uses, which everyone should adopt, is to actually think before opening her mouth or hitting “share” on her social media channels. It’s a pretty easy practice; everyone should learn how to pick their battles.
When we ask Bela if she’s ever uttered anything out loud that she, at any point, wanted to ever take back, she says no. She’s careful, thoughtful, honest. Who wouldn’t want to be able to say the same thing about themselves?
Bela has come a long way since that time her career was launched with Star Magic Batch 15, alongside the likes of Jessy Mendiola and Jon Avila. She’s been called names, her body and her face have been dissected, her work has been criticized at length—and it hasn’t stopped. One of the bigger reasons she’s been able to keep her head above water is that she allows herself the time and place to still feel like herself.
At the time we sit down with her, Bela just came back from shooting in South Korea. Then, on an almost immediate work trip to La Union, she let herself sit down by the water and let the waves crash onto her legs. She describes having a soundtrack playing in her head to calm her down.
“When life gets a bit too much for me, I actively do something to fix that. I don’t like wallowing in sadness,” she says. “I will fix myself every time there is something wrong. So if you ask me how I am now, today, Bela is fixed.”
For this and many other reasons, Bela’s confident when she tells us that she’s proud of what she’s done and who she’s become. She remembers those moments when she was still trying to get her foot in the door, going on auditions she was scared to screen for, wearing clothes that didn’t reflect her more laid-back personal style, doing what she had to do to get to where she wanted to go to.
So what’s next on the agenda?
“I hope one day to label myself as a Nasty Woman,” she tells us as our interview turns its final corner. “I’m probably not there yet, but I do want to make a change that would affect a lot of people’s lives.”
She says, again, that she is much more than her career and her roles, her characters and the words she’s penned. “At the end of the day, I’m still Bela. As myself, what can I personally do?” At only 28 years old, it’s easy to understand that Bela’s still figuring this part out.
After all, it takes so little—like marrying one word to another—to create something else entirely. What more when a woman decides to add a little bit more to her repertoire?
Art and Art Direction Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Adie Pieraz
Beauty Direction Cessi Treñas
Makeup Justine Navato
Hair JA Feliciano
BTS Photography Matthew Ian Fetalver
Location The Bulb Studios