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Jasmine Curtis-Smith: 'Learn to live with that one nasty comment'

Jasmine knows that you can never please everyone—and you shouldn't have to.

'I'll never run out of doubts and struggles. No one ever will.'

As a flurry of stylists, hair and makeup artists, and the rest of the team arrive at our shoot location with bags and racks in tow, Jasmine Curtis-Smith quietly enters the scene. It's a place that's familiar to her—the home of a Cosmo staff member who happens to be a dear friend of hers from college. "Remember I was always the quiet one in our group na pasulpot-sulpot lang?" the 24-year-old reminisces. After warm hellos with the rest of the team, she excuses herself to move her car—she drove herself—to make way for another vehicle. These days, Jasmine does everything on her own.

Independent living is one of the most difficult yet rewarding attempts at adulthood. It's a rite of passage that calls for cake and confetti and the whole shebang. But for reasons that only make sense to anonymous bullies, it led to one of the darkest times in Jasmine's life last year, when the internet shamed her for her weight loss. It was, she explained, because of the rapid transition from having household help for the past 23 years to doing everything herself. "I had no helper and no driver. I was cooking for myself, cleaning my apartment, and taking care of my two dogs on top of very long work hours. It was just a lot of stress on my body."

By the time it was her sister Anne's destination wedding, Jasmine was also in charge of shipping the giveaways to New Zealand and taking care of the wedding party's flight details. "Hello, hindi rin naman madali 'yon! When the wedding was over, that was when all the bashing hit me."

Her voice, an octave or two higher as she expressed her exasperation with body shamers, becomes smaller as she recalls the accusations of anorexia.

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"I was really depressed. I would cry every night. I tried to eat more and not do any physical activities so as to not burn any calories. But the fact was that I couldn't do anything about my body last year."

Her voice growing steady and assured, she says, "I wasn't anorexic. I am not anorexic. The doctors have seen me; I'm fine. It's just that sanay kayong chubby yung mukha ko. Sanay kayong may laman yung cheeks ko. But you know, I'm frigging 24 now. Magulat kayo kung walang nagbago sa katawan ko from when I was 16, right?"

She adds, "I tried to compensate for all the hurt I was feeling by replying to their assumptions. I felt like hindi dapat hayaan yung mga taong mag-comment nang gano'n. But it didn't do any good for me or the internet for that matter. My body ended up getting even more attention because of it."

Jasmine admits, "You get caught up e. You know how they say 'nakain na ng sistema?' To a point, that was what happened—nakain ako ng sistema ng online world because of the bashing." What helped, she says, were her support system and two books in particular. "It haunted me until earlier this year when I started reading The Power of Habit. It got me thinking, ano ba, why do I keep thinking so low of myself just because people are commenting on my weight? That book and another one called A Life Less Stressed helped me form this self-love that I didn't think I'd get from those books."

In a world where the slightest weight loss or weight gain, or the slightest hint of humanity for that matter, can be fodder for cruel bullies, Jasmine knows that you can never please everyone—and you shouldn't have to. "People bash the smallest things. There was one photo I posted, yung ugat sa paa ko, putok na putok. I was thinking, shit, should I edit it pa? But I was like, screw it, man! If you see me in person, you'll see the frigging vein."

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"You just learn to live with that one nasty comment. It still sucks, of course. It's a struggle to figure things out, but it will all work out eventually. You just need to prioritize your well-being and have a good support system."

The Big Picture

Another internal battle won, the actress marches forward with a move to GMA Network plus two films coming out this year. In the horror film Maledicto, she steps into the role of Sister Barbara, a nun who can see spirits. Sister Barbara is looking into the case of a young woman, who she believes to be more than just another lost cause. Together with the "self-centered," science-driven, potty-mouthed priest played by Tom Rodriguez, she sets out to uncover the truth, even as the priest undermines her with nicknames like "Sister Barbie." "Maledicto is close to home in terms of Philippine folklore, but we want to be more forward and frank with our dialogue compared to the usual nun-and-priest relationship we see onscreen."

Maledicto is a special case for Jasmine, one of the rare projects she accepted before reading the script. "I trust Direk Mark Meily, who I've worked with, as well as Unitel Productions. Plus, it's under Fox Philippines—it was almost a no-brainer to accept the role. The film is also part of Fox's international calendar. Hindi ba nakakakilig lang to hear that?"

With Maledicto currently filming, Jasmine's film project with JC de Vera, General Admission, is in post-production. The satirical dark dramedy revolves around her character, Katya, a member of a sexy girl group. "A scandal arises from her having menstruation. 'Di ba, of all things, something as normal as menstruation can cause a scandal? It's a play on the smaller things in life that the industry magnifies. It's about how stories never end in the world of showbiz—it just keeps developing."

With a string of interesting characters like these, as well as her critically acclaimed and crowd favorite roles in Siargao, Baka Bukas, and I'm Drunk I Love You, it's clear that Jasmine knows what she wants and how to get it. "The way I choose projects ties in with personal relations, but for the most part, I study the script. For me, you've got to nitpick and study the material. Para kang nag-te-test. If there's something that I don't understand, I ask the director. Kung kampante ako sa sagot niya, then I go ahead with the project. Otherwise, I keep asking. If the director entertains my questions, then I know he or she is really interested in getting me. I want to work with directors who are willing to take that step further and share their vision of the story with their actors."

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Shifting in her seat, gearing up to talk about something she is clearly passionate about, she says, "Napapagod na kasi ako to see the same love story over and over again with the same actors. Or it might be different actors, or hindi na mayaman yung isang character at pantay na sila sa buhay, but it's essentially the same recycled script. There are so many other stories that can be told. Like Baka Bukas—yes, there's a love story in it, but it's really the story of one character. That's what I look for in any script: Anong bago diyan?" A small pause, then she continues:

"Ayaw mo kasing pagtawanan ka. In the end, work mo 'yan."

Don't get her wrong, though—Jasmine knows all too well about the delicate balance between pursuing your passion and putting food on the table. "I don't want to sound like balewala ang pera. You also have to choose kung saan magiging masaya ang bank account mo. But at the end of the day, kung may talent ka at sipag, ang pera lalapit at lalapit sa'yo. Or you find a way. You know how people say you have to find a balance between your passion and your moneymaker? If TV is where I'm going to hustle and get my earnings from, I want to save a little bit of film for myself. Sometimes it will be a money-generating movie, but I'm hoping to lock films down for passion projects."

Sharing more of the big picture in her mind, she says, "Kailangan mong maging matalino kasi sayang ang pagod, sayang ang oras. Kailangan mong maging matalino—sige, naglabas ka nga ng project, pangit naman. Pinagtawanan naman. Tapos flop pa. O, e kumita ka nga, ang pangit naman ng pinagkakitaan mo. I want to choose projects that I will be proud to show my grandchildren and that they will be proud to show their grandchildren and so on."

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Real Love Baby

Three years ago, upon this writer's request for a project under Summit Books, Jasmine wrote a letter to herself about love. Her eyes light up as she hears her own words from what feels like a lifetime ago:

"Love is a work of art. There has to be grace in your attempts, persistence in seeing its different perspectives, and consistency for it to become a masterpiece."

"Omigod, yes! I'm so happy I agree with my past self," she says. "If you don't have grace when you feel like it's falling apart, how can you approach someone in a way that they won't be intimidated or overwhelmed? How can you understand a person if you're not persistent?" Her eyes full on sparkling at this point, she says, "Consistent siya e! Consistent siya! You know, even if we fight, he's still the same person at the end of the day." He is her boyfriend, entrepreneur Jeff Ortega. "Ako din, I have to bring all those things to the table. I think that's why we work so well together."

Just this month, Jasmine and Jeff added the Maldives to their long list of couple travels. Traveling is a crucial, almost make-or-break step for couples, as it brings out different sides of one's personality. What makes her and Jeff great travel buddies? "We know when we're pushing each other's limits, and we pull back when we've reached it." For instance, Jasmine is a punctual person. "He knows when I'm agitated with time. I'm all, 'We're going to be late, let's go, let's go, let's go.' As for me, I can see when I'm being too uptight. I see in his face 'pag pikon na siya!"

Just like any couple, it was something they had to work on. "I used to panic inside and not say anything. Then I'll lash out at him—'E late na e!' He'll be like, 'Whoa, sorry I didn't know!'" She recalls, "Hirap kami to talk in the beginning. We definitely had to learn that. He's not a very vocal person when it comes to his emotions, but he's learned so well how to communicate. As for me, I've learned to share my problems and not lash out. Kunwari naiinis ako, I'll stay quiet imbes na isuksok ko pa sa kanya yung mali niya. I'll sit back and he'll see me and ask what's wrong. Then I'll unravel na."

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"People say all the time that we seem really good together. Happy lang kami lagi on Instagram, puro kain lang. But really, we fight every day! That's normal. There's nothing wrong with that. It's because every day we learn something new about each other. I think it gets harder to accept that new idea of a person every day because you're used to what's already in front of you—your understanding of that person." 

Now if she could write another letter to herself, Jasmine says, "Instead of heartaches, now it's bank account aches—charot! Now it's sustaining what I have and building on it… I feel like I'll never run out of doubts and struggles. No one ever will. But you always find your core again. You always find what is happiness and success for you regardless of all the noise and pain. I did it in 2015. I just went through it again, and now I’m rising back up."

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ART DIRECTION & PHOTOGRAPHY: Jico Joson

ART DIRECTION ASSISTED BY: Mixi Ignacio

PRODUCED BY: Jacinda A. Lopez

SHOOT COORDINATION: Lou Ferrer

SOCIAL MEDIA: Andie Estella

STYLING:  Pam Quinones, Maita Baello, and Leanne Ledesma of Qurator Studio.

HAIR: Suyen Salazar

MAKEUP: Anthea Bueno

SET & PROP STYLING: Kamila Garcia

VIDEO SHOT BY:  Pam Carlota and Sam Navalta

VIDEO EDITED BY:  Pam Carlota

Special thanks to the Ferrer family. 

On Jasmine:

  • Suit and Trousers: Carl Jan Cruz
  • Top: Topshop, Skirt: Louis Vuitton
  • Active Wear: Versus available at Distinqt
  • Hoodie Sweatshirt: Chiara Ferragni available at Distinqt, Jumper: Mango