Nadine Lustre is back. Not that she was ever gone — after all, it’s hard to disappear from public consciousness when you have 11.6 million followers on Instagram, close to 230,000 followers on Twitter, and immediately gain 120,000 subscribers on YouTube just weeks after announcing your channel launch.
Yet to her legion of devoted fans who call her “President,” it can very much feel like that after Nadine slipped away to a more low-key life in Siargao during the pandemic. But even after having laid low under the spotlight, there is no denying Nadine’s appeal and star power. Having been at the Cosmo office from morning till evening of the shoot, throngs of people eagerly awaited for Nadine’s breaks, snapping photos with the actress in between shoot layouts, which she gamely obliged.
Nadine Lustre for Cosmopolitan Philippines March 2023
What’s special about Nadine is not how great she works the camera, or even how her distinct cool girl aesthetic shines through in every spread. She’s an artist and a creative in every sense of the word; an active collaborator rather than someone passively posing in front of the lens. She gives feedback on her poses and even experiments with the props given to her in order to squeeze whatever everyone can out of one shot — be it a bouquet of handpicked flowers or a medley of fruits.
Nadine’s artistic spirit is palpable, with the exciting energy of someone ready to take on the world again. And clearly, the country and the world is still hungry for whatever Nadine still has to offer. Case in point: In December, she won Best Actress at the Metro Manila Film Festival for Mikhail Red’s Deleter, the film that walked away as the biggest winner of the night. In a season filled with family-friendly hits and comedy blockbusters, the fact that Deleter, an R-rated thriller, was the highest-grossing film in last year’s MMFF run (earning a reported P234M in the box office, according to unofficial figures) is a testament that Nadine’s star power — beyond her old image of perennial rom-com leading lady and one-half of the country’s most popular love teams — continues to shine brightly.
Erratum: The original version of the article stated that Deleter was the second highest-grossing film in the 2022 MMFF; it has since been corrected to reflect the unofficial earnings.
Nadine is wearing a dress by Ish Barozzo
It has become clear that Nadine Lustre has grown beyond the confines of a love team and kilig fests that marked the early parts of her career. So in 2023, who is Nadine Lustre? “Oh man, I never know. Change is so fast. I evolve so fast. I never know what’s next. I’m always blindsided [by my own plans],” she tells Cosmo. Perhaps it’s part of being a figure with many talents; there are just so many possibilities and opportunities one can take.
True enough, the star has a lot on her plate now: After Deleter, Nadine has dived back into acting, and she’d like to focus on her music again — she has an upcoming collaboration with international record label WILD. But if there is one thing Nadine is sure about, it’s that this year is about shedding light on her advocacies and being able to help others in need.
“The 2023 Nadine is someone who’s more connected to the universe, in a way that I want to push for my advocacies [concerning] the environment, mental health, and animals as well. I just want to do something for the world. I want to start giving back,” she shares.
Nadine talks to Cosmo more about her plans for the year (including her YouTube channel), life in Siargao and slowing down, and why she’s always true to herself.
This year, Nadine is back in full force with her career — a roundabout turn from just last year when she thought she wanted to take a step back and live a more low-key existence. “[In] August or September of last year, I kind of wanted to lie low with the whole entertainment industry and just do business. But now that I’m back in it, parang I’m getting sucked into it again. This year, all I want to do is work on my career. I’m very indecisive,” she shares.
Part of her change of heart had to do with the unexpected success of Deleter, the thriller by award-winning filmmaker Mikhail Red that Nadine shares was not even supposed to be part of the MMFF lineup.
Yet just last year, Nadine was looking for more stability and started thinking about her future in the long run. Now turning 30 this year, Nadine has officially transitioned out of the sweet and teenybopper roles — and since the winds of showbiz could change course any minute, she wanted to secure her future in something more permanent.
Nadine is wearing a corset top by future is u, pearl-studded jeans by Novel Worldwide, Diamond Cross Pearl earrings by Space Skull Pixie, and sandals by Tutum
“[I wanted to] focus more on business and non-showbiz stuff because I wanted to start working on my future as well. I want something that would last a bit longer. Showbiz is good, I’ve been in the industry for a long time already. But let’s face it: we don’t know how long I’m gonna last here,” she confesses.
The star gets refreshingly honest about the changing landscape of the entertainment industry, largely fueled by digital means and social media. “The industry is changing every day. Who’s to say that [I won’t] fall off of it? There are a lot of new artists, new influencers…I was kind of afraid of not being able to adapt to this new industry. I was used to TV, [a] love team…Now everything is completely digital,” she reflects.
Then Deleter came out and dominated not just the box office but reaped awards too. When that happened, Nadine says the entire cast and production team were all “gagged” at the fact that they won. Yet this gave the actress an epiphany — maybe she wasn’t quite done with showbiz yet. “When I did Deleter, that’s when everything started flowing again. That’s when I realized, okay, maybe I should be here in this industry. Maybe I’m still good. Okay pa pala ako, I don’t have to do anything,’” she explains.
Although Nadine isn’t stepping away from the spotlight anytime soon for good, the celebrity did manage to snag headlines when she slipped away to a quieter existence during the pandemic by moving to Siargao. Here, the actress shares, is where she learned to appreciate the art of a slower life.
“The best lesson I’ve learned in Siargao is to slow down. I’ve always thought life in Manila here is too fast, everything is happening all at once. When I started staying in Siargao, that’s when I realized I can slow my life down,” she shares. It was when Nadine was living in Siargao that she realized she could get used to a more laidback and peaceful life, too — and be okay with it.
Siargao is more of an escape for Nadine these days — she would grind non-stop in Manila for three weeks or more, and then run to Siargao for her two weeks of peace. “When I’m in Manila I grind as much as I can, then I go to Siargao to breathe. That’s really my sanctuary,” she shares. Still, there are challenges. While Nadine stayed practically full-time in Siargao at the height of lockdown, with the world opening up again, she’s learning how to balance living the best of both worlds between the island and the city. “It’s a bit difficult [adjusting] to be honest. It’s like living two lives. Parang Hannah Montana,” she quips.
The laidback life in Siargao can take a while to get used to after working non-stop for weeks straight — then when it’s time to head back to Manila for work, it’s a struggle to gain back the momentum. Still, she considers being able to live between Manila and Siargao as a blessing. “Even if it’s difficult, it’s still a blessing [that] I still get to breathe. It’s one thing I really, really need in my life, especially with the kind of work I put myself into. I need days of me just breathing and not doing anything and being with nature. When I go to Siargao it’s my time to recharge and get ready to grind again.”
With the luxury of being able to enjoy the wonders of Siargao while working in Manila on a regular basis, Nadine has truly come a long way in her career. Before her face was plastered on numerous billboards, commercials, and film posters, she’d done it all — from VTRs to bit roles and yes, even a girl group and a love team.
Nadine is wearing a top, pants, and earrings by Fendi
Far from the edgy music and aesthetic she has today, Nadine was once part of a girl group called Pop Girls under Viva, before she found mainstream success through JaDine, her former love team with ex-partner James Reid. These are experiences Nadine graciously embraces. “I see [the girl group and the love team] as stepping stones. There are things that you can’t really do on your own when you’re beginning. I’m really grateful I went through the girl group and the love team,” she shares. “When the love team started it was really crazy, and I was glad that I was kind of able to share these overwhelming experiences with someone. Even with the girl group at least the pressure is divided into five. Those were really challenging times. I’m glad I went through that and I’m glad I didn’t have to do it alone,” she shares.
Yet now that she has learned a lot in this industry, Nadine can now confidently claim that she can make it on her own.
Nadine’s refreshing individuality and no-holds-barred attitude, along with the trappings of fame, have invited all sorts of comments about her life and career. Despite the hate she receives sometimes, the celeb shrugs them off — she’s too secure to care about their views.
“People are gonna have their opinions on something. When I entered the showbiz industry that was one thing that I had accepted… When you’re in the industry you have to be ok with that. Be okay with it, as long as you know yourself, you know your worth, and you know how to drown out the noise.”
Yet the noise and outside pressure can get too loud, Nadine admits — and when one starts listening to it, it can make them lose track of who they are.
The star shares that she learned this the hard way — working a grueling schedule while shooting a teleserye and back-to-back endorsements and events took a toll on her mental health. “You don’t get enough sleep, you don’t get to play much…It was really difficult for me because I was under a lot of pressure. At the same time I kind of lost myself, because when you’re super overworked, eventually, you become a clutterhead — you don’t know what’s up anymore, you don’t know what you want. You kind of lose track of who you are as a person, especially if you let the noise be louder than you. I got really depressed and I wasn’t really sleeping,” she shares.
Nadine overcame her struggles by braving through them and facing them head-on. “With things like that, you shouldn’t run away from it, because that’s the only way you’re gonna go through it. A lot of it was just swallowing that pain and hardness, all of that pressure. There’s really no way around it, all of these issues. You really have to deal with them.”
The actress got through that difficult time in her life by dedicating herself to self-love and by surrounding herself with a good support system. These helped psych her up. “I’d always talk to myself before. Even if things were difficult, even if I was tired, I had to tell myself, ‘Hey you got this. You can do it.’ It was a lot of that.”
Yet Nadine’s optimistic nature and courage to be herself helped her overcome that period in her life. “[There are] so many things that happened in my life where I almost gave up. But for some reason, I always had that glimmer of hope. My name means hope. I’ve always had that fearlessness and I was always a rebel. Not the cliché rebel you see in the movies, but I always liked doing what people told me not to do. What made me who I am today was going the other way,” she shares.
A rebel at heart, Nadine is known as one of the most authentic celebrities today — which has earned her a legion of fans who call her “President” for her confident and outspoken nature.
Nadine shares that she now enjoys the trust her agency, Viva, as well as brands and other collaborators, give her in letting her stay true to herself and her brand. “I guess it’s because I’ve put in so much of the work already. People like the stuff that I’m doing. It’s important for me that brands trust my branding. They’re not trying to alter who I am, and that’s what I want. Before kasi it got to a point that when I do endorsements, they really tried to change my image, which is something that I would never agree to anymore,” she explains.
Yet the journey to get to where she is today was not smooth-sailing, sharing that it took her a lot of “yeses” before she had the courage to say “no.”
It’s her refusal to be stuck in a mold or stereotype that has earned her fans who readily call her “President.” And while she admits to finding it weird before, she has grown to love it now. “I find it fun and very flattering, just because it makes me really happy that people appreciate me for who I really am, and not for who they think I am. I’m very outspoken, I say what’s on my mind, I do things that I want to do. I don’t really follow a mold anymore. For people to kind of celebrate that personality of mine is something that I’m grateful for. Not everyone can do that. Not everyone can say whatever the f**k they want on Twitter, and I’m very lucky. I don’t know how it got to that, I don’t know why people like it, but I guess people want to see something real, but that’s something I strive to be,” she explains.
Part of this authenticity means standing up for what she believes in — and Nadine is passionate about her causes for the environment, mental health, and animals. “I like standing up for what I believe in because I know it’s for the good of everyone. I just want to see the world become a better place, and whatever I can contribute I will,” she shares.
Nadine shares she is a huge empath — she tears up at the sight of someone struggling online or a photo of a forest being destroyed, sharing, “It breaks my heart in a different way.” Seeing the world and other people suffering makes her feel sad. Nadine knows it sounds cliché for her as a celebrity to want the world to be a better place, but it’s all she genuinely wants. “I see everyone else and I see the world as myself. Wanting that for the whole world, it means wanting it for myself also. With that selflessness comes self-love,” she explains.
This is why Nadine does what she can — starting with her YouTube channel. Nadine is a passionate nature lover who has developed a deeper connection with the environment. “How we treat everything in this world is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. Every time we would hike, it would make me feel bad when I'd see trash up in the mountains. I would pick it up and throw it at the end of the hike. The world doesn’t really deserve that from us. We’ve been living on this planet for so long now, it gives us all the resources we need, giving us a place to stay. I just wanted to give something back in my own way,” she shares.
Nadine is wearing a black gown by Lauren Vito
The actress is focused on spreading awareness — she’s working with the 88K trees campaign with For the Future, MAD Travel, and Bioten, which aims to reforest the Yangil forest in Zambales with 88,000 trees, where the indigenous Yangil tribe lives.
Nadine is also focused on linking up with other causes and groups to help spread awareness and share the word, as there is so much to be done for the environment and for animal welfare.
The actress is also committed to helping make mental health services cheaper and more accessible to the public. She is working on a mental health platform called Mind You, and wants to help destigmatize mental health by sharing her struggles on her YouTube channel.
And when it comes to her foray into YouTube, the actress is preparing to get even more real. “I’m actually willing to show even the non-glamorous side of things. What I also wanted to do more of is to get in touch with my inner child. Now that I’m turning 30, maybe it’s something I’m comfortable with sharing. It’s something really exciting because I’ve been such a closed person. I’m ready to open that door a little bit more.”
Nadine believes that if being real could help inspire someone, then that’s all she wants to achieve. “Authenticity is freedom,” she says. And we couldn’t agree more.
PRODUCED BY: Ira Nopuente, Andie Estella
CO-PRODUCED BY: Patricia Melliza
ASSISTED BY: Cass Lazaro
PHOTOGRAPHY: Renzo Navarro, assisted by JV Rabano and Alexis Wang
ART DIRECTION: Pau Moyano
SET STYLIST: Studio Tatin
STYLING: Joanna Garcia, assisted by Kai Chavez
HAIR BY: Paul Nebres
MAKEUP BY: Jelly Eugenio
WORDS BY: Sam Beltran