Jenine Desiderio on ‘Saigon’ and style
West End musical “Miss Saigon” alumna Jenine Desiderio lost her original Kim costume when she had it copied by a local dressmaker. “I got so busy, I couldn’t get it back until she closed shop,” Jenine told Living Stars during a visit to her home in San Juan, Manila.
Luckily, Jenine has enough “Saigon” memorabilia, like a bikini that she wore as the hardened bar girl Gigi and the leopard-print bikini she donned as Yvette. “The producers let us bring home our costumes, which had our names and their designers’ [names] on them. They’re souvenirs of my years in London,” she said.
Jenine lived in Dubai for a year before “Miss Saigon” and she has lots of belly-dancing costumes in her closet. “I became extremely interested in the culture. In the 1980s, modern music was played in clubs but, sometimes, the DJ injected local sounds and people really grooved to them. That’s how I got interested in belly dancing.”
Over a decade later in Manila, a “bored and restless” Jenine formed a belly dancing class with a friend. “We hired a teacher and assembled a class of 10. The number grew to 20 and then 30,” she recalled. “I started to incorporate this in my acts. It was good to combine two things that I loved very much—singing and belly dancing.”
Jenine shared with us what she knew of the traditional and ritualistic dance. “The practice helps women prepare for childbirth. There was a time when dancers were allowed to show only their bellies. They wear ‘skorts’ or long pants and veils. They were prohibited from making eye contact with the audience. But a lot has changed.”
Her last belly dance show was in November 2012, and she would like to do more. “I’ve been occupied with my daughter lately,” said the mom of teen star Janella Salvador, who played Nikki in the defunct top-rating morning drama series “Be Careful With My Heart.” Jenine also has a 3-year-old son, Russell.
Janella is 16, Jenine said, and has become more independent when it came to shopping for clothes. “She has found a style of her own. Only three or four years ago, I did all the shopping for her. Now, I give her freedom. I’m quite proud of her choices. I guess she learned from me,” she quipped.
“This is a pair of skorts—as in, skirt and shorts. In traditional belly dancing, women were not allowed to expose their legs. That’s why harem pants were created. They wore headdresses, too, with veils to hide their faces. It takes up to four weeks to make a set of costumes.”
Jenine is loyal to only two brands of perfume—Flowers by Kenzo and Glow by JLo.
“This pair reminds me of the Disney character Jessica Rabbit. I’ve had this since 1993 and wear them up till now,” she said of her Jean Paul Gaultier leather boots. “The leather is in good condition still. It has traveled the world with me and has been featured in a lot of my photo shoots.”
Jenine’s other pair of boots, purchased in London, is 24 years old. “It was my everyday pair in London, perfect with leggings or skirts and a trench coat in winter; and with denim shorts or a dress and jacket in spring or fall.”
Now, spending most of her time driving her working teenaged daughter around Manila, Jenine has taken to flat shoes or sandals. “I drive a lot. I always have sandals or ballet flats in the car.”
None of her black purses lasted three years, but Jenine’s Liz Claiborne has survived eight. “It’s my oldest purse. Black is very basic,” said Jenine. But her current favorite is a Burberry. “I also have a Chanel, but I like this one better.”
Jenine isn’t so much into accessories and often wears simple diamond studs. “The necklace that comes with these studs is tangled up inside the box,” she said.
Jenine wore a colorful crystal charm bracelet during the interview, a present from a friend who swears by the “power” of crystals. “To me, they are just beads. Goodness has to come from within you.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.