Jessica Rodriguez on childhood abuse, career reinvention and triumph as US host
It’s been over a decade since former actress, model and talent manager Jessica Rodriguez-Bunevacz traversed the oft-controversial terrains of Philippine show biz.
Initially, moving to the United States was no picnic for her and her family, either. But, these days are relatively peaceful and exciting for Jessica, as she is currently living, as the millennials say, “her best life.”
The Los Angeles-based host of the web show “The Polished Woman,” which tackles diverse topics and is accessible via LAtalkradio.com, was recently honored for best scripted web series by the Telly Awards, a 40-year-old organization that “embraces work created for all screens.”
“This award is so important and meaningful to me,” Jessica recently told the Inquirer via email. “It took me a while to find my purpose … And to top it all, I did it in a foreign country. I’m just so glad that it was well-received by so many people here in the US. I am so proud of my brand ‘Polished Woman’ because it proves that hard work and resilience—and whatever difficulties and pain I had in my past—are all rewarded. There’s just pure joy in my heart.”
On her favorite episodes, she said: “I really thought of each one. But what touched me the most was when I interviewed lawyer-activist Shari Karney about sexual abuse.”
That talk also proved especially beneficial to her. “It opened my own experience as a child being molested at age 11 by two men, which I blocked out and have completely forgotten about,” she related.
Other emotional subjects were discussed in an episode with some friends from the Philippines (“a drug addict, someone whose son committed suicide, and a person who went through a horrible divorce”).
“It was amazing how we all came together and were so transparent, even if many thought we were messed up, and had dysfunctional childhoods,” recalled the host. “And, growing up, I didn’t realize I was suffering from anxiety, grieving and depression, too.”
She related that she was reluctant to do a web series, so its success was a big surprise for her, as well: “I did not finish school, my English is not perfect and I have an accent. But I was able to write a book (‘Date Like a Girl, Marry Like a Woman’), and I’m now finishing my second book. I have a web show and was recognized. I have learned, no matter who and where you are, to never give up on your dreams. Have a vision of what you want … Life is too short for us to dwell on our past.”
Jessica is likewise thankful for her loved ones, these days. “My family is great. We are all busy with our own businesses. David is doing good with his business—he’s into manufacturing. [My youngest child] Breanna is doing well as an influencer for teenagers. She just turned 16, so this is the time she can [officially] start her modeling career. She is currently developing her clothing brand that will help teenagers with depression. She’s also an award-winning equestrian.”
Her nonceleb kids are similarly doing well: Her son Grant is teaching math and English in a private school and finishing college, while her eldest child, Hayca, runs her own business. “God has blessed my entire family, and I am very grateful for that,” said Jessica.
As for what’s next, Jessica has some ventures mapped out: “I am about to launch a product called Polished Woman feminine wash, to start the [hygiene] brand. As for ‘The Polished Woman,’ my team and I will be creating shows that will help [more] women become their best selves.”
Having left the Philippines in 2007, the Bunevacz clan found acclimating in the United States trying, at first. But, after adjusting to the pace and culture, what Filipino values remain in their household?
Jessica replied, “Living here in America is tough and very humbling. I learned to be a good wife and a real hands-on mom. I learned how to cook and drive. I didn’t drive! But now I do. I still am not a good cook, but I try. I still [value] respect, respecting elders and the importance of family. We have family around, all the time. These are the Filipino values I will always treasure.”
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