Maine Mendoza On Independence: 'You fight for the things that you love'

The actress-host opens up about life and love in her first-ever Spotlight feature.

There's no other word for it—Maine Mendoza is ~*glowing*~. She lights up the room from the moment she steps foot in the studio, eyes sparkling and funny quips at the ready. She gamely poses with the props that the Cosmo team prepared, cracking jokes about the lemons, oranges, and "market bag" in between camera clicks. It's a bright contrast with the effortlessly cool vibe she exudes in the photos, but it's no surprise—this is Maine after all.

This is the Maine who took showbiz by storm in 2015 with the Dubsmash videos that started it all. This is the Maine who charmed the country as one-half of the AlDub phenomenon that no one saw coming. This is the Maine who stayed professional and true to herself through all the nasty rumors and unfair expectations.

This is Maine at 24: talented, grounded, and radiant.

On working with Alden: "Parang normal hosts na lang kami interacting with each other. Natanggal na ang kilig, ang asaran."

Finding Her Own Path

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Breaking off from her love team with Alden Richards, Maine took her first step as a solo artist last year with the comedy show Daddy's Gurl. As the titular character, she has TV dad Vic Sotto by her side. It's their fifth project as a father-daughter tandem, so they have each other's rhythms down pat. "Nasanay na rin. Nakakatuwa kasi tapos na ang awkward stage." Considering this is the fifth time he's playing her dad, Maine finds it funny that she sometimes gets confused by his characters. "Minsan natatawag ko siyang Tatang, minsan Mr. Boom, minsan Bossing."

Without her love team partner of three years, Maine naturally went through some adjustments. "Positive adjustments naman. Nothing I couldn't handle. Nothing major, slight lang." Because despite the notion that AlDub was joined at the hip during their heyday, Maine says they were working on individual projects about half the time. "So when it comes to photo shoots and filming, hindi naman ganoon kalaki ang adjustment."

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Perhaps the main adjustment is the public perception of the two on Eat Bulaga's "Kalyeserye" now that they're no longer providing "everyday kilig" on the noontime show. "Parang normal hosts na lang kami interacting with each other. Natanggal na ang kilig, ang asaran. 'Yon lang siguro ang naging adjustment not just for me but for other people as well, especially the fans. Medyo awkward siguro for them to see us on screen na magkasama in the same frame, but not really interacting or nagpapakilig. Biruan na lang ngayon."

Work-Life Balance

On top of her commitments with Eat Bulaga and Daddy's Gurl, Maine has exciting projects coming up like her debut album. The last thing she wants is to present a "half-baked" album to fans, so this project is still cooking. There's also her second MAC collab coming out next year, a new lipstick shade that is a "good, bold change" from her first lippie.

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On independence: "You fight for the things that you love even if it means going through it by yourself [or with] the person that you love."

Despite other top-secret big projects in the pipeline, Maine doesn't lose sight of what's important: A healthy work-life balance. "I know how to balance my personal life and career and alam din ng management ko. I talked to them before kung puwedeng i-balanse natin ang schedule ko. Parang not too much work in a week, parang maglagay ng two to three free days para makapag-unwind lang. Nag-agree naman sila doon kasi wala naman kaming hinahabol. Puwede namang i-adjust."

Maine says, "Very flexible naman ang schedule ko. Never naman ako naubusan ng time for myself, and when I ask management, they give it to me naman. Hindi naman nila pinagkakait ang personal time ko."

What does she do with her hard-earned free time? Rest, sleep, and stream shows. If it's a work-free afternoon, Maine says, "I stay home. Bihira lang ako lumabas. Mas gusto kong mag-catch up na lang ng sleep and rest." A whole weekend? "I go home to Bulacan to be with my family. Minsan I hang out with my friends. Most of the time sa houses lang nila. We don't really go out—simple lang. My family and friends come visit me in Manila, too." When she does go out with them, Maine is all for an adrenaline rush. They go kart racing or VR (virtual reality) gaming. "Papatay ka ng zombies, sobrang fun!"

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Love In All Its Forms

As of this writing, Maine has had not one, not two, but six celebrations for her 24th birthday. She has been on the receiving end of countless greetings since her birthday on March 3, but there's arguably none more striking than Arjo Atayde's Instagram post. "My reason for being. Happy birthday to my main," the actor posted right after Maine revealed they are dating in a blog post.

On love: "It's give and take all the time. Hindi puwedeng give lang nang give, hindi rin puwedeng take lang nang take."

The confirmation reverberated across the fandom. It was a *big deal* considering the Filipino fervor for shipping love teams, particularly this one. But when you bring it back to Maine as the person behind the actress, behind the TV persona, behind the record-breaking love team, this unprecedented move lines up with how she defines independence at 24. Without going into specifics, Maine says, "Independence, for me, is being able to choose and do what you want, what makes you happy, and what you think is right, even if it means standing up for it or fighting for it alone. You fight for the things that you love even if it means going through it by yourself [or with] the person that you love."

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Without naming anyone specific, Maine talks about the importance of growing with a partner. "Maganda if you grow together and explore different things. You get to learn about new things to do and new places to go to. Kasi 'pag nag-ta-travel ka or may ginagawa kang bago, you discover new things about yourself. I think it's also nice if you do it with the person that you love and trust and the person that you think you'll spend the rest of your life with. Parang it makes it all worth it—all the efforts, all the adjustments. If you really love the person, you're willing to go through such things and adjustments. It's give and take all the time. Hindi puwedeng give lang nang give, hindi rin puwedeng take lang nang take."

The sparkle in her eyes is brighter than ever as she talks about love in all its forms, and even Maine herself is aware that she's glowing. It's beautiful to see, yes, but even more amazing is how she has grown so much in the past four years or so in the brightest—and sometimes harshest—of spotlights.

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Two years ago, she told the world, Yup, I Am That Girl, in her best-selling book that detailed her #unfiltered thoughts. Now, when we ask her to describe herself at 24, she says with hard-won self-assurance, "Yup, I am that girl who is lionhearted." Exceptionally courageous or brave—sounds exactly like Maine.

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PRODUCED BY: Jacinda A. Lopez

CO-PRODUCED BY: Lily Tabanera

PHOTOGRAPHER: Shaira Luna

ART DIRECTOR: Jico Joson

ART DIRECTION ASSISTED BY: Mixi Ignacio

SHOOT COORDINATOR: Lou Ferrer

SOCIAL MEDIA: Andie Estella

SITTINGS EDITOR: Retty Contreras

HAIR: Celeste Tuviera

MAKEUP: Lala Flores

STYLING: Joy Bernardo of Stylized Studio

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